Good, solid, quality sleep could be hard to come by in your premenstrual Week 4. And that’s a double-drag since research shows that sleep deprivation not only makes you tired, it’s a key trigger for premenstrual anger, irritation, sadness, overeating and other woes.
So, what’s behind the premenstrual sleeplessness? Plunging estrogen is lowering the brain’s level of sleep-regulating serotonin while also upping aches and pains and making you more sensitive to any little thing that can wake you up, such as light, noise, itchy sheets or stinky smells. This makes it more difficult to drift off, stay asleep and reach the deepest stages of sleep needed to wake up refreshed.
Luckily, there are a few easy steps you can take to get longer, deeper sleep despite these hormonal obstacles:
1. Nix the sleep-robbers: Try to pinpoint and eliminate any problems that could be keeping you awake, for instance, changing the sheets to a softer, less scratchy set, moving the smelly laundry basket from your bedroom or taking a painkiller 30 minutes prior to bedtime to dampen pain.
2. Drink chamomile tea: This sweet-flavored herbal tea contains mildly sedating compounds that can improve sleep quality. For best results, steep a cup for 10 minutes and drink two hours prior to going to bed so you have time to empty your bladder.
3. Pop a little melatonin: If you want to experiment with this over-the-counter sleep hormone, then take a small dose; a recent study found that a tiny 0.3 mg. dose worked more effectively at getting insomniacs to sleep than the larger 3 mg. dose that’s usually prescribed. Take it 20 minutes to an hour before bedtime. And dim the lights an hour or so before you turn in; exposure to light stops the body’s natural production of melatonin. Try not to take melatonin too often or too many nights in a row since your body can build up a tolerance to it. Save it for nights you know will be tough going–like during your Week 4. Not a fan of taking supplements? Try nibbling a few walnuts, which are a rich source of melatonin.
4. Listen to lulling music: Several studies show that listening to soft, slow music an hour before bedtime (even if it’s on in the background as you do other tasks) results in deeper, longer sleep. That’s because the music prompts the mind and body to relax, making it easier to drift off.
5. Use progressive muscle relaxation: This is where you tense each group of muscles then relax them starting with your toes and working all the way up to your face. This helps calm the body and mind, helping you get to sleep faster.
6. Count backwards by 3s: When you wake up and can’t fall back asleep, start counting backwards from 300 by 3s, for instance, 297, 294, etc. According to sleep expert Michael Breus, Ph.D., this activity is engaging enough to stop your thoughts from racing and triggering stress that keeps you alert, but is boring enough to lull you back to sleep.