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If you have difficulty falling asleep and find yourself awake for long stretches during the night, you may have insomnia.

And you may have noticed this occurring in the days before your period or getting worse in that timeframe.

Several studies have found that sleep quality is worse before a person’s period, with people reporting waking up more frequently and taking longer to fall asleep.

It’s not clear why. It could be that menstrual symptoms like cramps and headaches make it more difficult to sleep or that hormonal changes that affect body temperature and melatonin production are to blame.

Either way, even short-term insomnia can be difficult to deal with.

But you may be able to find relief through the following:

  • tracking your symptoms and showing them to a doctor or other healthcare professional
  • trying over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription medications
  • avoiding anything that contains ingredients that might keep you awake a few hours before bedtime
  • getting into a good sleep routine (even on weekends)

Read on to find out more.

If you currently take medication or supplements, take a look at the ingredients and potential side effects list.

Some could be harming your ability to sleep. For example, anything that contains caffeine can help to keep you awake —particularly if you’re taking it in the evening.

Some antidepressants and corticosteroids can also contribute to insomnia, along with certain cold medications and antihistamines.

If you’re concerned that your medication could be making it harder to sleep, speak with a healthcare professional as they may be able to swap you onto a different med, change your dosage, or advise taking it at an earlier time.

On the flip side, some medications may have the side effect of making you drowsy. If so, you could potentially take them in the evening to aid your sleep.

Always speak with a doctor or other healthcare professional before changing anything medicine-related.

Conditions such as premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can have an effect on your sleep around the time of your period.

As well as problems with sleep, PMDD can lead to feelings of depression, anxiety, and irritability along with daily fatigue and stomach bloating.

Studies have found that sleep disturbances are more frequent in people with PCOS. Other common symptoms include irregular periods, acne, weight gain, and hair growth.

Even premenstrual syndrome (PMS) could be the reason for sleep struggles in the days leading up to your period.

So, it’s a good idea to keep a diary of your symptoms for a few months to show a doctor.

They can run blood tests and check your hormone levels to see if an underlying cause could be causing or contributing to your pre-period insomnia.

Trying to stick to a routine at night can help improve your sleep over time. You can attempt to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day.

It’s also sensible to try and relax a while before you go to bed —for example, by avoiding the glaring lights of phones and TVs and swapping caffeine for something less stimulating.

In fact, it’s recommended to avoid caffeine a whole 6 hours before going to sleep as one study found consuming caffeine 6 hours before bed can disrupt and reduce sleep by an hour.

Cooling your room’s temperature to around 65°F (18°C) can also help you fall asleep. That may mean keeping the window open at night or using fans.

You can structure your days with sleep in mind, too.

This doesn’t necessarily mean daytime napping. Instead, think about activities that make you feel tired and try to do at least one each day. (The closer to your bedtime, the better.)

Everyone’s different so some people may find going to the gym or taking a long walk tiring. Others may find reading a heavy book wears them out more than something physical.

If you think period aches and pains might be contributing to your insomnia, OTC pain relief is an option to try.

Of course, you can buy sleeping tablets over the counter, too. But these aren’t recommended for long-term use as you may experience side effects like drowsiness the next day. Plus, they won’t be targeting the cause of your insomnia.

Supplements are another thing to consider.

A doctor or other healthcare professional may recommend melatonin or progesterone supplements if previous tests have shown that their levels are affected around the time of your period.

There are also supplements and vitamins available online that claim to provide relief for the likes of PMS symptoms. However, there is little evidence to support such claims.

It may sound counterintuitive, but there are some potential benefits to simply getting out of bed if you can’t sleep.

Research has found that people with PMDD have a significant improvement in their mood after a few hours of sleep deprivation and a period of recovery sleep.

Sleep quality can also improve after a short period of sleep deprivation.

Plus, if you have an early start, you may have more time to fit in a nap and aid recovery from any sleep deprivation.

In some cases, prescription medication may be the key to improved sleep.

Some can be taken in the days leading up to your period; others may need to be taken daily for maximum effectiveness.

Birth control pills may boost sleep quality in people with premenstrual and menstrual symptoms, particularly if periods are affecting pain and mood levels.

There’s evidence that the progesterone in oral contraceptives may result in deeper sleep and more stable sleeping patterns.

Some antidepressants have been shown to help people with insomnia.

A clinician may be able to prescribe trazodone to be taken the week before your period —it’s best to take this at night as it can make you feel tired.

Benzodiazepines may also be given for a short period to treat insomnia. Due to side effects such as persistent drowsiness and concentration difficulties along with reduced effectiveness over time, these aren’t often recommended for long-term use.

The same goes for prescription sleeping pills. They can be helpful if you experience difficulty sleeping for just a few nights at a time, but the potential side effects can be problematic.

Alongside medication, a clinician may even advise cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I). This therapy can help you create and maintain sleep schedules and learn to relax while in bed.

Although there hasn’t been much research into the effectiveness of CBT-I for pre-period insomnia, it has produced significant improvements in people with prenatal insomnia.

Research into the effects of periods on sleep and treatment for period-related insomnia is still limited.

But if you’re noticing a pattern each cycle, you don’t have to manage your symptoms alone. Instead, try to keep a diary of how you’re feeling over the course of a few months and show it to a doctor or other healthcare professional.

They’ll be able to check for underlying issues affecting your sleep, recommend lifestyle changes, and prescribe medications and other treatments that may help.

Lauren Sharkey is a U.K.-based journalist and author specializing in women’s issues. When she isn’t trying to discover a way to banish migraines, she can be found uncovering the answers to your lurking health questions. She has also written a book profiling young female activists across the globe and is currently building a community of such resisters. Catch her on Twitter.