Sleep is vital for our overall health. When our sleep is disrupted, not only do we get tired, but we get stressed, hungry, forgetful, uncoordinated, and sometimes even sick. With sleep deprivation crashing your mental and physical health, you can get stuck in a cycle where poor sleep leads to a poor quality of life and a poor quality of life leads to poor sleep.
This is bad news for the average person. However, a woman with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is at a greater risk of sleep disruptions and disorders. They’re 1.5 more likely to have sleeping issues, in fact! That means that many Cysters get caught in the bad sleep cycle.
And if you’re a Cyster out there, you already know what I’m talking about as many of us already experience excessive daytime sleepiness and insomnia. But, don’t give up hope! Once you understand how PCOS might be wrecking your sleep, better sleep hygiene might be just what you need to get back to snoozing soundly.
So, today, I’ve dedicated my post to remedying your PCOS sleep issues.
How To Sleep Better With PCOS:
Below, we’ll explore WHY you are having problems sleeping with PCOS, and I’ll show you some ways you may be able to improve your sleep and achieve a better quality of life. Here’s what’s going on:
Can PCOS Cause Sleep Problems?
Yes! PCOS can cause sleep problems. This is a common symptom Cysters report, and even more, lack of sleep can really worsen other chronic symptoms too. As a woman with PCOS, you could have a variety of sleep disorders like insomnia, obstructive sleep apnea, or difficulty falling asleep.
There’s a few things going on in your body that make getting a good night’s sleep tough. Below, I’ve listed a few PCOS issues that affect sleep:
Cortisol and Melatonin Balance
One reason women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) experience sleep disturbances is due to the imbalance of cortisol and melatonin in their bodies. These two hormones juggle back and forth all day in your body to keep us calm but energized.
However, Cysters have higher cortisol levels (stress hormones), which keep us wired and anxious. Without proper melatonin levels to balance the extra cortisol, it’s really hard for our bodies to relax for sleep.
Insomnia and insulin resistance also seem to have a correlation based on several studies. And, unfortunately, many Cysters are naturally insulin resistant! This disruption of the glucose synthesis process makes us feel really fatigued as our bodies try to regulate our blood sugar. Yet, this issue also manipulates our fight or flight response, keeping us awake although we feel tired.
What’s worse? Poor sleep causes worsening insulin resistance! So, without solving our insulin sensitivity issues, it’ll be difficult to break the cycle. This could lead to weight gain, diabetes, and heart disease.
Irregular Menstrual Cycle
One of the first recognized symptoms of PCOS is irregular periods. The irregularity is another problem caused by hormonal imbalances in a PCOS body. But, Cysters, did you know your menstrual cycle is an important part of your sleep health? It is!
Just after ovulation, there’s an important hormone change that helps with your sleep cycle. When this is disrupted due to an irregular period, Cysters may see worsening sleep problems. Painful cramping leads to higher levels of estrogen that disrupts REM sleep (deep sleep). And, too little progesterone prevents the body from falling and staying asleep.
Regular periods are helpful for maintaining a good sleep schedule. Of course, that’s easier said than done. Check out this episode of our podcast “A Cyster & Her Mister” called “Period Repair Manual.” It’s chock full of super helpful information that can help you get your menstruation back on track!
Anxiety and Depression
A woman with PCOS is 3 times more likely to experience depression and anxiety over a healthy woman. This is partially due to metabolic issues and hormonal imbalances, but PCOS comorbidities play a role too.
Weight gain, acne, unwanted hair loss and growth, infertility, and fatigue can reduce our quality of life. And, when crappy things like this happen . . . we feel awful.
A Cyster’s anxiety and depression in itself can cause insomnia or poor sleep quality. But, the unhealthy lifestyle choices that come with anxiety and depression can also disrupt sleep. Poor diet, lack of physical activity, and alcohol all contribute to worse sleep.
It’s time to get your sleep back on track.
All of this is to say, the only way to start improving your sleep quality is to break these cycles. You can do this using the tips below! Consider joining the Cysterhood. There, we can support you through the whole process and help you find more ways to improve your PCOS symptoms. Until then, here’s how to sleep better with PCOS:
How To Get Better Sleep with PCOS
Give yourself time to wind down.
A morning routine is great for your physical and mental health, but so is an evening routine! Having time to wind down can properly prepare your body for sleep. Without a clear distinction between being awake and going to bed your body may keep your cortisol levels high and melatonin low even as you try to sleep at night.
Here are some ideas that are have been shown to improve sleep:
- Drink rose hip tea! It’s been found to lower cortisol levels.
- Read a book. A study found that reading a book can reduce stress by 68%. Wow!
- Try meditative exercise. Tai chi, qigong, yoga, and stretching have been shown to be beneficial for sleep.
- Listen to music. Classical music has been proven to lower blood pressure!
Take a melatonin supplement.
Women with PCOS have elevated levels of cortisol. The antithesis of cortisol, our stress hormone, is melatonin, our chill-out hormone. Melatonin is vital to help our bodies fall asleep and stay asleep. So, to help balance your hormones, consider taking a melatonin supplement! (Of course, consult your doctor before starting any new supplements!)
Stick to a consistent sleep schedule.
Study after study shows us that maintaining a consistent sleep schedule can give you better quality sleep. Your body’s internal clock, or “circadian rhythms” can better navigate when you’re on a schedule. You’ll fall asleep faster, wake-up easier, and feel better throughout the day.
And, guess what? Your heart rate and blood pressure follow your circadian rhythms too. So, to help support your cardiovascular system and get better rest, follow a sleep schedule!
Get some sun.
Those circadian rhythms we were talking about? Those are partially set by the sun, our body’s original calendar! Now in the 21st century, we have work schedules and commitments that dictate our patterns. However, our bodies didn’t get the memo. It still relies on the sun’s rays to regulate!
Taking a walk in the morning or at night (even better, do both!) can help signal your body for rest or waking. The craziest part? The sun’s rays are actually different in the morning and the evening! Seriously! It’s wild to think how interconnected nature and our bodies are.
The point is, getting out in the sun can help us produce the right hormones at the right time. This will help you establish a consistent sleep schedule and get better and longer rest!
Turn screens off early.
We’ve heard this before: Blue light from our phones can cause several health issues, like headaches and sleep problems. But, did you know that it can disrupt your body’s secretion of melatonin by up to 90 minutes!
Being on your phone before bed can keep you away for almost two extra hours! So, do what you can to eliminate screens a couple hours before bed. No phones or TVs in the bedroom. No late night iPad games. Maybe opt for classical music instead of reruns of Monk or Friends to get better sleep! (Though, I LOVE to binge watch some Monk . . .)
When you find the right dosage of CBD, it can be very effective for alleviating the symptoms of PCOS—including poor sleep! It’s been found to produce better and deeper sleep while also reducing stress on the body and mind.
Set a bedroom oasis.
Last, but not least, make your bedroom an absolute OASIS. One, you deserve it. Two, it can help you wind down and relax before bed. Get blackout curtains and high quality sheets. Then, declutter and turn that temperature down low. Finally, fill the room with some lavender oil to help you unwind and get some really great sleep.
Once you understand why PCOS disrupts your sleep, use these tips to get it back on track.
Quality sleep is essential for a quality life. And, for a woman with PCOS, it’s vital for managing all of your symptoms. I hope this post helped you come up with a plan to improve your sleep and reclaim your energy!
For more information on PCOS, check out our blog, and for more information on sleeping better with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), listen to this podcast episode. This is not a topic you want to sleep on! (ba dum tss . . .)