Menstruation and Sleep

September 30, 2019

Menstruation and Sleep

Ugh. It’s that time of the month. Again. It happens every month. You get crampy and achy. You have PMS. And now, because of this, you can’t sleep. Why does this happen every month, and what can you do to sleep better at this time? (Or maybe you are a man reading this, in which case - lucky duck!)

The clinical definition of menstruation, as per Merriam-Webster, is “a cyclical discharging of blood, secretions, and tissue debris from the uterus that recurs in nonpregnant breeding-age primate females at approximately monthly intervals and that is considered to represent a readjustment of the uterus to the nonpregnant state following proliferative changes accompanying the preceding ovulation”. In humans, the menstruation cycle is typically 28 days. It is not uncommon to feel bloated and/or to have bladder, stomach, or back pain while menstruating. Additionally, some women experience tenderness in their breasts, headaches, bouts of acne, and the worst of all the symptoms is trouble sleeping. You don’t feel well, so you don’t sleep well. Maybe you feel depressed or anxious, or possibly you feel more tired than what is typical for you.

What steps can you take to sleep better while menstruating? Though we can’t control all of the symptoms that accompany our periods, we can do some things to make our sleep better during this time. Always check with your doctor or medical professional before attempting to utilize any of these remedies:

  • Keep a calendar - Tracking your period monthly can help you know when you are expected to next menstruate, which in turn can help you prepare for what’s to come.
  • Pop a pill - You might want to consider taking birth control pills to help regulate your period and alleviate some of the negative symptoms that come with your period. Being on the pill most often means you will always know when you are going to get your period. The pill is not an appropriate option for some, and there are those whose period might not get fully regulated just from taking it. This option is only good for those who are not looking to conceive in the near future.
  • IUD - Another option for those not looking to conceive soon, IUDs (short for Intrauterine Devices) aren’t just good for helping keep you from getting pregnant. They are actually about 99% effective at doing that! But IUDs can also help alleviate menstrual symptoms. You might even stop menstruating if you have one. IUDs can last for many years without needing replacement, and this can be a viable option for many.
  • Hot water bottle - Sleeping using a hot water compress can help with the cramping that you might be experiencing at this time. This is a better alternative to an electric heating pad, which can cause burns if used all night long. The hot water bottle should retain heat for a reasonable amount of time, but the heat will gradually fade, thus less chances of burning. Make sure to read and follow the instructions that accompany the hot water bottle because, as with heating pads, these can still cause burns and irritations.
  • Exercise more, drink less - This advice is good for all sleepers, not just those experiencing their period. Doing some exercise and staying away from alcohol are two recommendations that everyone could benefit from when they are trying to get better sleep.
  • Be mindful of your salt intake - Salt can make you retain water, and if you are already bloated due to menstruation, too much salt can make it worse. Knowing this, watch your salt intake when you have your period to help alleviate your bloating which in turn can help you to sleep better.
  • Better your bed - Make sure that your bed is ready to help you sleep. Are your sheets clean and comfy? Is your pillow perfect and puffy (more specifically, is it at the right firmness for you?) Don’t be scared to update your bedroom to ensure you have the tools needed to give you a great night’s sleep, not just when you are menstruating but all year long.

Just because you might not be able to stop your period, that doesn’t mean you have to stop your sleeping. Be mindful of when you are going to menstruate so that you can prepare your mind and body for what is going to happen. And remember, don’t hate your period. After all, this is part of what enables you to give birth or to let you know that you are not pregnant.

Do you still menstruate?
What tips do you have to help others who have their period to get better sleep?

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