Researcher & Author, “The Sleep Diet” and “The Complete Guide to a Good Night’s Sleep”

Falling and staying sleep can be hard enough, but add your period to the mix and getting quality sleep can be even more challenging.

While many women know that their feelings of tiredness are greater in the second half of their cycle, most don’t really know why. By understanding what is happening inside your body during the different phases, you will be able to take action to manage any negative effects your cycle may have on your sleep.

In the first phase, before ovulation, your level of estrogen is at its highest . After ovulation the level of estrogen falls, causing a slight rise in body temperature of about 1°F. For some women, this increase in body temperature can make getting to sleep in the second half of their cycle more difficult.

At this time, the level of another hormone, progesterone, begins to rise. This hormone is a soporific, meaning it increases a woman’s need for sleep. If women do not respond to this real extra need for sleep, they may end up being significantly sleep deprived toward the end of their cycle. As a consequence, they can experience all the adverse effects of sleep deprivation including moodiness, lack of energy, decreased motivation and in some cases depression – all hallmarks of the premenstrual mood syndrome (PMS)

Whether you like it or not, your sexual hormones very much affect your sleep. Here are some tips on how to best manage these changes each month:

1. Recognize the fact that the increased level of progesterone in the second phase of your cycle increases your need for sleep. Start factoring in more sleep during this time and try going to bed 30-45 minutes earlier. This will improve premenstrual symptoms and decrease your chances of feeling fatigued or “foggy” the next day.
2. When possible, take a 20-minute afternoon nap (but beware no more than 20 minutes!) the week before and during the first few days of your period. This will decrease your feelings of tiredness but won’t affect your night-time sleep.
3. Especially after ovulation and the two weeks before your period, stay away from caffeine after midday to help you better fall asleep at night.
4. In the last 10 days of your cycle, make sure to pay particular attention to what you do prior to bedtime. Ensure that all technology is turned off at least one hour before going to sleep and, to counteract the effect of your increased body temperature, take a warm or hot shower. The fall in temperature after the shower will enhance the fall in temperature that will make it easier to go to sleep.

Remember, women’s sleep needs are different than men’s, and by recognizing the differences and responding to them, you can optimize your feelings of health and well-being no matter where you are in your monthly cycle.