Periods are like the Mercury retrogrades of the body—they’re a time when a lot of not-fun shit happens. Add insomnia to the list of period-related troubles, because our time of the month can also make it hard to sleep. As if any of that needed to be more difficult.
“Typically, period insomnia happens during the luteal phase,” says Dr. Anna Cabeca, triple-board certified OB-GYN and author of MenuPause: Five Unique Eating Plans to Break Through Your Weight Loss Plateau and Improve Mood, Sleep, and Hot Flashes. The luteal phase happens between ovulation and menstruation, and is associated with PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome) and PMDD (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder). Both PMS and PMDD are associated with period insomnia. Basically, if you experience either one of those, you are more likely to experience insomnia during your flow.
Dr. Cabeca adds that another contributing factor is that our body has a reduced level of melatonin during the luteal phase. Not producing enough of the hormone progesterone could be another one, she says. “Women who have a tendency to suffer from a progesterone deficiency (and by proxy, an increase in cortisol) during the luteal phase are more likely to experience this.” In simpler terms, progesterone is a natural sedative, and cortisol depletes progesterone levels.
“Therefore, anything we can do to improve our body’s natural production of progesterone, reduce our cortisol level, and support our adrenal glands will help with this symptomatology,” Dr. Cabeca says. She recommends supplementing with the adaptogen maca (a main ingredient in her organic superfood drink Mighty Maca Plus) in combination with vitamins C and B. “I would also add magnesium, which is a natural muscle relaxer, and melatonin supplement,” she says.
Managing PMS symptoms in general can also help with better sleep. Consuming foods like oats, beans, lentils, and salmon, satisfying cravings with high-fiber carbs instead of processed ones, and drinking lots of water can all help during the luteal phase.