PMS and sleep disorders

It’s a familiar tune to most of us: during PMS, we can go from laughing to crying to blowing a fuse at the drop of a hat.

Stress and sleep | PMS

Sonia Chartier

14 March 2017

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And many of us also suffer from sleep disorders without ever linking them to PMS.

But the connection is real. The problem is that fatigue exacerbates mood-related issues…

Maybe it’s happened to you: a few days before your period starts, you find yourself unable to sleep. Or if you’re lucky, it’s not quite that bad, but your sleep is still disrupted and less restful. Statistically, 23% of women report having trouble sleeping during PMS, and 30% during their period.

And again, it’s all because of hormones:

  • Progesterone is a soporific hormone, so it makes you sleepy and affects your body temperature.
    • If you’ve got too much of it coursing through your veins, your high body temperature puts you to sleep but prevents you from reaching the paradoxal, or REM, phase of sleep. That’s when your brain processes information it gathered that day, manifesting itself as dreams. Paradoxal sleep arises when your body temperature is low. If you’re deprived of that sleep phase, you’ll be more emotional.
    • When your progesterone levels fall again, you feel less of a need to sleep, maybe much less. If progesterone falls too suddenly, you end up not being able to sleep at all.
  • Dropping testosterone levels also lead to a drop in serotonin, which has a direct impact on your mood. Its effects can include cravings for sweets and carbs, which in turn influence sleep and the production of more serotonin. And being in a bad mood can affect your sleep!
  • To end the vicious cycle, melatonin, the hormone that prepares you for sleep, is produced at night while you sleep.

So the less you sleep, the harder it becomes to get some serious shut-eye.

Other PMS-related symptoms can affect your sleep

In addition to the direct effects of hormones, other PMS-related symptoms can affect your sleep. Of women whose sleep is disrupted during this period:

And half of these women admit to being sensitive or grumpy if they’re tired during the day.

What can you do about it?

It’s one thing to know that sleep problems and PMS are closely linked, but it’s another thing altogether to know how to fix them. Whatever you do, don’t follow your first instinct and go plunking yourself down in front of the TV with a tub of ice cream and a big spoon. Well, OK: watch a little TV but go easy on the ice cream.

What you really need to do is get moving and eat healthy. Exercise increases your serotonin levels, and if you can do it outdoors, it’s even better because exposure to natural light will help your body synthesize the hormone.

Foster melatonin production. Avoid computers, tablets and TV in the evening because their blue light blocks the production of the “sleepiness” hormone. Note that serotonin fosters the production of melatonin. Make sure you have good sleep habits.

Of all the medicinal plants, Vitex tops the list for relieving PMS symptoms. If your sleep is disrupted by cramps, abdominal swelling and other irritating symptoms, you could benefit from the action of this hormone-regulating plant. It takes around three menstrual cycles for it to reach cruising speed.

A combination of valerian and hops can also help re-establish deep, restorative sleep. From the moment you start taking it, this combination of plants helps keep you in the deep sleep phase 25% longer and in the paradoxal, or REM, phase another 25%.

When you sleep better, your mood-related symptoms will subside, much to the delight of everyone around you!

Dimpfel W, Suter A. Sleep improving effects of a single dose administration of a valerian/hops uid extract – a double blind, randomized, placebo-controlled sleep-EEG study in a parallel design using electrohypnograms. Eur J Med Res. 2008;5:200-204.

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