Sleeping comfortably with your period sounds like a bit of an oxymoron to me. We all know that there is NOTHING comfortable about having your period; whether you’re sleeping or awake. Between the painful cramps, raging hormones, and paralyzing fear of leakage, sleeping with your period can be a real nightmare.
According a survey by the National Sleep Foundation, 33% of menstruating women say that they experience problematic sleep during the week of their cycle.1 Why? HORMONES.
Therapist Pat Duckworth says:
The cause of many problems is down to hormone levels. The levels of oestrogen and progesterone vary during the menstrual cycle. Oestrogen levels peak around ovulation and then decline before the start of your period. Progesterone, which can make you feel sleepy, also drops before your period – which is the time when women generally have sleep issues. 2
Basically, what Duckworth is saying is that during your period your hormones are going crazy and it can cause issues with body temperature, insomnia, food cravings, anxiety and moodiness – the list goes on and on.
Now while it’s pretty much impossible to rid your body of all those frustrating hormones, there are ways to cope with the sleep disturbances that they cause. And for non-hormonal sleep disruptions like fear of leakage and an overall not-so-fresh feeling? We have some solutions for those too.
Your biological need for sleep and those pesky monthly visits from Aunt Flo are not going away anytime soon. So, let’s explore some ways to turn your period nightmares into sweet, sweet dreams.
The Problem: Menstruating and Night-Time Body Temperature
We all know that you don’t have to be on your period to struggle with temperature control at night. I am forever trying to achieve that perfect bedroom temperature that is cool enough to promote deep sleep but not so coldthat my toes turn into icicles.
But since menstruation can make internal temperature control even more difficult, many women (including myself) find themselves tossing and turning during their periods.
In order to reach those deep REM levels of sleep your body needs to cool down significantly. For women who are not menstruating (and men), this cooling off process generally occurs naturally as you doze off. However, during menstruation, hormonal changes can disrupt your body’s natural ability to cool down.
Qualified sleep consultant Maryanne Taylor of The Sleep Works, says:
Your core temperature rises considerably after ovulation, so feeling uncomfortable from heat can affect how we sleep. 2
The Solutions To Regulating Your Body Temperature
Too hot to drift off comfortably? If overheating is an issue for you during menstruation (or anytime, really), you can try a couple of things to help beat the heat and catch some zzz’s.
1. Adjust Your Thermostat
The ideal temperature for sleep is 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit. But keep in mind that during your period, this may not be cool enough with all those hormones running around like crazy!
Try turning down your thermostat a few degrees before bed, but no more than 1-2 degrees at a time. You want to help entice your body’s natural cooling system to kick in-not recreate the Arctic!
2. Warm Bath
A warm bath is going to help me cool off before bed?
I agree, it does sound counterintuitive. But the contrast of moving from warm bathwater to a nice, cool bedroom will help trigger your body’s natural cooling system and promote more efficient temperature regulation.
This does not mean that you need to get out of the tub and race dripping wet and naked into a frigid bedroom. In fact, don’t do that. Simply enjoy a relaxing bath and then proceed to get ready for bed as you usually would. Your internal temperature will stay warmer from the bath until you settle in to bed, where it will drop more quickly to adjust to the change.
Not to mention that walking around all day with your period can you leave you feeling kind of icky by bedtime. Taking a warm bath can help wash aware the filth of the day and allow you to turn in feeling fresh and clean in addition to regulating temperature.
3. Sleep Naked:
It kind of goes without saying that less clothing will help you cool down more quickly than going to sleep in full on footie-pajamas.Plus, sleeping naked is scientifically proven to promote tons of health benefits.
Keep in mind, sleeping naked on your period may be a bit tricky if you wear pads to bed, pretty much guaranteeing you will need to clean your mattress in the morning. Or maybe sleeping in the buff simply does not appeal to you, especially on your period.
No problem! The temperature regulating benefits that come from sleeping naked can be achieved just as easily by wearing only underwear to bed. The whole idea is simply to sport less clothing as you turn in for the night, even if it just means removing your bra while you sleep.
The Problem: Menstrual Cramps Keeping You Awake
The feeling that someone is pummeling your ovaries is not exactly conducive for a restful night’s sleep. Unfortunately, painful menstrual cramps are a reality for many women.
Discomfort due to cramps is one of the most commonly cited causes for losing sleep when on your period. But it doesn’t have to be!
Solutions To Night-Time Menstrual Cramps
Treating menstrual cramps can involve a fair amount of trial and error to figure out what works best for you. That’s because there is no shortage of possible remedies to soothe your aching ovaries and it can be difficult to determine which one is most effective.
To cut back on trial and error time and help you curb those cramps quickly, we’ve listed a few tried and true solutions. For a more in depth look at these solutions, check out this post.
1. Eat Right
Even though all you want to do on your period is inhale entire sleeves of Oreos, too much sugar can actually exacerbate cramps.
Try eating foods rich in magnesium, fish oil, or vitamin E and B1 while at the same time cutting out as much sugar as possible. Foods like leafy greens, whole-grains, or nuts and legumes have anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce cramping.
Trust me, I know how intense food cravings can be during your period, I basically keep Ben and Jerry’s in business during my time of the month. If you simply can’t kick that sweet tooth, reach for a piece of fruit, frozen fruit bars, or even flavored yogurt to quench your craving instead of foods filled with refined sugar.
2. Pain Pills
It’s no secret that pain relief can often be found in the form of a convenient little pill. There are a variety of pain pills available that are often effective in easing your suffering due to menstrual cramps.
Just make sure that you are taking the recommended dose of whatever prescription or over the counter pill you decide on. If you’re going the over the counter route, NSAIDS have proven to be highly effective in treating menstrual cramps and discomfort.
3. Heat Therapy
Applying heat directly to the abdominal area has long been an effective treatment for menstrual cramps. There are a number of ways to find relief from heat when it comes to cramping.
You can fill a bottle with hot water and gently roll it over your abdomen, place a heating pad directly on your cramps, or even wrap yourself in ThermaCare thermal wraps for some warm relief.
Be careful to only apply heat for short amounts of time and do not fall asleep with that heating pad plugged in to avoid any possible fire hazards.
4. Fetal Position
To sleep like a baby, especially with menstrual cramps, you need to put yourself in a baby-like fetal position.
According to Lisa Lindley, M.D., board-certified gynecologist with Eisenhower Women’s Health:
Sleeping in the fetal position takes pressure off the abdominal muscles.3
In agreement with Dr. Lindley, Jennifer Wider, M.D., says:
Many women report that the fetal position can help relieve cramps. In this configuration, the skeletal muscles around your abdomen relax, and less tension leads to fewer cramps and less pain4
Shifting the position that you sleep in is a simple change that can have a huge impact on relieving your night-time pain.
If side-sleeping in the fetal position feels unnatural, try getting a body pillow (or an oversized regular pillow) and wrapping your arms and legs around it. This can help to take pressure off of the lower back and hips even more so than sleeping in the fetal position alone.
The Problem: Fear of Midnight Leakage
CODE RED! CODE RED!
I can’t tell you how many nights that I have woken up in a panic, afraid that my period had soaked through my sleepwear and onto my bed linens. And sadly, I know that I am not alone in this traumatizing experience. Every woman is familiar with the paralyzing anxiety that goes hand in hand with sleeping during your period and worrying about leaks.
Not only can the issue of leakage be pretty disgusting. After all, no one wants to wake up in what looks like a scene from CSI. But the constant worry that you may soil your sheets can actually keep you from ever falling asleep!
Outside of wearing multiple diapers to bed (which some women do), what can you do to fall asleep with confidence that you won’t wake up in a bloody mess?
The Solution To Night-Time Leaks
When it comes to leakage, there are actually quite a few possible methods for prevention. Depending on your flow, you might try several of this remedies at once for maximum leakage protection.
1. Period Panties
Granny panties are great for when you have your period. In fact, they’re pretty much essential. Those tattered old granny panties are probably not your first choice to slip on before a hot date, so if they fall victim to some blood stains…no big deal.
Don’t own any granny panties? Go get some. Any pair of Hanes or Fruit of the Loom full-coverage will do. The whole point of granny panties is that they are big enough to hold a pad in place through the night. Plus, they are unimportant enough that any leakage that might occur probably won’t upset you too much.
If you just can’t bring yourself to dive into the unfashionable pool of granny panties, specialty period panties might be a good option for you. Period specific underwear is designed to be worn alone or with a pad and features multiple layers of protection. There are a variety of brands available such as THINX, Dear Kate, Panty Prop, and Knix, among several others.
While each are made slightly differently, most feature at least four specialty layers of fabric to help keep you dry and odor free– moisture-wicking, antimicrobial, absorbent, and leak-resistant.
Since they are reusable and machine washable, period panties offer a slightly more fashionable and definitely more sustainable option for controlling leakage. And these are not just for sleep!
Most women find these specialty panties comfortable enough to wear day and night, giving them confidence to remain leak-free.
2. Heavy Duty Artillery
I’m talking about the highly controversial and often uncomfortable sanitary pad. Personally, I find pads to be a form of cruel and unusual punishment for women.
Outside of my first few periods as a teenager and the rare occasion that a tampon is unavailable, I try to stay far away from these things.
For many women though, pads are just part of life. And with all the recent stories that I’ve read about Toxic Shock Syndrome caused from prolonged tampon use, maybe pads are not such a bad idea.
Either way, pads have the uncanny ability to make you feel like you’re wearing a diaper, and no one likes that. But pads also have the ability to allow you to sleep more easily, giving you confidence that you’re protected from night-time leakage.
When it comes to pads, there are a dizzying amount of options. But for extra night-time protection it’s always a safe bet to go with the super-sized pads. You can even insert two into your granny panties to make sure that you are covered front to back.
And if your flow is excessively heavy and the possibility of leakage really freaks you out, you can try adult diapers.
I know, it sounds unpleasant. And it certainly isn’t the most attractive option. But it is pretty foolproof in preventing night-time leaks and maybe worth it on those super heavy days.
Whether you wear pads on the regular or only use them as an extra layer of night-time protection during your heavy flow, the leakage protection that pads and/or adult diapers offer is undeniable.
Spandex kind of goes along with granny panties and specialty period underwear. Wearing a pair of spandex shorts over your pad and underwear can act as not only another layer of protection, but work to keep everything in place.
Spandex is a snug and form fitting material by nature and kind of feels like a second skin. While you don’t want to wear anything so tight that it cuts off circulation or causes discomfort, form fitting spandex shorts or leggings can help keep things from shifting around down there.
4. Back-Up Bedding
The last thing that you want to do when you are on your period is ruin your favorite bedlinens. That’s why I advise always keeping a pair of “throwaway sheets” in your linen closet. And no, you don’t actually have to throw these away after you use them. They are just sheets that you are not going to cry over if they fall victim to a few blood stains.
Whether it be a pair of old bed sheets from your parent’s house or a cheap sheet set that you pick up from Ikea, these sheets serve the purpose of giving you peace of mind and nothing more. When Aunt Flo comes to visit, I would immediately switch out the bed sheets to avoid any unwanted stains on your good sheets.
For added protection you can either invest in a plastic mattress cover, which is not as bad as it sounds, or layer a few towels underneath your fitted sheet.
I actually use a plastic mattress cover for allergy purposes and it works wonders. It simply goes over the mattress and under the fitted sheet, no big deal! You will never even know it’s there but it will ensure that no blood will ever reach your mattress.
Protecting your mattress and favorite bed linens is a must when on your period. Even if you have armed yourself in heavy duty pads and adult diapers, leaks can still occur. Better to safeguard your bed than end up with permanent blood stains.
5. Proper Positioning
We know that the position that you sleep in can have an impact on reducing cramping during your period, but did you know that it can also prevent or promote leaks? It turns out that sleeping in the fetal position is not just helpful in reducing pain due to menstrual cramps. Curling up like a baby helps to keep that blood from leaking out while you sleep.
When you are in the fetal position, by nature your legs are tightly closed, which acts like a physical barrier for potential leakage. Plus, sleeping with your legs in a compact position helps to keep your pad in place.
Try to avoid sleeping face-down when you have your period. According to Dr. Jennifer Wider:
Being on your stomach can squeeze the uterus so that more blood comes out
In recent years, reusable menstrual cups, like the Diva Cup, have become more and more popular. For those of you who are not familiar with this period control option, a menstrual cup is a bell-shaped cup that is inserted and worn low in the vaginal canal. These cups collect blood rather than absorbing it as a tampon would.
Menstrual cups may seem a bit foreign but they have actually been around since the 1930’s and offer a safe alternative to tampons. They are made from high-quality silicone and claim to offer 12-hour leak-proof protection, making them an ideal option for sleep.
It is advised to not wear a tampon for more than 4-8 hours maximum, meaning that some people do not feel comfortable sleeping in a tampon for fear of Toxic Shock Syndrome. The menstrual cup offers a tampon-like experience without any health concerns.
Phew, you get all that?
Getting enough quality sleep is always important for overall health. But when you are on your period, with hormones running rampant and emotions at an all-time high, proper sleep is crucial. Being on your period can make sleep challenging and aggravate common menstrual struggles. ‘
What do you do to sleep better when on your period? Any tips or tricks that we missed here? Please share your thoughts so that we can help each other sleep better during that time of the month!