10 ways to beat menstrual insomnia

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Premenstrual insomnia not affects your ability to sleep, it also seems to affect the quality of your sleep. Here’s how to work with your body to get a good night’s sleep.

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Prioritize sleep

‘Sleep should be considered as much of an important factor as things like diet, stress, exercise and smoking,’ says Margaret Moline, former head of the sleep centre at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York. Unfortunately, most of us don’t realize how pivotal it is to our health, particularly during our monthly cycles. ‘A lot of women don’t remember the last time they didn’t have a sleep debt,’ says Moline. ‘I see them falling asleep every morning on the train into New York.’

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Being alert at that time of the morning is part of your body’s natural rhythm, she explains. If you’re falling asleep instead, it means you’re not getting the sleep your body needs.

Log your sleep

‘The first step against insomnia is to develop a sleep log,’ says Moline. That way, you can tell whether there’s a link between menstrual-cycle symptoms and sleep, between relationships and sleep, between work and sleep, between hormone fluctuations and sleep’in fact, between anything and sleep.

Take advantage

On the other hand, if you’re already taking another medication that has drowsiness as a side effect, ask your doctor if you can take that drug an hour before bed instead of whenever you’ve been taking it. A side effect like drowsiness can work against you during the day but for you at night.

Make a sleep schedule

Sticking to a sleep schedule that has you getting up in the morning and going to bed at the same time every day‘yes, even while your period makes you feel like spending the day in bed’will also increase your ability to fall asleep.

Pay attention to basics

Increase the likelihood you’ll sleep by creating a soothing environment. Make your sleep area a comfortable, dark place in which you feel safe. Keep soothing teas and herbal hot packs within reach.

Watch out for wild cards

‘Some women may have other conditions that worsen during their cycle,’ says Moline, and any associated sleepiness may become exaggerated. ‘There’s some thinking that it might be related to the changes in blood volume during your cycle,’ she explains. When blood volume increases, your blood levels of medication may drop outside the therapeutic window.

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Again, keeping a log of your symptoms’including those related to your condition’will help identify the problem. And once you share the information with your doctor, you’re only a step away from a solution.

Channel your thoughts

Focus on things you love, like the flowers you might put in the garden next spring or taking your kids to see the ocean for the first time. This is not the time to work out problems.

Don’t put up with twitchy legs

See your doctor if you are bothered by tingly or creepy-crawly legs. Women with heavy periods seem to be predisposed to restless legs syndrome (RLS), but this irritating condition can be treated. A blood test will help your doctor determine how much extra iron and folate your body requires during your period to keep your legs calm.

Kill the pain

If pelvic pain keeps you up during your period, talk to your doctor about taking an over-the-counter NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) like ibuprofen, plus a vitamin B complex and magnesium supplement. And don’t forget the old remedies of a heating pad or sex to relieve the pain. You can also often block the chemicals that produce pain with a daily aerobic workout.

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Frisk your OTCs

We know to avoid coffee and tea six hours before bed because the caffeine will keep us up. But many of us don’t stop to think about what’s in the over-the-counter drugs we use. Since caffeine also boosts the analgesic effects of aspirin, for example, it’s frequently dropped into popular over-the-counter remedies advertised for pain relief during menstruation. That’s fine’just as long as you use it during the morning and early afternoon. Otherwise, it can interfere with your sleep as effectively as a cup of coffee.

You might want to avoid over-the-counter drugs with antihistamines added in as well, says Lee. Especially those that have Benadryl. ‘They may work for men who weigh 50 pounds more than you do,’ she explains, ‘but because of the difference in body weight, many women who take them feel hung over the next morning.’

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