A few days before I get my period each month, I can feel it coming on. Like so many other women, I feel groggy, sluggish, and rundown. I just want to sit in my car with the seat warmer on and eat sourdough bread all damn day.
Doing house work feels like it takes me so much longer to get through, and when I’m done, I want to hurt people. Exercise? Fuck you, cardio. I’m so tired I feel that shit in my bones. I long for my bed and count down the hours until I can crawl under my flannel sheets and fall asleep. I always hope to wake the next morning feeling a bit more like myself — something that used to work. But those days are long gone thanks to a bitch known as menstrual insomnia.
Back when I was younger, during the days leading up to my period, I could nap, then sleep like a log at night. Around my 40th birthday though, I felt a shift. My long slumbers were replaced with tossing and turning all night. I now lie awake at night and can’t seem to fully fall asleep. I wondered if this was anxiety, or plain old insomnia.
Then I started noticing a pattern — I only felt this way around that time of the month. The best way I can describe it is that my body was very tired, but I was not sleepy. And it pisses me off.
I’m not alone, either. In fact, a poll taken by The National Sleep Foundation found that 67% percent of women have trouble getting a good night’s sleep a few days during their cycle. C’mon, can’t we catch a break?! Women have enough to deal with, and a sleep deprived mama on her period is a downright brutal combination.
After my sister told me she started having a horrible time sleeping around her period, I decided to do some research to try and find some answers. Bottom line: Menstrual insomnia is not just in our heads. It’s a very real symptom of PMS. And not just because we are uncomfortable and dealing with bloating, cramping, irritability, and feeling like a monster has invaded our body. It actually has more to do with those wonderful hormones playing ping-pong in our insides.
The amount of progesterone our bodies start producing after ovulation rises and the spike can make us drowsy, but according to an article in Reader’s Digest, women’s progesterone levels drop a few days before our period arrives “which could be why the worst sleep tends to come with PMS.” Great.
And that’s not all that is keeping us from getting good quality sleep — our bodies run hot during that time of the month. While it’s only a half degree to a degree warmer, it makes a difference when it comes to sleeping. My core always feels so warm, it doesn’t matter what I am wearing to bed, or if I don’t pull the sheets all the way up. I can’t find that sweet spot where my body feels comfortable, and I feel like a damn furnace.
But ladies, there are things we can do to get a restful sleep during our period. Sleep.org suggests things like exercise — I know we hate the word during our period, but breaking a sweat can not only help out with those PMS symptoms like cramping, it can be a great sleep aid too.
Lying down with a hot water bottle or heating pad can also help us feel drowsy and relax us into a nice slumber.
Another tip is to not eat too much before bed. I know, I laughed out loud too. I’ve been known to wake up at 1 a.m. and feel so ravenous I wanted to drive to the closest diner and order the Trucker Special. But if keeping the snacks and caffeine light a few hours before bed will help me sleep better, at this point, I will do it.
There are also many natural over the counter sleep aids to try that may help although one of my friends says she takes Tylenol PM a few nights a month and it has made all the difference.
So, if you find yourself tossing and turning a few nights a month, it’s not in your head. Menstrual insomnia affects many of us. But hopefully, by being aware of when your cycle is about to start and making a few tweaks in your lifestyle, you can avoid those restless nights so you don’t want to punch people in the vagina the next day.