Why the menstrual cycle can affect sleep

During the menstrual cycle, many cyclical changes occur, Hormones and body temperature and metabolic activity. Due to these changes and their effects on circadian rhythms, it is believed that the menstrual cycle can significantly affect sleep.

The latter can cause difficulty falling asleep and falling asleep; or, it can manifest itself in the opposite way: an excessive need for sleep. For example, there are those who report the need to sleep more than 10 hours during the menstrual cycle, and on the other hand, some report insomnia for a few specific days.

According to some studies, these sleep disturbances may be due to various factors associated with physiological changes in the menstrual cycle. In this article, we will also go over some of these factors the general functioning of sleep and menstruation, So that we can better understand their relationship.

    Circadian cycle and menstrual cycle

    Our whole body works in cycles. We have, for example, circadian cycles, which are those that last about 24 hours. This is why they are called “circa”, which means “around”; and “tidian”, which means “day”.

    Wake up and sleep are part of what regulates circadian cycles. This regulation goes through two biological rhythms that we call internal synchronizers (such as hormonal rhythms, blood pressure, body temperature, in the metabolic system); and external synchronizers, such as light and dark, noise, stressful events, among others.

    As the time for rest and sleep approaches, these synchronizers adapt to our need for rest, that is, they prepare the body for the decrease in energy that we need when we are sleeping soundly. . Thus, our physiology produces a whole series of functions while awake, and others during sleep, in coordination with external stimuli.

    On the other hand, we have infradian cycles, which are those that last more than 24 hours. These cycles are those they regulate physiological events that occur less than once a day, such as the menstrual cycle, Which happens every 28 days.

      How does the menstrual cycle work?

      During the menstrual cycle, it takes place the interaction of hormones from the hypothalamus, pituitary gland and also the ovaries. This system is known as the hypothalamic pituitary system (HHO) and is activated by the secretion of different hormones, such as gonadotropins (GnRH), luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). ).

      From this secretion, the menstrual cycle is divided into two phases: the follicular phase (where FSH is secreted to start releasing the eggs and necessary hormones); and the luteal phase (i.e. when hormonal secretion decreases around the 23rd day of the cycle, which causes vascular changes in the endometrium and possibly its detachment, i.e. menstruation).

      It is precisely the luteal phase that has been linked to the emergence of a set of somatic and physical changes in the menstrual cycle, among which sleep cycle alterations.

      Sleep and menstrual cycle alterations

      A normal sleep cycle is one that is divided into two distinct states; one is non-REM sleep (characterized by slow wave eye movements) and the other is REM sleep (characterized by fast wave movements).

      In this last, brain activity occurs at a faster rate, Which requires a number of significant hormonal changes. It secretes, for example, growth hormone, prolactin (which stimulates the production of breast milk), testosterone, melatonin (which helps regulate circadian rhythms related to light and dark ), and a few others that play an important role in menstruation.

      For example, it was linked decreased melatonin secretion with different premenstrual strainsThis dramatically alters the circadian cycles related to light and dark.

      Endocrine activity during sleep and associated symptoms

      As we have seen, one of the internal factors involved in the regulation of sleep cycles is endocrine activity (That of the system responsible for the release of hormones in our body).

      When the activity of this system intensifies, for example, during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle, our sleep can also be seen to be altered. In addition, the hormones GnRH, LH and FSH, have a significant release peak in the non-REM phase of sleep, which means that their concentration levels increase according to specific periods of the sleep cycle.

      The latter has been particularly associated with women who have PMS accompanied by emotional symptoms, And also in women who have a psychiatric diagnosis related to mood.

      In other words, some studies on the subject suggest that significant changes in the quality of sleep during the menstrual cycle occur more frequently in women who have mood disorders, while women without these symptoms of sleep. in quality of sleep.

      Similarly, some studies suggest that while many women are likely to have trouble sleeping during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle, it is women with other more severe PMS symptoms who are more likely to experience it. undergo alterations in this phase., especially daytime sleepiness.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Arbredes, G. (2008). Physiological and anatomical bases of sleep. Evolution of sleep in childhood and adolescence. International Classification of Sleep Disorders. The sleeping habits of the Spanish population. Integral pediatrics. XIV (9): 691-698.
      • Adresic, I., Palacios, E., Palacios, F. et al (2006). Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PDD): retrospective study of the prevalence and associated factors in 305 students. Latin American Journal of Psychiatry, 5: 16-22.
      • Baker, F. and Driver, H. (2006). Circadian rhythms, sleep and the menstrual cycle. Sleep Medicine, 8 (6): 613-622.
      • Manber, R. and Bootzin, R. (1997). Sleep and the menstrual cycle. Health Psychology, 16 (3): 209-214.
      • Driver, H., Dijk, DJ, Biedermann, K., et al (1996). Sleep and the EEG of sleep throughout the menstrual cycle in healthy young women. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 81 (2): 728-735.
      • Lee, K., Shaver, J., Giblin, EC et al (1990). Sleep patterns related to the phase of the menstrual cycle and affective premenstrual symptoms. Sleep: Journal of Sleep Research & Sleep Medicine, 13 (5): 403-409.

      Leave a Comment