Women and Sleep

How Period Cycles Affect Sleep


It’s “that time of the month”, your “Aunt Flo” is here or you have a “monthly visitor”. These euphemisms are often used to talk about menstruation.

An often taboo-topic, periods are a normal part of life for more than half of the population.1  It’s time we talked about it openly, including how menstruation cycles can affect sleep quality.  

Discussions around menstruation may have been underscored with social and cultural shame, so the common understanding of periods and the full monthly cycle may not be clearly understood. 

Knowledge about your own personal period phases and how this can affect your sleep quality, can empower you to enjoy a more nourishing rest.

Read on to learn more about how your period or your partner’s period may be affecting sleep health. 

What is a Period Cycle?

Period cycles are a biological cycle called an infradian rhythm2. Periods are not just 1 week of the month when you’re bleeding, but it includes four phases that make up the approximate 28-day cycle. 

The full period cycle is not limited to just the time of menstruation or bleeding. A full period cycle covers these 4 separate phases:

  • Menstrual or Menses phase
  • Follicular phase 
  • Ovulation phase
  • Luteal phase 

Not all period cycles are exactly 28 days. It may be between 21 to 35 days long. Take your time to understand your four individual phases that make up your full menstruation cycle.3 This may take a few months, as your period cycle is as individual as you are. 

You may want to keep a diary for 3 months or so and note how you feel and get a complete picture of your period cycle. Learning about your personal menstruation cycle will empower your health and sleep decisions through each phase.

Menstrual Phase or Menses Phase: Restles Sleep

Menstrual phase (days 0 to 7): This is when you have your period. The lining of your uterus (endometrium) sheds, causing bleeding. Estrogen is at its lowest point, so your energy levels are low.

The menstrual phase is the beginning of your period cycle. It begins when you start bleeding, which is when the endometrium (lining of your uterus) sheds. Oestrogen  levels are at their lowest, and you may feel lethargic and tired as your energy levels drop. 

Sleep impact:  Less REM Sleep  
You may find it harder to fall asleep or have deep REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. This REM sleep is when you dream and your body and mind go into a deeper state of rest. It may be harder to get REM sleep during your menstrual phase, causing you to wake in the middle of the night, sleep lightly or feel tired during the day.5

Sleep tips:

  • Make your bedroom a sanctuary for rest. Simple changes like keeping it cool and dark may help your body stay in a deeper sleep state. Learn more tips about making your bedroom an optimal space for sleep.
  • Avoid caffeine in the afternoon, even if you feel tired during the day. Too much caffeine will increase the chance of a restless sleep.
  • Eat less sugar and salty foods to aid your digestion.
  • Add iron-rich foods (spinach, green vegetables, lentils, lean meat), nuts and healthy fats like Omega-3 to replace iron lost from bleeding. 6

Follicular Phase: Unsettled Sleep

The follicular phase can last from 10 to 16 days, when the ovaries prepare an egg to release, and the endometrium thickens. This coincides with a rise in oestrogen, and a rise in energy levels.

Sleep impact: Heightened energy levels
You may feel more alert, with more strength and vitality than the previous menstrual phase. You may feel like exercising to burn off this extra energy and find it harder to settle into sleep because you’re feeling alert and energetic.

Sleep tips:

  • Be aware of your increased energy levels. If you’re exercising, try to do so a few hours before bedtime to give your mind and body time to wind down before bed.
  • Avoid caffeine and blue light from screens before bedtime as these can heighten your alertness and make you feel more restless.
  • Stick to a sleep routine with a set bedtime and learn about healthy sleep hygiene habits.
  • Add complex carbohydrates with lean proteins to your diet to meet your rising energy levels, especially if you engage in higher-intensity workouts or more physical activity

Ovulation Phase: Hot Sleep

In the ovulation phase, your ovaries release an egg. This takes place during days 14 to 15. You may have even more energy as your oestrogen and testosterone levels peak, and there may be an increase in your body temperature.

Sleep impact: Increased body temperature might make sleeping a bit difficult

With your core body temperature rises during this ovulation phase. You may find it more difficult to sleep as you feel unexpectedly hot and uncomfortable. 

Sleep tips:

  • Although ovulation phase may only last a day, prepare for this "hot sleep" phase. You can cool down your room or wear lighter bed clothes and use less bed linen. Our blog has tips on how to cool down a room and how to sleep when feeling hot.
  • Continue eating foods from the follicular stage to help meet the needs of your higher energy levels.

Luteal Phase: Disturbed Sleep

The luteal phase lasts for approximately 14 days and is the last phase of the menstrual cycle. Progesterone is produced at the start of this phase, which helps with a restful sleep.7

However, at the end of the luteal phase, there’s a sudden drop in progesterone, preparing for when your period cycle begins again. 

The last week of the luteal phase is usually when symptoms of PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome) may arise. Almost 90% of people who menstruate experience PMS symptoms.

Sleep impact: Harder to sleep due to sudden drops in progesterone

At the end of the luteal phase, progesterone levels dip quickly causing PMS symptoms that include:8

  • Tenderness in the breasts
  • Change in appetite
  • Struggle to focus
  • Low or irritable mood, sadness
  • Bloating
  • Anxiety

Some call this "Period Insomnia" 9 (although it occurs before your period) as you may feel more restless at night, experience irregular body temperature8, daytime tiredness, and poor sleep quality. 

Sleep tips:

  • Cut out caffeine and alcohol to minimise impact on mood and anxiety. Caffeine and alcohol can exacerbate sadness, irritability and anxious thoughts.8
  • Increase natural daylight exposure and avoid bright lights and screens at night. This will help with regulating your Circadian rhythm – helping with daytime alertness and priming your body and mind for sleep in the evening.2
  • Increase water intake and eat foods that are high in magnesium like pumpkin seeds to help with bloating and brain fog2.
  • Curb hunger with high-fibre complex carbohydrates like sweet potatoes and leafy greens. Snack on nuts, seeds, fruit. We know it’s easier said than done but try not to stress out about your sleep. It’s okay and perfectly natural to not feel your best when going through PMS. Be aware that your sleep won’t be at its best either and don’t be too hard on yourself2.

Open and honest discussions about menstruation and its affects are a normal of life. Sleep is a vital component of health. Along with exercise and nutrition, sleep makes up the 3 pillars of health.  

Whether you’re figuring out your own period cycle and phases or whether you’re a concerned partner who wants to help, we hope this article empowers you with knowledge to continue the discussion on how period cycles can affect sleep.

Learn more about your sleep with our online sleep assessment.


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University of Saskatchewan. (n.d.). Carbohydrates and proteins for athletes. Students. https://students.usask.ca/articles/carbohydrates-for-athletes.php



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