Is your period keeping you up at night? From headaches, depression and anxiety, to cramps, digestive issues and breast tenderness, the rollercoaster ride of our fluctuating hormones doesn’t just switch off when we go to bed. According to research by the US National Sleep Foundation, 30 per cent of women experience disturbed sleep during their periods, while 23 per cent report sleep issues during the week before menstruation.
“I experience a multitude of symptoms about two weeks before my period,” Kirsty tells me. “As far as sleep goes, I initially go through insomnia, then in the week before I feel the need for ten hours a night – which never happens – and still find it difficult to function.”
For Anna, it’s all about one particular night: “About five days before my period starts, I can’t sleep for love nor money. I think my body temperature rises and makes it impossible to sleep,” she says. “Usually around 2am I realise it’s ‘that night’ and I just give in and watch/read/scroll.”
These kinds of disturbances could be a result of changing levels of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone. They rise during the ‘luteal’ or ‘secretory’ phase of your cycle, which lasts for roughly two weeks between ovulation and menstruation. Your core body temperature rises slightly after ovulation, and you may experience premenstrual symptoms during this phase. Oestrogen and progesterone levels then fall again before your period starts.
Danielle uses hormonal contraception, so doesn’t experience the same hormonal fluctuations throughout the month and has a withdrawal bleed during her pill-free week, rather than a menstrual period. Despite this, she tells me, “I definitely sleep worse during that time of the month” – largely because of anxiety about leaving her tampon in for too long.
“It sounds stupid, but I get worried about how long I can wear a tampon for, so I don’t like to go to sleep until as late as I can, and also get up as early as I can,” she explains. “I also sometimes wake up in pain during the night. I get backache and headaches while I’m on and the week before, so I feel achy and drained, but then lie there awake.”