Progesterone is a powerful hormone. While most notably associated with pregnancy, progesterone is the hormone that is most often attributed to a fluctuation in a woman’s mood, emotions, and the degree to which physical activity can be performed. More profound than this is the effect progesterone may have on a woman’s wake and sleep cycles, lending claim to the creation of insomnia and other sleeping disorders in women. When in abundance or in quick decline, women often report the greatest complications associated with sleep disorders ranging from excessive sleepiness during the day to periods of insomnia in the evening. Understanding the role of progesterone on the female body will assist women in preparing for the periods of hormonal cycles in which sleep cycles may be disturbed.
As a common female hormone, progesterone is important to a healthy woman’s hormonal balance. Associated directly with ovulation, it is progesterone that prepares a woman’s uterus for implantation of a fertilized egg and pregnancy. As a result, following ovulation, when progesterone is at its greatest peak level, women commonly report several days of excessive daytime sleepiness, as if there is a need to deeply hibernate. This is a natural response to a woman’s cyclical hormonal change which encourages rest in anticipation of pregnancy at the ovulation period.
Following ovulation, as progesterone levels drop, women begin to experience an increase in energy levels, gradually and slowly. It is during this period, usually the week right before menstruation that women may have more energy but, oftentimes, experience episodes of disturbed sleep patterns which, unfortunately, may further exacerbate complications associated with Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS). For this reason, in the weeks following ovulation, women prepare for the sudden change in the sleep cycle from hibernation styled, excessive sleepiness to a sudden change in energy leading through disturbed sleep patterns in the week before menstruation and then, ultimately, episodes of full-blown insomnia associated with menstruation.
It is during menstruation that women most often express concerns with bloating, menstrual cramping, and even headache pain. These, coupled with a decline in progesterone, lead to temporary sleeping disorders such as insomnia. While this level of insomnia generally remedies in the days following menstruation, as hormone levels begin to balance again, women often feel fatigued, even lethargic, during menstrual cycles and, simply, due to lack of sleep.
As a woman, therefore, when suffering from a sleep disorder, monitoring patterns of sleep complications is important. With a daily log of sleep patterns, over a 60-day period, many women find the sleep complications are, indeed, a direct result of the progesterone fluctuations associated with hormonal and menstrual cycles. When confirmed through diary logs, a healthcare professional should be consulted regarding possible treatments available. Depending on the degree to which the hormones play a role in the sleep disorder, a woman may require hormone therapy, including the Pill, and sleep aids to use, intermittently during periods of insomnia.
As an alternative approach to prescription medications, women experiencing hormonal based sleep disorders may consider utilizing natural remedies including green or chamomile tea, heating pads to relax muscles, and even massage or acupuncture. In the best scenario, following a diary or log can prepare a woman for fluctuations in hormones and, therefore, anticipate changes in sleep cycles and make the necessary adjustments to lifestyle to comply with the female body’s natural requirements to comply with the progesterone fluctuations.
When all else fails, and sleep disorders persist, it is suggested that a woman set up a consultation with an endocrinologist, to address hormone levels within the body, and a consultation with a sleep study center, to address sleep disorders, may be indicated.