Sleep Science • Article

How Does Your Menstrual Cycle Affect Your Sleep?

Sleep Number

Share this article

From feeling sleepy during waking hours to having trouble falling asleep, here's how your period may affect your sleep — and what to do about it.

If you think your period influences your sleep, you're probably right.

Women are more likely to have sleeping disorders associated with daytime sleepiness, according to one study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. Researchers speculate that this may be because of the menstrual cycle.

“Most women say their menstrual cycle affects their sleep in some way," says Lauri Leadley, clinical sleep educator and Valley Sleep Center president. “We do know that the hormonal changes during a woman's cycle, like a decrease in progesterone, affects the body's temperature and sleep quality."

Here's what happens during the menstrual cycle for about 40 years in a woman's life:

What are the Stages of the Menstrual Cycle?

The cycle starts with the first day of menstruation and ends when the next period starts.

Each menstrual cycle includes four stages:

Menstrual Phase

This is when your period starts and when the uterus sheds its lining. The hormones estrogen and progesterone levels decrease during this stage. Menstruation typically lasts from three to seven days.

Follicular Phase

Also called the proliferative phase, this starts on the first day of your period and is the longest phase of the cycle. During this stage, follicles or egg-containing pods release one mature egg. This phase ends when ovulation begins. At the beginning of the phase, estrogen and progesterone levels are low.

Ovulation Phase

During this phase, your ovary releases a mature egg that travels down the fallopian tube. This phase typically lasts only 24 hours. During ovulation, body temperature is often higher. This phase kicks off with an increase in luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone levels. Estrogen decreases and progesterone increases.

Luteal Phase

During this phase, your uterus lining gets thicker to prepare for a possible pregnancy. This phase begins after ovulation and ends when your period starts. Progesterone rises and then falls during this stage. Estrogen is typically high during this stage.

How Does the Menstrual Cycle Affect Your Sleep?

Many women report common woes when they're on their periods, which can knock down their sleep score. According to Leadley, women might experience:

  • Irritability

  • Tender breasts

  • Headaches

  • Anxiety

  • Mood changes

  • Inability to fall asleep or stay asleep

  • Bloating

  • Cramps

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness

Hormones that rise and fall during menstruation can boost or disrupt our sleep, Leadley adds.

“Progesterone has sleep-promoting effects. So during parts of the cycle where progesterone is increased, such as after ovulation, women can feel more sleepy. Then when progesterone reduces, toward the end of the luteal phase and before menstruation starts, sleep problems can occur," says Leadley.

Leadley explains that during the follicular phase, “Women often report poor sleep quality during the first four days of their period when both estrogen and progesterone are low," she says.

During the luteal phase, “Greater feelings of sleepiness are often experienced after ovulation due to increased levels of progesterone. During this part of the luteal phase where progesterone levels are high, there is more non-REM sleep and reduced REM sleep," says Leadley.

Body Temperature Rises and Sleep Tends to Suffer

When a person is menstruating, her body temperature is usually higher due to increased levels of the hormone progesterone. Body temperature drops prior to and during sleep, and the slight uptick can hurt your sleep quality.

“Your body temperature plays a huge part in how you fall asleep. During the normal human circadian rhythm, sleep occurs when the core temperature is dropping," says Katherine Hall, a sleep psychologist and a sleep coach.

“However, during one's menstrual cycle, progesterone levels increase, which also increases our body temperature. As we know, sleep usually occurs when the core temperature is dropping. Therefore, when our body temperature is elevated during our menstrual cycle, we do not achieve the same state of deep, restorative sleep. This can cause mood swings and irritability associated with the menstrual cycle."

Melatonin Production Decreases

Melatonin (often called the "sleep hormone" because it promotes sleep) naturally rises in response to outside darkness and helps regulate the circadian rhythm. During menstruation, however, melatonin levels may decrease and sleep can suffer.

“A reduction in melatonin levels can leave us feeling restless, wired or irritable at night," says Hall.

One study published in the Journal of Sleep Medicine and Disorders showed that “Women with premenstrual dysphoric disorder or PMDD showed a decreased response to melatonin in their luteal phase as compared to the follicular phase."

Hormone Fluctuations May Cause Anxiety and Depression

The roller coaster of hormones you experience when you're on your period can negatively affect your emotions in ways that interfere with sleep.

“The fluctuation of hormones associated with the menstrual cycle can cause a wide range of unpleasant emotions from sadness and depression to anxiety. Low levels of serotonin production during the cycle are partially to blame," says Hall.

“Serotonin is a powerful chemical in our bodies that helps regulate our moods and emotions. Low levels can cause a dip in happiness and more intense feelings of sadness. This is often the cause of unexplained crying episodes or increased sensitivity during our cycle. While depression in some people can cause fatigue, it can cause others to lay awake at night, overthinking and analyzing the day's events and interactions."

How to Get Better Sleep When You're Menstruating

If you're one of the many people who have trouble sleeping when you're on your period, don't fret.

Many of the tips that can help improve your sleep when you're on your period are the same tips that you can use to boost your sleep quality overall.

Here are some ways to improve your sleep quality when you're on your period:

Naturally Boost Serotonin Levels

If you find that you don't get quality sleep when you're on your period, try naturally boosting your serotonin levels. Serotonin is a hormone that stabilizes mood, happiness and feelings of wellbeing. Eating certain foods prior to your period's arrival may help.

Hall suggests eating bananas, eggs and pineapple. These foods may increase serotonin levels and stave off negative mood swings.

Create an Ideal Sleeping Environment

Design a bedroom that makes it an optimal space for sleep.

You can start by purchasing a comfortable mattress. Sleeping on a comfortable bed can help improve sleep quality tremendously. Research shows that Sleep Number 360® smart bed owners get almost an hour's more sleep per night than the average sleeper.*

Use blackout curtains to keep your bedroom dark at night, and pay attention to the room temperature at night. Keep the décor neutral and the room clear of clutter. Read about how to feng shui your bedroom to make your space more comfortable.

Get Some Sunshine

Spending time outside in bright sunshine can help boost your circadian rhythm. Even just short stints in the sun can help.

“Getting outside in the natural light is very beneficial for regulating your circadian rhythm — our internal body clock which determines when we should sleep," says Hall.

Take Care of Your Body

Eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, drinking plenty of water and avoiding caffeine all may help improve your sleep, says Leadley.

Practice Good Sleep Hygiene

Going to bed and rising at around the same time each day can help you sleep better, says Leadley. For even more tips on how to improve your sleep, check out this post on Sleep Health - Quantity, Quality and Timing. Also, try the step-by-step advice in the free Sleep30® Challenge by Sleep Number® that helps participants improve their sleep quality and reduce poor sleep habits.

If All Else Fails, Talk to Your Doctor

When a lack of sleep affects your ability to live your best life, you can ask your doctor to prescribe medication to help relieve your poor sleep symptoms.

Getting a good night's sleep — no matter what stage of the menstrual cycle you're in — is important. Find out how quality sleep affects your health and wellbeing.

Want even better sleep? Sleepers who routinely use their Sleep Number 360® smart bed features and SleepIQ® technology get almost 100 hours more proven quality sleep per year.**

Like diet and exercise, quality sleep has a profound impact on our physical, emotional and mental wellbeing. Because no two people sleep the same, Sleep Number 360® smart beds, with SleepIQ®  technology, sense your movements and automatically adjust firmness, comfort and support to keep you both sleeping comfortably and provide proven quality sleep. Find your Sleep Number® setting for your best possible night's sleep, and if you own a Sleep Number®  bed, log in to your InnerCircle℠ Rewards account to see your exclusive offers, refer friends and more.

*Based on self-reported hours of sleep from a general population survey compared to SleepIQ® sleeper data.

**Based on internal analysis of sleep sessions assessing sleepers who use multiple features of Sleep Number® products. Claim based on sleepers achieving over 15 more minutes of restful sleep per sleep session.

Share this article