What It Really Means If You Can't Sleep Before Your Period

As your period approaches, if you find yourself tossing and turning during the night or needing more time to fall asleep at bedtime, you're not alone. According to the Sleep Foundation, for those with premenstrual syndrome (PMS), the chances of experiencing insomnia before or during your period are doubled. So much so that 30% of people report experiencing sleep disturbances throughout their menstrual cycle (via Forbes).

During the four phases of the menstrual cycle, we experience various hormone fluctuations (via Sleep Foundation). Associate dean of research at the University of California San Francisco School of Nursing, Dr. Kathryn Lee, tells WebMD that progesterone — or the drowsy hormone — increases after ovulation. Days before your period, estrogen and progesterone levels fall, leading to sleep disturbances. Dr. Lee further explains, stating, "The thinking is [people] who have a more abrupt withdrawal of progesterone — or maybe had a higher amount and it fell faster — have insomnia."

Additionally, a 2017 study published in the Journal of Sleep Medicine and Disorders reveals that stage two and REM sleep are impacted during the menstrual phase of the cycle, beginning on the first day of bleeding.

What is premenstrual dysphoric disorder?

If you're struggling to sleep before your period, in some cases, it could be a sign of premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). PMDD is estimated to affect between 1% and 5% of people and is characterized by five or more severe physical or emotional symptoms of PMS (per Sleep Foundation). The 2017 study published in the Journal of Sleep Medicine and Disorders determined that during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle — the two weeks after ovulation (via Sleep Foundation) — those with PMDD showed a decrease in melatonin secretions in addition to sleep disruptions. Of the symptoms associated with PMDD such as bloating, breast tenderness, anxiety, and depressed mood, sleep disturbance was also one of them. These symptoms most often develop the week before the menstrual cycle.

Sleep expert Dr. Kathryn Lee tells WebMD that exercise may help combat insomnia experienced during your period. "Exercise helps to promote deep-sleep stages," says Dr. Lee. Additionally, because estrogen can influence body temperature, if you find you're feeling overheated during the night, keeping the bedroom temperature cool or taking a cold shower right before bed may help boost sleep quality (via Forbes). Consider speaking with your doctor to explore other potential treatment options to help manage symptoms.