Reviewed by

Morgane Leten - Nutrition & Fertility Coach

  • Energy
  • Hormones
  • Mood

Sleep and your cycle - how are they connected?

How Your Cycle Impacts Your Sleep

There is nothing better than a good night’s sleep, am I right? When you wake up feeling refreshed and rested, it feels like you can take on the world.

But how often do you find yourself lying awake tossing and turning? You can drink all the chamomile tea you like, but sometimes, sleep is impossible. And the worst part is that sleepless nights make for rubbish days (cue: irritability, lack of focus, headaches and fatigue).

Did you know that your cycle can affect your sleep patterns? It’s different for everyone, but depending on where you are in your cycle, your hormones could be interrupting your slumber.

So, what’s the secret to a guud night’s sleep, you ask?

We’re going to break it down for you…

Sleep and Your Hormones

Studies have shown that changes in sleep quality can occur during the menstrual cycle. Cue: PMS Insomnia - just another of the lovely list of symptoms one might experience as a result of their cycle. Lower sleep quality in the premenstrual phase and menstruation is common in women with premenstrual symptoms or painful menstrual cramps.

Our sleep pattern is regulated by our own circadian rhythm (= 24-hour rhythm) which is our natural sleep/wake cycle. Our circadian rhythm is influenced by changes in estrogen and progesterone, two hormones that are alive and well during your menstrual cycle.

While all women are different, many report that the quality of their sleep is affected depending on where they’re at in their cycle. Most issues begin after ovulation, which is when cortisol levels rise and melatonin (= sleep hormone) levels decrease. Your body temperature is also slightly higher* after ovulation.

*About 12 to 24 hours after ovulation your body temperature rises from 0.3 to 0.5 degrees Celsius (under the influence of the hormone progesterone). Sometimes the temperature rise can also happen a little later.

Your temperature then remains high and drops back to the level of the first day of your cycle, right before the next menstrual period.

Then, as your period approaches, your estrogen and progesterone levels drop. This is when many women have trouble sleeping. You might notice that you wake up more often during the night and dream more emotionally. Maybe you also suffer from hot flashes… sound familiar?

Here’s what to expect during each phase of your cycle:

Follicular Phase (spring)

During this phase, there is a rise in estrogen. This doesn’t make you sleepy – the opposite, in fact! Sometimes known as period insomnia, you may feel overstimulated because of new energy and new ideas and as a result, you could struggle to sleep! So if you find yourself staring at the ceiling wide awake at 2am, it could be because you’re in the first half of your cycle and period insomnia is keeping you awake. 

On top of that, you might notice that you have more light or poor-quality sleep at the end of the night, which may be the reason you find yourself hitting the snooze button a couple (hundred!) times in the morning.

So, in this phase it could be both hard to fall asleep AND hard to wake up in the morning.

Ovulation Phase (summer)

Women have more sex dreams during ovulation! Yes, seriously! In this phase of your cycle you are the most fertile. You will also feel more attractive and self-confident. Because estrogen and testosterone are high during this phase of your cycle, your libido will be too, and this means more erotic dreams. No need to feel guilty if you wake up in the morning next to your partner having just experienced an intense orgasm with someone else in your dreams! Blame the hormones.

Luteal or Pre-menstrual Phase (Autumn)

During the premenstrual phase progesterone plays an active role and that’s guud news because progesterone is good for sleep. Progesterone impacts the production of your sleep hormone melatonin and promotes relaxation. If you don’t make enough progesterone (because of estrogen dominance*) in that phase of your cycle you will have trouble falling asleep.

*estrogen dominance = when you have too much estrogen relative to progesterone you can experience PMS symptoms, including decreased sleep quality. Estrogen dominance is triggered by a long list of common factors, including stress, lack of self-care, poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, and exposure to environmental toxins. So make sure to keep your liver healthy so that excess estrogen can leave your body in a guud way. (read Happy Gut - Happy Hormones)

In this phase, you might go from being wide awake to feeling sleepier than usual. So if you’re sleeping a lot before your period, this is normal. This is due to an increase in progesterone. During this part of your cycle, there is more non-REM sleep and many women report poorer sleep quality in the three days leading up to the start of their period. So, you may spend lots of time in bed with your eyes closed, but wake up feeling like you just pulled an all-nighter.

You could also experience things like tender or painful boobs, headaches, anxiety or moodiness, bloating and cramps.

Menstruatl Phase (winter)

Just a few days before the start of your next period, estrogen and progesterone levels drop. And this is why many women experience insomnia during their period. .

And also when you’re bleeding, you may feel sleepier than usual. Because you are losing blood it’s important to stock up on iron, magnesium and zinc. Be kind to your body. Avoid things like super strenuous exercise and if you can, go to bed at a consistent time each night, aiming for 7-8 hours of sleep.

One thing to note: if you are on the pill, know that it will block some natural hormonal patterns, which means you won’t experience the four phases of a natural cycle.

How to sleep better

One of the main ways of reducing the impact of hormonal changes throughout your cycle is to better understand your own body and your sleep patterns. We suggest keeping a sleep diary where you can track your sleep during your period as well as help you track and anticipate changes throughout the month. Information is powerful and when you understand the inner workings of your body, you can work with it instead of fighting against it!

So what can you do to get a better night’s sleep if you’re struggling with period-related sleep problems? Well, the guud news is that the answer is the same for anyone dealing with sleep problems. 

Here’s a few ideas:

  • Have a consistent bedtime routine: Wind down with a decaf tea, read a book, have a bath, listen to a sleep meditation, have sex with your partner – whatever helps you relax. And remember to avoid using your phone or watching TV right before bed. The light from the screen can mess with your circadian rhythm

  • Don’t stay awake in bed for more than an hour: If you find yourself lying awake and staring at the ceiling (or fuming as you listen to your partner snoozing away next to you!), get up and sit in a chair in the dark. Let your mind race in the chair and then, when you’re feeling sleepy, go back to bed.

  • Make your bedroom a sleep oasis: Set your thermostat to a comfortable temperature (cooler is better), keep pets outside the bedroom, invest in a comfortable mattress and good sheets – basically, set yourself up for success

  • Avoid coffee in the afternoon: Most people drink coffee in the morning to help them wake up, but caffeine consumed after 2pm or in the evening can cause more harm than good. Try a ginger shot to get energised if you’re struggling mid-day.

  • Get regular exercise: Exercise can help improve sleep quality. We know that exercising when you feel tired might seem counter intuitive, but give it a try. It doesn’t need to be a 10 mile run. A yoga class or walk in nature can do wonders to improve your sleep quality.
  • Manage your stress levels: Stress makes it hard to sleep. That’s because cortiso is coursing through your body and it keeps you awake. If possible, reduce stress. Have a bath before bed. Meditate or journal. Whatever will help ease your mind as you get ready for sleepy time. 
  • Avoid alcohol before bed: Winding down in the evening with a glass of wine may sound like a good idea, but it can negatively impact your natural sleep cycle. Try some soothing tea or a kombucha instead. 
  • Don't go to bed too full: Eating a super late dinner can cause havoc for your sleep! If Try to eat a few hours before bed time so your body has time to digest. And, if you’re feeling hungry before bed, opt for light snacks instead of a full stomach. It can cause indigestion and make it hard to sleep. 

Magnesium is your BFF: Studies show that magnesium can help you sleep better because it promotes the production of melatonin (= sleep hormone). Add magnesium rich food to your diet or look for a high quality supplement such as the Guud Vibes.