Understand how menstruation, pregnancy and menopause affect a woman’s sleep and how to minimize these conditions for improving sleep.
Women face difficulty in falling and staying asleep than men.
They also experience more daytime sleepiness. Poor concentration, poor performance at job and school and increased illnesses can result with lack of sleep.
Many issues can affect women’s sleep. Hormone level changes, illness, stress, lifestyle and sleep environment are some of the issues. Some unique conditions such as menstrual cycle, pregnancy and menopause can interfere with quality of sleep in women.
Phases of menstrual cycle and their effects on sleep:
50 percent of women face sleep problems during menstrual cycle. Changes in fluctuating levels of hormones present in menstrual cycle before ovulation, during ovulation and after ovulation can interfere with the quality of sleep.
Understand your menstrual cycle phases:
Before ovulation: Disturbances in sleep can occur before ovulation that is from 1st day to 12th day of menstrual periods in some women. Menstrual period continues for five days. Egg ripens in the ovary after the end of the period. During the period of menstrual bleeding, you will get less sleep.
During ovulation: Egg releases during ovulation period that is between 13th to 15th days. If egg fertilizes, pregnancy can occur. If not, your cycle continues and menstrual period occurs in 14 days.
After ovulation: If there is no occurrence of pregnancy after ovulation period, uterine lining wall starts to break down and is discarded during menstrual period. Around 19 to 21 days, levels of progesterone become high and reach the peak level during the beginning of the phase. At the end of the phase, levels of progesterone start to decrease. You will find difficulty in sleeping due to the falling progesterone levels.
Premenstrual syndrome: Premenstrual syndrome(PMS) symptoms occur during 22 to 28 days that is at the later phase. These symptoms include anxiety, mood swings, nervousness, depression, irritability, bloating, abdominal cramps, and headaches, which can all cause disturbances in sleep. Sleep problems such as insomnia, daytime sleepiness and hypersomnia can result if you have PMS.
Lessen the effects of menstrual symptoms: Follow sleep hygiene and stimulus control techniques to prevent the sleep problems during menstrual cycle. Maintain a sleep routine, follow a healthy diet, plan to do something if you can’t sleep during night, and reduce stress to get a better sleep. If the problem is severe, visit the doctor so that he/she will prescribe medications for reducing the symptoms.
Host of discomforts that disrupt sleep during pregnancy:
Why sleep difficulties begin suddenly in pregnant women? The reason is many emotional and physical factors can contribute to sleep problems during pregnancy. Some of the factors that contribute to sleep loss during pregnancy are given here:
Emotional factors that contribute to sleep loss:
Emotional factors that are prevalent during this period are depression, anxiety and emotional liability, which can contribute to lack of sleep. During pregnancy, estrogen and progesterone, the two hormones, cause mood swings. Feelings of depression are common due to the changes in body during pregnancy. You will find hard to express feelings of happiness or sadness.
At the time of first trimester, mood swings are common. Emotional feelings are present in the second trimester. In the third trimester, you worry about everything you think of. The worry and anxiety in pregnant women is due to labor, delivery and baby care. Abdominal growth can make you uncomfortable and you feel irritated with lack of sleep.
Physical factors that contribute to sleep loss:
Uncomfortable sleep positions due to changes in your body can disturb your sleep. During pregnancy, urinary bladder holds less fluid. If you take more amounts of fluids before bedtime, you need to wake up several times at night to urinate. Normal pains such as nausea, heartburn, and hemorrhoids are common during pregnancy, which keep you awake at night. Heart rate increases for pumping more blood during pregnancy. As more blood goes to the uterus, your heart works harder for sending sufficient blood to the rest of the body, making your sleep restless. Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is one of the most common problems in pregnancy. Tingling, crawling and burning sensations are the common symptoms in RLS. These symptoms make uncontrollable urge to move the legs. Moving legs can give temporary relief. Snoring occurs in the last trimester due to narrowed airways and increased pressure on the lungs. Snoring can sometimes lead to hypertension, putting you and your child at risk. When airways block, sleep can occur. Breathing stops for few seconds when you have sleep apnea. It results in lack of oxygen to your body. Oxygen deficiency can prevent you from getting sleep, which harms you and your baby.
Get more sleep during pregnancy with these sleep tips:
Exercise is the best treatment for controlling mood swings. Talk to your doctor about which exercises are preferred during pregnancy. Pamper yourself to reduce depressed feelings. You can go for shopping to buy maternity clothes or with partner to dating, or visit a friend to share your feelings. Comfortable sleep position is essential as pregnancy progresses. Sleeping on your side is preferred. Burden on the heart lessens with this position. Avoid drinking lots of fluids two to three hours before bedtime to avoid frequent urination during night. Nausea can occur on an empty stomach, so have light snacks before going to bed. Do not eat before going to bed to avoid heart burn and indigestion. Have several small meals instead of a larger meal. Press your feet against wall or stand on your feet to lessen the cramps. Calcium deficiency can make the cramps worse, so make sure to include calcium such as milk and dairy products in your diet. Get a massage, use cold or hot packs, or practice relaxation techniques to relieve from symptoms of RLS. To overcome the symptoms of snoring, sleep on your side and elevate your head slightly. Sleep consequences with hormonal changes during menopause:
Side effects due to hormonal changes can occur during menopause stage. At this stage, sleep disorders are common. Insomnia is a common problem and you will not recognize that you are in perimenopause stage in late 30s and early 40s if you have this problem.
Discomfort with menopausal symptoms can obstruct your nighttime sleep. Ovaries produce less estrogen and progesterone when you enter perimenopause and menopause stages. Progesterone hormone helps in promoting sleep. Trouble in sleeping arises when progesterone levels drop.
You can also experience mood disorders that disrupt your sleep at this stage. Hot flashes can result as temperature of the body rises due to hormonal changes at this stage. Hot flashes can occur during daytime or nighttime; but nighttime flashes can interrupt your sleep.
Hot flashes that occur at night are called as night sweats because of excessive perspiration. Excessive sweating interrupts night sleep [Treating menopause night sweats].
Sleep problems in menopause stage can make you tired. These sleep problems continue to post menopausal stage. Post menopausal women are likely to snore and also experience life threatening condition called sleep apnea.
Sleep better with menopause Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is one of the treatments for menopause. HRT can also help to reduce sleep disturbances associated with menopause. HRT treats the hormonal changes to reduce night sweats and hot flashes. Side effects are common with HRT medications. Consult and discuss with your physician about the risks associated with HRT and whether the treatment is suitable for you or not. Healthy diet is vital to lessen sleeping difficulties in menopausal stage. Cut down the intake of spicy foods, caffeine and alcohol. These stimulants cause hot flashes, which affect your sleep quality. Avoid large meals and maintain healthy weight. Consume foods rich in soy to improve quality of sleep. Maintain a cool sleep environment to reduce hot flashes that disrupt your sleep. Maintain a regular sleep routine which helps in promoting sleep. Wear light weight cotton clothes during sleep. Use air conditioners and fans to keep the room cool and comfortable for sleep. Good sleep habits, healthy diet and good sleep environment will improve your insomnia problem and help you to sleep better.