Find out why insomnia often comes with PMS – and our top tips to overcome it
For many people, periods don’t just come with mood changes, cramps and inconvenience, they also mess with your sleep, and it turns out, there’s a bunch of science behind it.
We’re digging under the duvet to find out just how and why your period impacts your sleep…you know, just so you know you’re not alone.
According to the American Sleep Health Foundation, up to 70% of women say their sleep changes just before their period (thanks PMS), when they feel sleepy during the day, then find it both hard to get to sleep at night, and then sleep restlessly once they finally nod off. 
So, you might find yourself crampy, grumpy and sleepy at all the wrong times. Now that’s just fabulous.
People who suffer from PMS are at least twice as likely to suffer from insomnia before and during their period rising to 70% for those who have the more severe Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder. On the flip side, for some people, tiredness and mood changes before their period can actually lead to the opposite issue, hypersomnia, or sleeping too much.
Why does PMS affect your sleep?
Mmm, good question, and spoiler alert…hormones seem to be at the heart of it.
Compared to other stages of the menstrual cycle, sleep worsens during the luteal/late-luteal phase – the time PMS kicks in for those who are affected.
Progesterone is one culprit, with levels increasing between ovulation and the late-luteal phase which causes a rise in core body temperature of up to 0.6 degrees, which leads to a constant battle with the blankets – and a more restless sleep.
‘For me, I get really hot and this affects my sleep as the increased body temperature means I can’t get comfortable or fall asleep’ – Debbie
Changing hormone levels also affect your body’s levels of melatonin and serotonin, two pieces of the puzzle which need to be nicely balanced for you to fall asleep…and stay that way.
There is also research to suggest that the more rapid your pre-period hormonal changes, the more fragmented your sleep is likely to be.
Unfortunately, people who suffer from anxiety and depression symptoms as part of their PMS may also find these also impact their ability to sleep soundly.
Your level of flow is another factor which might mess with your sleep. Around 14% of women report having heavy periods which mean they have to get up during the night to change pads or tampons, or struggle to sleep because they’re worried about overnight leaks – and a morning cleaning sheets. (we’ve got a fix for that – keep reading!)
Tips to save your sleep
Firstly, to confirm that your sleep issues are genuinely cycle related, keep a diary of your symptoms for a couple of months so you can discover whether it’s when you’re premenstrual, or during your period that your sleep struggles peak.
Once you know the connection between your flow and your sleep, you can plan to get a little extra sleep up your sleeve in the days before the restless night kick in, as well as following usual good sleep routines as well as the steps you take to manage PMS.
Popular tips for getting prepped for a good night’s sleep including reducing light in your bedroom (hello block out blinds or eye mask), avoiding screens for at least an hour before bedtime (blue light doesn’t lead to good night, sleep tight), avoiding caffeine and alcohol during your PMS phase if you’re struggling to sleep, and getting some daily exercise – sure you mightn’t feel like it, but exercise has been proven to help with symptoms of PMS and period cramps.
If a higher body temperature is a problem for you, sleeping with a fan or sheets in a moisture-wicking fabric like bamboo can help, as can having a warm shower or bath before bed which actually lower your internal body temperature.
Studies have shown some women with PMS have low Melatonin levels and may benefit from taking a Melatonin supplement, if you think this might be you then have a chat to your GP.
If lower hormone levels are stressing you out (and ramping up your anxiety), then try a calming playlist or meditation before you hit the sack to get help your inner zen overtake your outer PMS.
If cramps, diarrhoea or other symptoms are messing with your sleep, try to work out what triggers these and avoid them if you can, or take a painkiller which works for you, like one with anti-inflammatory properties to help with cramping.
‘I suffer from endometriosis and my pre-period pain is really severe. I can hardly sleep and I get up to use the bathroom multiple times every night, so when my period actually starts I celebrate because it means my pain stops and I can finally get some sleep’ – Veronica
Good old gravity, and the position you sleep in, can contribute to the likelihood of leaking when using disposable pads and tampons, especially for those who sleep on their front.
We did a quick vox-pop of women using pads or tampons overnight and were flooded (pun intended) with feedback like:
‘When I’m on my period I’m really paranoid about leakage and it keeps me up during the night as I’m constantly checking. I avoid being away from home on heavy flow days because of it’ – Kathy
‘Period pain really affects my sleep…couple that with the paranoia of leaking all over my bed sheets and it makes for really restless nights – Priya
‘I sleep lightly because I bleed heavily. Depending on period pain I can have very little sleep until the pain is managed with medication. Leakage is my biggest fear though and the thought of washing everything because of leaking keeps me up at night – Michelle
But this is one sleep-interrupting struggle with a simple solution. While we can’t stop your heavy flow, we can help with you not sleeping because you’re ‘worried about leaks’.
By switching from disposable pads and tampons, which, let’s face it, can be uncomfortable and irritating to sleep with, to products like our Heavy Overnight absorbency or Maxi-24hrs, we can’t get rid of cramps or change your temperature, but we can put an end to leaks and stained sheets.
Our Maxi-24hrs technology has been scientifically tested to absorb up to 50ml – that’s the equivalent of 10 tampons or 10 teaspoons. Featuring an absorbent lined gusset which runs all the way from the front to the back waistband (we’ve got front and back bleeders covered) and waterproof seals to lock in fluid, these styles are the new way to save your (period) sleep – and ditch bulky overnight pads and irritating, environmentally-harmful disposables at the same time.
Why not give them a try – and enjoy a more restful and less stressful period sleep.