Do Periods Affect Your Sleep?
Experts at TEMPUR, women’s cycling team Drops Le Col, and sports performance & biomarker brand, Orreco, explore how the menstrual cycle affects sleep and provide tips on how to ensure a good night’s sleep.
The occasional disrupted night’s sleep is not usually cause for concern, but many women report poorer sleep during various stages of their menstrual cycle. Hormonal fluctuations can be a key cause of women finding it harder to drop off, feeling more tired than usual, experiencing night sweats, or suffering from disrupted sleep.
Sleep issues are most common during pregnancy, perimenopause (transitioning to the menopause), menopause, and at certain points of the menstrual cycle – particularly in the days leading up to a period.
As sleep is crucial for health and wellbeing, understanding and working with the menstrual cycle is key to better managing the physical and psychological changes that can occur.
Here, premium mattress brand TEMPUR® and sponsorship partner, Drops Le Col – the first cycling team to launch a ground breaking wellness programme aimed at enhancing the health and performance of its riders both on and off the bike – explore the impact of periods on sleep.
A key focus of the Drops Le Col rider wellbeing programme – alongside sleep and mental health – is the menstrual cycle. Riders’ menstrual cycles are being tracked and studied by world leading sports performance and biomarker company, Orreco.
“We are committed to supporting all our riders to perform at their very best, and this means empowering them – and us – to better understand their individual needs,” says Drops Le Col co-founder and General Manager, Tom Varney. “Tracking their menstrual cycles is crucial to better understanding their physiology and ensuring they are able to perform at their best without negatively impacting on their overall health and wellbeing.
“Periods should not be a barrier for our female riders, so we are encouraging them to understand their own menstrual cycles better to help them make any necessary adjustments that can ensure they continue to feel their best both on and off the track.”
Female Athlete lead at Orreco, Dr Georgie Bruinvels and the Orreco team, are educating Drops Le Col riders, staff and coaches about their menstrual cycles and providing the athletes and their coaches with detailed individualised reports, action plans and strategies to help manage nutrition, recovery and wellness around them.
Tobin James, VP TEMPUR Northern Europe, said: “We are privileged to be playing a part in promoting women’s health in sport. We have provided all riders with TEMPUR mattresses and pillows – both at home and on tour – to ensure optimum support while their bodies are resting, restoring, and repairing, and we are following all aspects of the wellbeing programme with interest.”
Read on for TEMPUR’s guide to how periods affect sleep and how we can achieve quality sleep regardless of where we are in our cycle.
It is important to stress that all women are different – some will find their sleep quality and quantity affected by their menstrual cycle, while others report no changes.
Sleep patterns are regulated by our internal circadian rhythms, and these are influenced by fluctuations in oestrogen and progesterone levels throughout the menstrual cycle.
In general, sleep is rarely interrupted during the first half of the menstrual cycle; most sleep issues begin after ovulation. This is because after ovulation, levels of cortisol – the ‘stress hormone’ – can increase, melatonin – the hormone that regulates sleep cycles – decreases, body temperature is slightly higher, and REM sleep may alter.
During the end of the second half of your cycle – the week before your next period, known as the late luteal phase – the drop in both oestrogen and progesterone is also associated with disturbed sleep. Many regularly menstruating women, and also those in teenage, perimenopausal and menopausal years, can also experience night sweats.
PMS & sleep
Many women can relate to the uncomfortable physical symptoms in the days running up to their period. Common symptoms include headaches, stomach cramps, changes in mood, appetite, and energy levels, feeling too warm in bed, feeling more restless at night and more sensitivity to light and noise levels.
All of these changes can have a disruptive effect on sleep. It can be harder to fall asleep or stay asleep, whilst some women suffer from oversleeping, and others simply feel that they are not able to get enough sleep. Some report more vivid or disturbing dreams, and overthinking at night, whilst severe PMS can also lead to insomnia.
Some tips to manage PMS include drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated, ensuring a healthy diet, rich in nutrients and vitamins (try to avoid ultra-processed foods), regular exercise, relaxation techniques, and breathing exercises.
During your period
Most women find that discomfort from symptoms will decrease within a day or two after their period starts.
Ensure you’re getting plenty of rest while on your period as your body is working harder, so it’s natural to feel more tired. Try not to stay up late if your body is craving rest, try to stick to a regular sleep and wake pattern, and remember that all rest is important. Even if you’re finding it hard to fall asleep, simply re-setting your thought process and understanding that even just resting and calming your mind whilst lying in bed offers your mind and body time to recuperate.
Poor sleep can be linked to stress, a chaotic work schedule, certain medications, a lack of exercise, and poor diet or skipping meals. Caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol can all be attributed to poorer sleep and worse menstrual cycle symptoms too.
It’s worth keeping a sleep diary as a record of your sleep patterns and noting how your menstrual cycle can affect sleep. Implement a bedtime routine to help you wind down – a warm shower or bath can help – leave your phone out of the bedroom and read a book rather than watch TV in bed. Sip herbal tea and try natural herbal supplements to help you nod off.
Eat a diet rich in iron and fibre (including, but not limited to leafy green veg, nuts, oily fish, and wholewheat carbs), ensure you’re always hydrated, and try to include fitness daily, as exercise helps improve sleep.
Women often report feeling warmer than usual ahead of and during their period, so prepare for that by swapping a heavy duvet for a lighter or a temperature regulating one, wear lightweight cotton PJs, and use breathable linen or cotton sheets to help keep cool.
The right pillow and mattress should offer optimum support and limit disturbance if you or a partner move around in bed at night. Similarly, minimise chinks of light with blackout blinds, curtains or a sleep mask, and use earplugs to prevent disturbance.
If sleep problems persist or interfere with your ability to function during the day, seek professional help from a GP. Sleep is cyclical by nature; we need good sleep to be healthy, and we need to be healthy to have good sleep.
Sleep problems relating to periods can be managed with hormone supplements, lifestyle changes, and cutting back on caffeine and alcohol. By excluding any lifestyle and or dietary issues, there won’t be any underlying problem for the normal hormone changes to exacerbate.
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About DROPS-Le Col
Drops-Le Col is a British UCI Women’s Continental Cycling Team racing globally. Debuting on the world stage in 2016, Drops founding ethos remains to create a happy and supportive environment where riders can develop and reach their true potential, irrespective of age, experience or status. Widely acknowledged as one of the world’s most successful development programmes of the past five years.
Established in 2010, Orreco has offices in Los Angeles, London and Galway, Ireland.
Orreco scientists analyse athlete data and deliver evidence-based, personalized strategies to improve recovery rates, optimise training response and protect against excessive fatigue and under-recovery. By keeping athletes in their peak performance zone, Orreco aims to reduce injury and illness risk for elite athletes and extend playing careers.
Orreco scientists have been analysing athlete data for over 18 years, across 6 Olympics, in 16 different sports for over 2000 elite athletes. The team includes 16 PhDs and together they have 300+ peer-reviewed publications and continue to lead research globally in their fields.
Orreco integrates sports science, data science and systems development and operates as a team within the team. Clients include teams and franchises in the EPL/NBA/NFL/WSL/WNBA/NHL and individual athletes in Olympic sports including 40 medallists, F1 drivers and PGA Tour players including 3 Major winners and a Ryder Cup Captain.