According to a poll by the National Sleep Foundation, about 70 percent of menstruating women say their sleep is disrupted during their periods by symptoms like breast tenderness, bloating, cramps, and headaches.
At the start of your menstrual phase (when your period begins), there's a decline in estrogen (and a slowing of your metabolism) and you get sleepy. We now know that the drop in estrogen leads to less REM sleep, which is when dreams usually occur. Also, having a heavy period can lead to anemia from the lower iron level, which is a possible cause of restless legs syndrome—that uncomfortable creepy, crawly feeling you may get in your legs when you lie down that forces you to keep moving your legs or walking around.
During the follicular phase, in the first half of your menstrual cycle, the brain signals the pituitary gland to make follicle-stimulating hormone, which triggers a rise in estrogen. Thus, you no longer feel sleepy—on the contrary, you may feel overly stimulated and have insomnia. During the follicular phase, women tend to have more light or poor-quality sleep (Stage 2) and an increase in REM sleep, often at the end of the night, which may make it difficult to wake up in the morning. So, it's both hard to fall asleep and hard to wake up during this menstrual phase leading to ovulation.
During the early luteal phase, the week after ovulation, the hormone progesterone is on the rise again. This will increase sleepiness and body temperature. Your circadian rhythm (which is controlled by melatonin) is affected. You will feel sleepy and want to go to bed earlier, but you will also wake up earlier. Your metabolism speeds up during this phase, so you will feel hungrier and eat more. Sleep will be lighter or of poorer quality.
In the final phase that leads up to menstruation—the late luteal phase, which is when many women experience PMS—estrogen and progesterone levels begin to fall back to normal, increasing awakenings and decreasing the amount of deep, restorative sleep you get and crave the most.
But to improve your sleep during all phases, follow these natural sleep tips for PMS and your period: