Menstrual Insomnia

67 percent of women lose sleep during their menstrual cycle every month. Here's how to work with your body to get a good night's sleep.

Every sexually active woman not on birth control pills knows that three things are going to happen each and every month:
1. She’ll eat more chocolate than either she or God intended.
2. She’ll wonder if it’s possible she’s pregnant.
3. She’s going to lose some sleep.

The problem, of course, is hormones. According to a poll by the National Sleep Foundation, 67 percent of women who menstruate toss and turn for two or three days during every menstrual cycle—a number that Kathryn Lee, Ph.D., a sleep researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, who conducted the poll, finds entirely believable.

Although many women will have trouble sleeping due to bloating, breast tenderness, backaches, or pelvic aches and pains during their periods, says Dr. Lee, “those women who have regular cycles and who monitor their sleep frequently find that they also have insomnia a day or two before menstruation begins.

“It kind of gets lost in the tossing and turning at the beginning of menstruation unless you keep a sleep log,” she adds. “Then it jumps right out.”

Premenstrual insomnia, as doctors call it, seems to be associated with a rapid drop in the hormone progesterone. “Progesterone is a soporific, a sedative-type drug that your body gives you every month when you ovulate,” says Dr. Lee. “Then, just before your period, its production either slows to a trickle or falls dramatically.”

If the drop is gradual, she claims, your sleep will probably be a little troubled. When progesterone plummets, however, you’re likely to find yourself up at 3:00 A.M. asking the dog if he wants to go for a walk.

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