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How to sleep better during your period

Woman trying to sleep while suffering cramping due to periods. (Getty Images)
Periods are causing women to miss out on a good night's sleep. (Getty Images)

Periods aren't always easy to deal with. From the inconvenience, to the discomfort, menstruation isn't a time of the month many look forward to. But it isn't just during the day that periods can be a problem, they also impact us at night too. And this has a pretty big knock-on affect on our sleep.

From cramps keeping us awake, to concern about leakage and a rise in body temperature making us uncomfortable, it's little wonder therefore, that three quarters of women experience an interrupted night's sleep when they're on their period.

The research, of 1,000 women who menstruate, found 53% get anxious at night-time while on their period and will do whatever they can for a peaceful night’s rest.

Just over two thirds (71%) of those who do find themselves having an interrupted night, tend to wake up to five times, spending up to 30 minutes awake on each occasion.

When asked what causes these "period wake-ups", 38% said it’s because they’re worried about leaks, 30% fear having to get up to change their protection, while a quarter (25%) say its due to general discomfort when lying down.

Four in 10 (41%) said getting a good night’s sleep is more important to them when on their period than any other time of their menstrual cycle, and 85% admit to trying "period hacks" to avoid leaks and get a better night’s sleep.

These include wearing multiple pads (22%) and even sleeping on towels (20%) to avoid having to change the bedding.

Sleeping in the foetal position and wearing extra layers of clothing are other methods women try in order to try and improve their sleep.

Woman struggling to sleep. (Getty Images)
Three quarters of women say they struggle to sleep during their period. (Getty Images)

The research was commissioned by Always, which has joined forces with Silentnight’s in-house sleep expert, Hannah Shore, to give advice on how to get a better night's sleep while on your period.

"Not getting enough sleep can have a profound effect not just emotionally, but physically too," she explains. "The less sleep we get, the more our pain tolerance decreases, meaning the worse our sleep gets and the worse our cramps are likely to get."

The impact of a bad night’s sleep is felt the following day with 68% admitting they feel more irritable and over half (51%) unable to concentrate. And 47% say it takes them between a few days and a week to catch up on sleep following their period.

Commenting on the findings Farah Azmy, from Always UK, which has launched its Ultra Size 6 night pads, designed to help prevent leaks at night, adds: "We’ve all experienced period leaks during restless nights and had to deal with the period hangover the next morning.

"Sleep is so important, but even more so during your period when your body needs the rest.

"It’s become evident that there is a growing need for a solution, to help relieve overnight worries instead of managing with complex and uncomfortable period hacks."

How to beat the period hangover and get a better night's sleep

Regulate your temperature

According to Shore bodies run hot during menstruation, but when we are asleep our core body temperature needs to drop a couple of degrees be able to fall into the good quality sleep needed.

"Avoid hot showers/baths (warm is okay and can be relaxing) or exercise before bed and wear light, cool pyjamas," she recommends.

"If you struggle with overheating throughout the night regularly try avoiding things like memory foam mattresses, as these can hold onto heat and make you hotter.

"A cold damp flannel or cold glass of water can help on particularly bad nights," she adds.

Establish a sleep routine

Routine is key when it comes to sleep. "We should be going to sleep and waking up every day at the same time, even on weekends," Shore explains. "This means our bodies will be used to producing the right hormones at the right time of day (sleep hormones such as melatonin in the evening and wake promoting hormones such as cortisol for the day).

"Producing the right hormones at the right time means we will fall asleep easier and wake up easier, leaving us feeling more refreshed," she adds.

Woman struggling to sleep. (Getty Images)
Experts have provided some tips to cope with a period hangover. (Getty Images)

Light

Light is important when it comes to sleep; we sleep when it's dark for a reason. "Light is our main external cue that regulates our sleep/wake hormone production," Shore says.

"Bright morning light suppresses the sleep hormones leaving you feeling more awake. Dull, darker evening light prompts the body to produce sleep hormones such as melatonin which will help you drift off to sleep more easily."

Keep pain relief to hand

Getting up to seek out pain relief, turning on the lights to do so, will disturb your sleep cycle and make you feel more awake.

"Keep pain relief next to your bed or in an easily accessible place," Shore advises. "If you experience very painful periods, it is recommended that you speak to your GP."

Find a period product that works for you

Sleeping on towels or using multiple period products can increase body temperature and add to your discomfort.

"Having a period product that works for you/you feel confident in will not only make you feel more comfortable but also reduce stress and worry," Shore explains. "Stress and worry are sleeps worst enemy; they produce wake promoting hormones, which when they are in the system, will cause us to struggle to get to and stay asleep."

Additional reporting SWNS.

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