PMS-related insomnia is real, and it stinks. When PMS strikes, you’re already feeling bloated, cranky, tired, and moody the week before your period. Now add insomnia to the list, which makes the PMS symptoms you’re experiencing worse.
It’s a vicious cycle, one I know firsthand. When my period problems were at their worst in my early 20s, I was always tired but could never fall asleep.
But PMS-related insomnia doesn’t discriminate based on age. It can strike every menstruating woman, and it can be especially bad for women over age 35, when the hormonal shifts that happen during perimenopause start to kick in.
So what causes PMS-related insomnia? And what can you do about it (that isn’t take a sleeping pill)? Here’s the science of sleeplessness before your period, and how to solve it.
The Science of PMS-Related Insomnia
The week before your period (when PMS strikes) is called the luteal phase. During the luteal phase, you have a big surge and then rapid decline in estrogen and progesterone. When your estrogen and progesterone are balanced in relationship to each other, this rise and fall shouldn’t trigger any symptoms.
But when you have too much estrogen relative to progesterone—a condition called estrogen dominance—you can experience PMS symptoms, including insomnia. Estrogen dominance is triggered by a long list of common factors, including stress, lack of self-care, poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, and exposure to environmental toxins.
This hormone imbalance is made worse if your progesterone levels are low overall—which can affect women of every age, but which happens more often to women over age 35. That’s because overall progesterone levels start trending downward during perimenopause, and lower progesterone negatively impacts the production of melatonin, which is required to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Some common environmental factors make the situation even worse. Drinking caffeine is one, using alcohol to unwind is another. If you have adrenal fatigue, you may experience PMS-related insomnia as feeling “tired-but-wired,” where you lay in bed exhausted but can’t fall asleep. Micronutrient deficiencies, including low levels of magnesium, zinc, and/or selenium can also fuel the problem. Magnesium helps promote relaxation; selenium may help boost progesterone and bring your reproductive hormones back into balance; studies show that zinc can help improve sleep quantity and quality.
How to Put PMS-Related Insomnia to Bed—For Good
Here’s how to start sleeping again during your luteal phase:
Begin The Cycle Syncing Method™ ASAP. Engaging in phase-based self-care is the practice of understanding your 28-day menstrual cycle and tailoring your food, movement, relationship, work, and lifestyle choices to your unique strengths, weaknesses, and needs during each of the four phases of your cycle. This is the core change every menstruating woman needs to make to sleep better during her luteal phase and to improve PMS symptoms in general. (It is also the essential factor that sets the FLO Protocol apart from other hormone-balancing programs).
Address inflammation. Inflammation makes hormonal problems worse. Address underlying inflammation in your body by ditching gluten, dairy, and other inflammatory foods (like sugar), and taking steps to protect yourself from environmental toxins, like the fragrances found in many cleaning products and health and body care products.
Maximize magnesium. Make sure you have optimal levels of the key micronutrients that promote sleep, like zinc and magnesium. Optimal micronutrient levels also help address underlying hormone imbalances.
Ditch the coffee. You know this one already, but it is worth repeating: coffee is bad for a good night’s sleep—no matter when during the day you drink it. Coffee is also really bad for hormone balance. So skip the java and caffeinated tea. Your hormones will thank you.
Eat specific foods right after you ovulate. As you enter the second half of your 28-day menstrual cycle, you have much more estrogen circulating in your body—and what you eat can help your body metabolize that extra estrogen more efficiently. Cruciferous vegetables are especially important for estrogen detox during this phase. Think broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, bok choy, and watercress. The more effectively your body handles estrogen during the second half of your cycle, the easier it will be to fall asleep.
Boost progesterone production. Taking a high-quality vitamin B6 supplement can help boost your progesterone levels. Another helpful supplement for boosting progesterone is chasteberry, or Vitex. This herb has been used for centuries to support hormone health.
Tackle your stress. The adaptogenic herb ashwagandha supports your adrenal glands and helps modulate your stress response. This can help you fall asleep more easily. Yoga nidra is a calming yoga practice that helps ease stress and promote sleep.
Avoid blue light at night. The light emitted by computer, tablet, and phone screens inhibits the body’s production of melatonin and interferes with sleep. Invest in a pair of blue light-blocking glasses or, better yet, skip screens all together at least an hour before bed.
Adopt a nighttime routine. When it comes to young children, we know instinctively that they need a nighttime routine to calm their bodies and brains and get them ready for bed. A bath, a story in bed, soothing music, maybe a foot or backrub. The need for comfort and calm before bed is no different for adults, but we often expect to work or do chores up until the last minute and then fall into bed and drift pleasantly to sleep. But we need the same mental and physical preparation. Carve out at least 20 minutes to half an hour to transition to bedtime. A relaxing ritual before you climb into bed can really make a difference.
Always remember that once you have the right information about how your body really works, you can start making health choices that finally start to work for you! You can do this – the science of your body is on your side!
Need more Hormone Help?
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I’ve designed a 4-day hormone detox and evaluation to help you understand exactly what’s out of whack and how you can start getting back to balance so that your hormones no longer have to suffer.
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