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Sleep disturbance

Sleep can feel disturbed before and during your period. There may not be changes in sleep duration, but sleep disturbances are associated with poor sleep quality.

Females have been found to take longer to fall asleep and may struggle to stay asleep at different stages of their menstrual cycle.

What phase of your menstrual cycle do you experience sleep disturbance?

Sleep disturbance is common in the late luteal phase.

The length of sleep cycles and length of REM sleep have been shown to be affected by the menstrual cycle and changes in hormone levels. The first sleep cycle and first REM sleep were shorter in luteal phase.

Causes of sleep disturbance during your menstrual cycle

Sometimes symptoms such as menstrual cramps can affect sleep. Changes in hormone levels has been shown to affect sleep cycles and length of REM but the underlying cause requires further investigation.

How to manage sleep disturbance

Changing your environment and the way you prepare your body for bed can help with sleeping. This is commonly referred to as “sleep hygiene”. Some ideas below may help to improve your sleep hygiene:

Make your room as dark and quiet as possible when you want to go sleep

Try to fall asleep and wake up at roughly the same time each day (or within an hour of the same time)

Consider temperature of the room. Use fans in the summer to keep the space cool or keep your curtains shut to stop the sun from warming it during the day. 

Comfortable bedding, mattress, pillow and duvet can make a huge difference to sleep quality.

Build a bedtime routine whereby you follow the same pattern leading up to sleep each night. 

Reduce your light exposure when you are getting close to bedtime; use side lamps instead of main lights and change your phone to a blue screen.

Some individuals find that a large meal before bed can reduce sleep quality, however this shouldn’t stop you from having enough food after any exercise you may do in the evening. 

A bedtime snack can be useful to support overnight recovery and reduce any night time hunger that may wake you. Bedtime snack options such as milky drinks with oat biscuits can be a good option. Milk contains a protein that may help sleep whilst also helping muscles to recover overnight.

Tart cherry juice has been found to improve sleep quality for some individuals. This can be purchased as a batch tested supplement for athletes if needed.

Avoid caffeine in the afternoon and reduce alcohol intake

Write down anything on your mind to help you stop thinking when you are trying to get to sleep!

Meditation or gentle yoga can help make you feel sleepy and use as part of your bed time routine.

If you are still struggling to get enough quality sleep you may want to consider napping during the day. Short naps that don’t impact on your ability to fall asleep that evening can be a useful way of “topping” up your sleep. This will also help with recovery from any training.

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