From reduction in melatonin and cortisol levels to the impact of estrogen, a Refinery 29 report examines the affect of a woman’s menstrual cycle on sleep.

They may be predictable, but your periods can make life rough in unpredictable ways. On top of headaches, acne, and cramps, your “special” time of the month may also bring some weirdness to your sleep cycle. In fact, the hormonal ebb and flow of the menstrual cycle may affect your sleep throughout the month, not just during your period, explains Armando Hernandez-Rey, MD, a fertility expert at Conceptions Florida.

Dr. Hernandez-Rey stresses that there’s a lot of mystery surrounding how exactly the hormonal cycle does this, and it may vary for different women. But there has been some research to suggest that changes in your hormone levels throughout your cycle can cause insomnia or make your sleep less restful. Still, Dr. Hernandez-Rey says that what we do know is that there are definitely changes happening that could very well be affecting your shut-eye, so you’re not going crazy.

Here are Dr. Hernandez-Rey’s best practices for getting to sleep — no matter the time of the month.


Right after ovulation is when you’ll probably feel the biggest changes in your sleep habits, Dr. Hernandez-Rey says. In addition to your rising progesterone level, “you’ll have drops in melatonin and cortisol levels,” he explains, “and that dysregulation is one of the reasons you might have insomnia.”

Both melatonin and cortisol play huge roles in your sleep-wake cycle. Cortisol’s nickname of the “stress hormone” makes it sound like a bad thing, but it’s actually really important for keeping you awake. (What makes it bad is when you have too much cortisol.) Drinking coffee the next day when you’re tired can actually then make this effect worse because it suppresses your body’s response to cortisol, meaning you’re working against your natural alertness and might not actually feel that much more energized. So be careful with caffeine (a good idea anyway if you’re dealing with insomnia), or at least do your best to time it right.

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