Editor’s note: We at POPSUGAR recognize that people of many genders and identities have female genitals, not just those who are women. For this particular story, experts generally referred to people with female genitals menstruating as women.
As if my hormonal acne is not enough, I get the worst bouts of insomnia just before my period. This is usually what shows me that my cycle is about to begin.
Curious as to whether premenstrual syndrome (PMS) can actually affect sleep, or if my monthly insomnia is a random coincidence, I reached out to an ob-gyn and a sleep expert for more information.
According to Julie Levitt, MD, a board-certified ob-gyn at the Women’s Group of Northwestern, insomnia caused by the menstrual cycle could be a possibility due to the increase in progesterone levels in the latter half of the menstrual cycle after ovulation.
At the beginning, the menstrual cycle, progesterone and estrogen levels both decrease, Dr. Levitt, which is what triggers bleeding. “Some women also experience the effect of this on their ability to sleep and stay asleep.”
It has also been observed in scientific studies. A study conducted in 2014 actually found a link between sleep fragmentation and the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle, or when PMS occurs.
The experience of sleep disorders around the menstrual cycle has also been reported even in the 2007 National Sleep Foundation Sleep in America survey. Meredith Broderick, MD, a triple-board certified sleep therapist and neurologist, pointed to the study, saying 25 to 33 percent of menstrual women surveyed reported sleep disorders before or during their periods.
“It also found that women who had more severe premenstrual symptoms (PMS) had insomnia or daytime sleepiness. The science that assesses more objective measures depends on the population,” said Dr. Broderick. “For example, you study young women, women in mid-life, women with ‘normal’ menstrual cycles or those with PMS or PMDD.”
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), a more severe form of PMS in which the symptoms tend to be severe and disrupt daily life, may also have some association with sleep disorders. Johns Hopkins Medicine lists insomnia as a common physiological symptom.
The U.S. Health and Human Services Office of Women’s Health also notes that seven out of 10 women with PMDD have trouble sleeping in the days leading up to their periods.
Dr. Broderick said medical treatment for PMS and PMDD could help improve sleep, just as it could treat pain or discomfort, and you should always see your gynecologist if you experience abnormal menstrual symptoms or irregularities.
“In case of doubt, you can consult a board-certified sleep specialist if the sleep problem interferes with your quality of life or daytime function,” added Dr. Broderick.