Hello, Period.

Female Reproductive System And Sleep


Women cannot sleep the same as men because of the cyclical influence of female hormones.

Thank you, female reproductive system!

Estrogen and progesterone act directly on the sleep center of the brain with each playing a unique role in regulating sleep duration and quality. 

Women have a 40% greater risk of developing insomnia when compared to men. And the risk increases as women age.

The impact of sleep loss on women has more adverse effects than for men putting them at risk for high blood pressure, cardiovascular problems, impairment of glucose control, and increased inflammation.  


Let's hear it for the girls:

Estrogen:

Estrogen regulates sleep by increasing REM cycles, increases length of sleep and reduces the number of sleep arousals.

Excess estrogen can cause irritability and difficulty falling asleep.

Estrogen deficiency makes it difficult to stay asleep by lowering serotonin activity. This may also cause depression and anxiety, which may make sleep even worse.

And, hello catch 22. 

Progesterone:

Promotes sleep and has been found to be calming and destressing.

Progesterone is highest right around ovulation. 

Chronic stress can decrease progesterone levels. Cortisol and progesterone are derived from the same precursor hormone, pregnenolone.

Under chronic stress pregnenolone favors making cortisol over progesterone, lowering overall levels of progesterone in the body. 


Your period and sleep:

  • Follicular phase: Day 1-14

    • Starts with menstruation

    • Estrogen and progesterone levels are low (day 1-7)

    • PMS symptoms + low estrogen and progesterone= harder to asleep.

    • As your period comes to an end estrogen and progesterone begin to rise (day 7-14). During this time you may feel drowsier, women subjectively report better sleep during this stage.

  • Ovulation: around day 14

    • Estrogen and progesterone peak

    • Women fall asleep and stay asleep easier.

  • Luteal Phase: Day 14-28

    • Estrogen and progesterone peak at ovulation and then begin to decline. 

    • Sleep will be easy at the beginning of this phase and transition to be a bit harder as you near your period. 


How To Get Better Sleep

  • Lavender before bed can help reduce symptoms of PMS and promote relaxation

  • Aerobic exercise  

  • Yoga or meditation 

  • Maintain proper gut health with use of probiotics

  • Avoid smoking and alcohol use (in general, but definitely 3-6 days prior to your period)

  • Keep your room cooler, especially during the luteal phase when you're temperature naturally rises

  • Consider cognitive behavior therapy if you have menstrual insomnia 

  • Keep a sleep log and track your period

  • If you take oral contraceptives you may not subjectively notice sleep disturbances, but the verdict is still out on whether it has an impact on objective sleep quality. 





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