How to Sleep with Cramps
That one time at a month is described with headaches, drastic mood swings, hormonal changes that influence redness, acne, and the notorious cramps. Period cramps can occur at unpredictable times of the day. However, many find them to be the worst when they occur during the night. Night cramps can deprive you of sound and restorative sleep, which leads to even more unpredictable mood swings and daytime sleepiness.
If you feel like you can’t control your menstrual cramps and their intensity and you don’t want to drink medicines that fall heavy on your stomach to be able to sleep, we compiled a list of things you can try to help you sleep with cramps.
Before you’re able to choose the best approach to soothe your period cramps before sleep, we need to decide the underlying reason that cramps occur. Some women experience little to no cramping sensation during their period. For others, period cramps can feel nearly apocalyptic. Let’s see why it happens.
Period Cramps Explained
Menstrual cycles begin every month and they can last anywhere from 25 to 35 days. For every woman it’s different, and hence the period intensity is also different. The menstrual cycle is controlled and dictated by four hormones and their abundance or lack also dictates the fluctuation in periods.
On the first day of your period, your menstrual cycle also starts and in most average situations lasts 28 days, although it can fluctuate between the values above. It’s important to note that the period begins usually when the key hormones such as progesterone and estrogen are in low amounts. However, as your menstrual cycle progresses, estrogen rises and ovulation occurs on the 14th day of the menstrual cycle.
After the ovulation phase, the female body is in the state of menstrual regulation, leading to the progesterone levels rise. After that, the hormones begin dropping, preparing the body for the beginning of a new menstrual cycle (when in most cases, your period will begin again.)
Why does Period Lead to Cramps?
Menstrual cramps describe as the continuous and dull aching inside your lower abdomen that intensifies with time. It often radiates and can be felt in your lower back and thighs. While for some women this is barely noticeable and leads to annoyance, for others this pain is so intense that their everyday activities such as school and work are disrupted. Working out is difficult, and so is keeping the focus on one particular thing.
Menstrual cramps usually begin one to two days before the period starts, and reach their peak from 24 to 48 hours following the period start. For some women, it may take up to three days for the period pains to subside and disappear. Some women may even experience intense pain even during the last hours of their period. For some women, the pain may be so hard to bear that they may faint for a short time.
The reason the beginning of the period leads to annoying and painful period cramps is that the uterus is contracting and trying to expel its lining which is generated through ovulation. However, every woman’s uterus sits at a certain angle that may lead to pressure over colon or kidneys, leading to even more intense period cramps.
The reasons behind period cramps may vary, but there are a lot of causes that may lead to a more painful period cramps.
As we said above, period cramps are caused by contracting uterus. Some women who have higher levels of prostaglandins may also be prone to more painful periods. Prostaglandins define as special chemicals that allow the uterus to contract and shake off the uterine lining. There is a study that shows links between severe menstrual cramps and dysmenorrhea (pain associated with menstrual bleeding.)
Intense period cramps can also be the reason behind other conditions, but more about that below.
It’s no secret that female hormones that lead to menstruation like estrogen and progesterone affect sleep, especially in puberty when the period starts, as per a 2019 study. Progesterone is responsible for the increase of body temperature as well as fatigue, and as we may know both may affect the study in the sense that it’s harder to fall asleep when you’re feeling hot.
More importantly, some women report that they have difficulties falling asleep a few days before the period starts when the early period cramps occur. Some studies found that sleep composition is mostly consistent regardless of whether a woman is going through a period or not. However, the oral contraceptive medicines for a period may lead to an increase of the REM sleep phase, where the brain is more active and lead to feeling more fatigued, simply because there’s a lack of deep and restorative sleep.
Conditions like PMS and PMDD can also affect sleep. Over 80% of women confirm that they will experience at least some PMS symptoms, although not all of them are responsible for the lack of restorative sleep. Between 3 and 8% of healthy women also confirmed that they experience a condition known as PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder) which is responsible for sleep disruption. Women may experience either hypersomnia (which is described as feeling more sleepy than usual) or insomnia.
Both PMS and PMDD are associated with higher body temperature during the night, as well as hot flashes that may involve either chills or sweat or both. In addition to premenstrual or period cramps, nighttime sleeping can get extremely difficult for women where the symptoms manifest more than in other women. The results of PMS and PMDD affecting sleep quality are also highlighted in a study.
How to Sleep With Cramps?
Based on the paragraphs above, it’s fairly hard for women to get restorative night sleep, especially if all PMDD and PMS symptoms are crowned with severe, often unbearable period cramps. Let’s be honest, cramps are unnerving whether they’re associated with period or anything else, but let’s get to the bottom of this and help you find the healthiest way to overcome your intense cramps through the night.
One of the ways to reduce the effects of severe menstrual cramps is to prevent your belly from getting bloated. Bloating and period cramps are usually best friends, so one always comes with the other. Bloating can be the result of fluid retention, and there’s no better way to kick the fluids out than with water.
Bloating usually makes painful cramps feel even worse. That’s why you should keep a water bottle or glass close by, drink as much water as possible, but not too much before sleep. Bloating can also be an effect of salts that bind to fluids causing retention, but the water can help break those salts down and help you expel the extra fluids. Your belly will feel more relaxed and softer, soothing your cramps further on.
Another thing that can lead to water retention in your organism is alcohol. That said, try to avoid it during your period. A study in BMJ open even found that alcohol shouldn’t be recommended during or around period as it can increase the effects of PMS. That’s why women tend to avoid it, as it can change the hormonal composition and lead to imbalance.
That said, ensure to drink a lot of water so you can avoid severe bloating in the evening. Remember, however, that drinking water before sleep is not always good so unless you want to have sleep disruption due to urination, make sure to drink water throughout the day.
Magnesium has already shown to have many benefits for sleep. Different types of magnesium are used for soothing sleep and helping get more restorative night rest. The reason magnesium is so beneficial to nighttime resting is that it promotes muscle restoration and relaxation. Additionally, it promotes the healthy functioning of the central nervous system and can help relax when you’re stressed. As such, magnesium helps relax the muscles around uterus that make it contract, reducing the prominent menstrual pain.
A study found that a combination of magnesium and vitamin B6 helped women reduce the severe symptoms of PMS. Another study published in Pub Med found that the use of magnesium can soothe period cramps and help you sleep.
Vitamin C is a great nutrient for strengthening our immune system, especially if it’s used in combination with a mineral such as Zinc. Vitamin C allows for the healthy functioning of our metabolism and hence it’s used to soothe and relax the painful cramps associated with period cramps. With that in mind, using this vitamin is extremely helpful to allow your body to rest. There is vast research on vitamin C and its benefits, which makes it a great companion for soothing the cramps.
A study has shown that vitamin C deficiency can lead to sleep deprivation and insomnia. With that in mind, consuming a lot of vitamin C, or at least enough can improve your sleep duration. Not only it’ll help soothe your period cramps, but it’ll also help you sleep more peacefully.
We also listed vitamin C-rich foods in case you don’t want to take supplements.
- Red and green peppers
- Tomato (as well as tomato juice)
- Sweet and white potatoes
- Citrus fruits
Note: Parsley is one of the healthiest herbs for dysmenorrhea. The reason for that is that it gets rid of the fluid retention just like water, pushes out the bacteria, and helps uterus expel its lining without causing severe painful contractions. A lot of women make parsley tea if they can’t get a period on time. Once they do, they drink it to be able to sleep through the period cramps. Keep in mind that parsley shouldn’t be used during pregnancy.
Could you believe that warm or hot water could help you soothe painful and aching cramps that keep you up at night? If you feel like you’re having difficulties falling asleep through the night and finding the best way to do so, the solution could be available in a soothing, hot shower.
Place the showerhead above your lower abdomen and massage it in circling direction. Your period cramps should feel reduced within the next fifteen minutes, which will allow you to sleep peacefully.
There is a great number of studies that explore the link between yoga and menstrual cramps that keep you up at night. Working out late at night before sleep is bad for your sleep cycle and hygiene, and that’s a fact. However, yoga feels relaxing and doesn’t put a strain on your muscle and metabolic rate. With that in mind, it’s safe to practice yoga regardless of the time of the day. A few simple exercises before bed should be more than enough to relax you before sleep.
One of the most beneficial exercises, however, is stretching. Stretching helps with the blood circulation and as such, it’ll make uterine contractions less painful.
Take a Walk
Warming your muscles up, increasing your blood circulation, and unwinding through moderate walking and gentle jogging may be helpful enough to reduce the effects of uterus contractions that cause unpleasant aches. You’d be surprised to discover how soothing walking works towards the pain in the lower abdomen, and you’re guaranteed to sleep more relaxed and restorative. Once you take a walk and take a shower once you return home, you’re guaranteed to sleep more relaxed.
Sleep Positions and Period Cramps
The severity and intensity of period cramps during the night can be influenced through your sleeping position. No one can sleep with ease while feeling cramps. That said, if the aching sensation in your lower abdomen wakes you up during the night, it’s hard to do any of the above-stated tips to soothe your pain.
With that in mind, it’s necessary to practice certain sleeping poses to help you reduce the night cramps.
- Fetal position – Fetal position where you’re sleeping curled up, is often used to prevent a great variety of cramps, regardless of whether they’re associated with a period or something else. Sleeping in this position, not only keeps the lower abdomen warm and snug, but it also prevents massive leakage through the night. A tracker app called Clue conducted a survey that helped it discover sleeping in a fetal position prevents leaking.
- Child position – Also known as the position where you rest head on the mattress with legs curled beneath you, child position is extremely beneficial for sleeping through intense period cramps.
- Back – Sleeping on the back is one of the most neutral sleeping position. It’s also good because it leaves you with several options that will help you treat yourself.
This practice is good if you’re laying on your back. Lavender oil as well as some other essential oils are said to be beneficial in soothing stomach cramps. All you have to do is massage your lower abdomen in a circular direction until you feel that your abdominal muscles have started to relax.
Sleep With a Water Bottle
A hot shower will help you warm up your abdominal muscles and soothe the tense contracting muscles around your uterus. However, if you’re not in a position to take a shower right after you’ve woken up in pain from the deepest dream, there is another solution. Fill up a bottle with hot water and place it on your lower abdomen. It’s a good thing to do, especially if you lay on your stomach or back. In no time, your sore muscles will be relaxed and less painful.
Another thing to do is warm up a towel with iron and wrap it around your lower belly. It’s just as helpful and efficient.
When to See a Doctor?
Menstrual cramps are a natural occurrence and can happen to any woman who’s experiencing a period. But, how much cramping is too much? Simply put, some women have naturally occurring painful periods caused by stronger ovulation cycles and nothing can be changed about that.
However, when it’s happening every day of your period, when not even strong medicines like ibuprofen help, it’s time to see a doctor, gynecologist or endocrinologist. They’ll perform ultrasounds, as well as blood and hormonal tests to see whether there’s a hormonal imbalance, a cyst, or other conditions that may be causing strong cramps that don’t let you sleep.
The periods that don’t give you peace even when it’s time to sleep can be caused by the following conditions that a doctor specialist will diagnose.
- Endometriosis – occurs when the lining tissue of the uterus gets implanted outside, falling onto the fallopian tubes.
- Uterine fibroids – small noncancerous tissues on the uterine wall that lead to pain.
- Pelvic inflammatory disease – occurs as a result of a sexually transmitted bacteria
- Cervical stenosis – A small opening in the cervix.
- Adenomyosis – small tissue on the uterine lining that grows against the muscular walls.
Period cramps can be uncomfortable and unnerving, especially if they disrupt your sleep and keep you awake at night. We hope that the list of things you can do has helped you reduce the pain and sleep easier. Keep in mind that maintaining healthy sleep hygiene, sleeping at reasonable times, keeping the room dark, quiet, and cool and avoiding heavy meals and alcohol in the night counts too towards maintaining a healthy sleep cycle.
With the use of proper medication or therapy prescribed by your doctor, as well as these natural tips and tricks, you’ll restore your regular sleep cycle.