Did you know PCOS leaves you at a greater risk of sleep disturbances? Learn more about this as well as sleep health tips.
It may not seem like it, but your body is hard at work while you sleep to prepare you for the following day. Sleep is critical for helping your mind and body recover and recharge and has been linked to memory consolidation (1). Without quality rest you may experience brain fog and an inability to focus, but lack of sleep goes even deeper than that - especially if you have PCOS.
Sleep is significant for managing stress levels and vice versa. And, keeping your stress under control is a key part of keeping PCOS symptoms and inflammation at bay. However, people with PCOS often experience hormone imbalances relating to cortisol and melatonin.
Since both of these hormones are responsible for the sleep-wake cycle, these imbalances can cause sleep disorders such as insomnia and sleep apnea and subsequently contribute to additional stress, thus catalyzing a viscous cycle (2).In this article, we will provide an overview of the relationship between PCOS and sleep. Keep reading to understand:
Without sufficient sleep, you may find that you are more likely to feel tired, irritable, and slow. You probably experience a general feeling of grogginess and all you can think about is going back to sleep.
These feelings all typically go away once you obtain some quality rest, but what happens when you have long-term sleep disturbances? Not only will your day-to-day energy levels be affected, but also your overall health.
While you sleep, several vital biological processes happen in your body. Below are a few areas that have been linked to sleep (1).
Chronic sleep disruptions can impact several different areas of your health, so be sure to discuss any concerns you may have if you are experiencing abnormal sleep disturbances.
Sleep can help the body to return to baseline, especially after exercise. Movement is helpful for people with PCOS in particular because it has been shown to improve insulin resistance and overall symptoms (3). If you are into endurance training, weightlifting, or other high intensity exercise, sleep is crucial for recovery because aerobic fitness can put too much stress on your body and worsen symptoms if you overdo it.
Allowing your body to recover by taking rest days and getting proper sleep can improve both your performance and symptoms, so be sure you are optimizing your rest days just as much as your training.
Read more about PCOS and cardio here.
As mentioned earlier, people with PCOS may be more prone to develop a sleep disorder. Sleep disorders can persist over a long period and this can drastically worsen symptoms. Let’s go over the most common sleep disorders associated with PCOS.
Insomnia is defined as the inability to get enough sleep. People with insomnia may find it challenging to fall asleep or stay asleep. Insomnia can cause irritation, low energy levels, and mood changes.
In a study published in the Diabetes Journal, insulin resistance was common among people with sleep problems (4). And at least 70% of people with PCOS are insulin resistant!
As a result of insulin resistance, the body constantly attempts to regulate blood glucose levels, which affects the body's fight or flight response. Problems with glucose synthesis can cause you to feel tired yet lead to difficulty falling asleep, complicating PCOS and sleep concerns (5).
While insulin resistance could be the root cause of your insomnia, the lack of sleep it causes for people can lead to further hormone disruption. For example, chronic sleep deprivation can lead to high levels of cortisol, which over time has been linked to increased inflammation and more severe PCOS symptoms.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is defined as the stopping of breathing once or numerous times during sleep. Symptoms of sleep apnea include snoring, excessive daytime sleepiness, headaches, and irritability (6).
People with PCOS are 30 times more likely than those without the condition to suffer from OSA (7). Additionally, sleep apnea may increase symptoms associated with PCOS such as fatigue, difficulty losing weight, hypertension, and insulin resistance (8).
Sleeping with a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine can help regulate your breathing. A CPAP machine may also help with metabolic functions associated with PCOS such as insulin resistance, hypertension, and high cholesterol. In addition to a CPAP machine, an oral device that pulls the jaw forward is also a possible treatment (8).
There is no one-size-fits-all approach for improving your sleep quality and quantity, but there are several items to consider that many people find to be helpful.
In addition to increasing the amount of sleep you get at night, establishing a sleep routine can also improve its quality. Perhaps the most important thing to maximize the quality of your shut-eye is your sleep routine.
Some general tips that you can talk about with your coach include:
With sleep disturbances, you may benefit from herbal chamomile tea. Chamomile tea is often suggested for those experiencing stress, anxiety, and difficulty sleeping. Chamomile contains apigenin, an antioxidant that promotes relaxation and sleep (9).
In addition to chamomile tea, other herbal options such as lavender tea have also shown positive outcomes in people experiencing sleep disturbances such as insomnia. Just make sure to stay away from caffeine!
Essential oils are naturally found in plants. Their calming and healing properties make them popular. Consider adding essential oils to your nighttime routine if you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.
Lavender, chamomile, eucalyptus, and jasmine are some essential oils that may aid sleep. You can apply them directly to the skin or inhale them through a diffuser.
Note: While we are excited to help you improve your PCOS symptoms at Pollie and find sleep strategies that work for you, we do not specialize in sleep health. Discuss your concerns with your doctor if you have problems with your sleep or feel tired during the day.
What is primary ovarian insufficiency (POI) and what does it mean for your future health?