The Impacts of Menstruation on Sleep

The Impacts of Menstruation on Sleep

It’s no surprise that sleep is a vital part of maintaining positive wellbeing, but how do our hormones assist or challenge us in trying to achieve a good night’s rest?

For those with XX chromosomes, their hormones are constantly changing throughout the monthly menstrual cycle.

Sleep researcher Dr Clare Ladyman from the Sleep/Wake Research Centre at Massey University says the profound impacts that periods can have on sleep quality are largely due to the levels of progesterone and oestrogen the body produces at different stages of menstruation.

But how exactly does each stage of the menstrual cycle alter sleep quality- and what can we do to optimise our sleep for each stage? Dr Ladyman explains:

In the menstrual cycle we have the follicular stage, the ovulation stage, the luteal stage and then our actual blood flow, what we call our period. [Hormones] are probably at the most stable point just after your period. Both your oestrogen and your progesterone are quite low then. It’s through that follicular phase the oestrogen has a peak but progesterone is still quite low and then in ovulation they both dip down, and then through that luteal phase they both peak again. It is really in that luteal, premenstrual phase that we see the biggest shift with sleep, so that couple of weeks before we get our period. That’s when we see those really big peaks in progesterone. Progesterone and sleep are really linked and really closely associated.

Ladyman explains that progesterone is a soporific hormone, meaning it causes us to feel tired and fatigued. However, it also causes a rise in body temperature which can disrupt sleep.

“We find that just before we get our period we wake up with hot sweats. That has a lot to do with the increase in progesterone,” she continues.

Unsurprisingly, weather is also a major factor in influencing body temperature. With winter provoking us to turn up our heaters and wear warmer clothing to bed, it may also lead to a more fragmented sleep.

“The best temperature that we sleep well at is around 19 degrees Celsius, so it’s actually quite cool. In winter we like to rug up and I think it’s quite easy to overheat so that would be a compounding factor as well.”

Despite very limited research into the subject, heightened body temperatures are also believed to affect people’s abilities to remember dreams. Dreams occur mainly during REM sleep, standing for Rapid Eye Movement, which Dr Ladyman explains is when the body struggles most to maintain its temperature. Therefore, we may be more likely to wake up during REM sleep and be able to remember the dreams we were having.

“So we have that double whammy; progesterone is waking us up, our body temperature is waking us up, and a lot of it is in our dream stage sleep.”

“Sleep and mood have a bidirectional relationship.” Says Dr. Ladyman, “So if you have poor sleep you have a poor mood, but if you have a poor mood you also have poor sleep. That can create a really negative cycle which can be quite difficult to get out of.”

Those with Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) are up to two times more likely to face sleeping problems due to both physical and emotional symptoms. PMS can cause anxiety and depression, which both contribute largely to insomnia and negative dreams.

Additionally, for those with both a mental condition and PMS, the combination of symptoms can make periods extremely challenging.

With so many uncontrollable, hormonal factors influencing sleep quality, what can menstruating individuals do to try and improve the rest they are getting?

"The big [factor] that affects sleep is exposure to light.” Dr Ladyman states. “We need melatonin at the beginning of the night to help us feel sleepy, and we can only start producing melatonin when the body perceives a drop in light.”

Of course, turning off screens as early as possible will increase the body's capacity to wind down, produce melatonin and get ready for sleep. "Moonbaking" (sitting in the moon's glow) at night before going to bed can help increase the body's production of melatonin and induce sleep. 

When you first rise from your slumber you should also give your body lots of natural sunlight. This combination of moon at night and sun in the day does wonders to sync your body's natural circadian rhythm and improve mood by being in nature.

“If you can get out for a walk in the mornings or open the curtains to try and get that light to basically stop melatonin from being produced,” Dr Ladyman suggests.

She also advises people to avoid layering sleepwear and blankets during the colder seasons to foster a comfortable body temperature.

“If we are going to be using heaters maybe don’t use the big, fluffy doonas” (she means duvets for all our international friends!). 

Just use a quilt if you’re going to be keeping the heater on overnight [and] if you are heating the whole house, [have] a fan on to try and keep the body temperature a little bit lower.”

Managing PMS symptoms such as anxiety and worry is also vital in helping you fall asleep. You can do this through journaling or mindfulness exercises. Sitting outside in the moonlight or looking at the stars can help with mood, reduce anxiety and increase melatonin production.

“If we have time to process those worries and anxieties during the day, then we get into bed feeling like we don’t have to worry about them right then and there. So setting aside worrying time during the day can be really helpful. Or writing things down before we go to bed. Giving the brain a signal to say ‘we haven’t forgotten all these worries and concerns or anxieties, but we’re not gonna worry about them right now.’ We can write them down and deal with them tomorrow or the next day.”

Strategies for promoting good quality sleep during your period vary in effectiveness between individuals, so it really is about trial and error.

As articulated by Dr Ladyman, “We often talk about sleep promotion strategies as having a toolkit, we have a lot of options and then you just find the ones that work for you.”


Suni, E. & Vyas, N. (2023, July 7). PMS and Insomnia. Sleep Foundation.,or%20drowsy%20around%20their%20period.


Congratulations! Your order qualifies for free shipping You are $100.00 AUD away from free shipping.
No more products available for purchase

Your Cart is Empty