A New York magazine report explores the effect of birth control pills on the body and how it may impact the quality of a woman’s sleep.
Doctors agree: Women have a harder time sleeping than men. There is a laundry list of reasons why, and chief among them is your own dang body making things harder for you thanks to hormone fluctuations. But isn’t one of the virtues of the birth-control pill the fact that it levels hormonal mountains into molehills? Should everybody be on the pill to sleep better? Not so fast.
First, let’s talk about what happens when you’re not on the pill. Your levels of estrogen and progesterone not only dictate when an egg is released, but they also have an impact on your core temperature. If you’ve ever tried the form of natural family planning that involves obsessive tracking of basal body temperature and cervical mucus, this will sound familiar — your temperature is going to be higher during certain times of the month.
Biology rehash: The start of your period is considered day one of your cycle. Another egg will be released about halfway through your cycle, at which point the hormone progesterone spikes up and will stay elevated until a few days before your next period, says Ari Shechter, PhD, assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University Medical Center. This is known as the luteal or premenstrual phase, during which women’s temperatures are about one-half to one degree higher than during the rest of the month, even at night.
This could affect sleep quality, Shechter says, since core body temperature is connected to sleep. Our temperature is high during the day, declines before we go to bed, and hits its lowest point overnight. One degree isn’t a huge difference, but it’s noticeable, he says. “Maybe it can affect some of the subjective feelings. If you’re feeling hot, you might feel a little more restless.”