If you have trouble sleeping, while suffering from PMS, irregular periods, anxiety, depression or mood swings, low progesterone could be the reason behind your insomnia.
If so, progesterone deficiency may be the reason behind these troublesome symptoms.
In my post, Hormone Imbalance and Sleep Disturbances, I talked about the three primary causes of hormonal insomnia:
- High estrogen insomnia
- Low estrogen insomnia
- Low progesterone insomnia
Because the causes of insomnia are different, each requires its specific remedies. Here I’ll explain why low progesterone may lead to insomnia, and what you can do about it.
How Progesterone Affects Sleep
Progesterone affects sleep through its positive effect on a neurotransmitter called GABA.
GABA has an important job. It helps reduce the activity of neurons in the brain and central nervous system, which has a calming effect on the mind and body.
In other words, GABA helps reduce stress, increase relaxation, balance moods, alleviate pain, and promote sleep – all good stuff to help us counter the daily stressors of life.
Progesterone stimulates GABA receptors. This connection may help explain why progesterone is considered a soothing hormone.
When our body produces the right amount of progesterone, we feel relaxed and levelheaded – and we sleep better. But when progesterone levels take a dive during perimenopause or in the week leading up to menstruation, we may get a bit more easily agitated or anxious, or have trouble sleeping at night.
Timing and Symptoms of Low Progesterone Insomnia
There are two clues that can help you identify if low progesterone may be the reason behind your restless sleep. One is the timing of your insomnia, another is the presence of certain symptoms during your menstrual cycles.
Timing of Low Progesterone Insomnia
Progesterone levels drop off about a week before menstruation. This is a window when women tend to get thrown off balance by emotional instability, headaches, insomnia, and a whole slew of PMS symptoms.
If you tend to have trouble sleeping around this time, your insomnia may be caused by high estrogen and low progesterone.
Starting in our mid-to-late 30s, progesterone begins a journey of gradual decline – a phase called perimenopause. It’ll drop to a minimal level (along with estrogen) when we reach menopause and begin a new chapter in our life.
If you used to sleep well but begin to experience sleep disturbances as you get older (for example, you’re in your late 30s, 40s or 50s), low progesterone could be a cause of your insomnia.
Other Symptoms of Low Progesterone Insomnia During the Menstrual Cycle
There are four primary signs of low progesterone:
If your insomnia is accompanied by one or more of these symptoms, it may be related to a low progesterone level.
Low progesterone insomnia is common. It affects up to 42% of premenopausal women, 47% of perimenopausal women, and 60% of postmenopausal women, per the Study of Women’s Health across the Nation (SWAN).
Natural Remedies for Low Progesterone Insomnia
If you suspect low progesterone may be the reason behind your insomnia, here are some steps you can take to improve your sleep quality:
1. Create a Sleep-friendly Environment
When it comes to finding solutions to a problem, I always go for the lower-hanging fruits first. They are the simple things you can do to make an improvement.
For example, you can create a relaxing bedtime ritual to help reset your body’s circadian rhythm. This is commonly used in sleep training for babies (I learned firsthand its usefulness and effectiveness in getting my daughter to go to sleep every night in the first few years of her life). It helps us adults, too!
You can make your bedroom more inducive to a good night’s sleep by maintaining the right temperature, turning off lights, noise and electronic distractions. Read these specific tips on how to improve your sleep quality.
You can also check to see if your bed is comfortable for you. Is your pillow the right height? Does your mattress contain toxic materials that may interrupt your hormone balance? When looking for the best non toxic mattress, ensure it is also the right firmness for your sleeping position to enhance quality sleep.
Since we spend so much time in bed (about one third of our lives), it’s important to make sure that our sleep environment is as safe, calm and relaxing as possible.
2. Look into GABA Supplement
As mentioned earlier, GABA is a calming neurotransmitter that can help us relax and sleep. Dr. Mao, the author of Second Spring, recommends taking 250 to 500 mg of GABA supplement a day, along with vitamin B6, to help the body use GABA.
3. Try 5HTP
In my post, Hormone Imbalance and Sleep Disturbances, I mention that serotonin is another important neurotransmitter that helps us sleep. When estrogen (and progesterone) level off around menstruation and perimenopause, our body could benefit from a little boost in the serotonin level – for better mood and better sleep.
5HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) is an extract of the seeds of an African shrub called griffonia. It’s a precursor to serotonin, which can be used by the body to produce more serotonin. Learn how 5HTP can help improve mood, insomnia, sugar craving and PMS.
4. Drink Passionflower or Chamomile Tea
Passionflower is a popular sedative. It contains harmala alkaloid that helps prevent the breakdown of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine, thus improving mood and promoting a restful sleep.
You can make yourself a cup of passionflower tea right before bedtime. If you prefer to take a passionflower supplement, the typical dosage is 200 mg at night, per Dr. Mao, the author of Second Spring.
Chamomile is another great herb that helps calm nerves and promote relaxation and better sleep. Personally, I drink a cup of chamomile tea every night to wind down – and as a substitute for snacks, chocolate and wine (my other soft spots when chilling out).
5. Use Valerian
Valerian is perhaps the best-studied herbal sleep aid. Research shows that extracts of the root not only help you fall asleep faster, but also improve sleep quality.
6. Add B6 and Magnesium
It’s considered one of the best vitamins to boost progesterone. For this reason, it may help with insomnia related to progesterone deficiency.
Magnesium is one of those most versatile minerals. It helps relieve period pain, increase progesterone, as well as reduce hormonal headaches and insomnia. Make sure you get enough magnesium in your diet or take a magnesium supplement.
6. Try Chaste Berry
Chasteberry (vitex) has been proven to help treat low progesterone in more than 60 years of clinical research, including 5 randomized trials. And in Germany it’s an approved remedy for menstrual irregularity, PMS, and breast pain.
Because of its positive effect on progesterone, it may help with sleep disturbances caused by progesterone deficiency.
7. Check Out Melatonin
Melatonin is a hormone that plays a direct role in sleep. Its production increases when it’s dark and decreases when it’s light. In other words, it helps establish our circadian rhythms – and our sleep cycle.
Research suggests that melatonin might provide relief from the inability to fall asleep and stay asleep (insomnia) by slightly improving your total sleep time, sleep quality, and how long it takes you to fall asleep.
Melatonin is also less addictive than many other sleep medications. In other words, you are unlikely to become dependent on melatonin, have a diminished response after repeated use, or experience a hangover effect.
For more information (safety, side effects, and drug interactions), please review this article by Mayo Clinic.
8. Boost Your Progesterone Naturally
If your insomnia is primarily caused by low progesterone, you want to address the root cause. This will not only help you sleep better, but also make you feel better – reducing PMS, mood swings, and menstrual irregularities.
I hope you found this post helpful. Experiment and see what work for you. Consider keeping a sleep diary to help you discover the specific factors that affect your sleep, and the remedies that help improve it.
As usual, please leave a comment below to share your questions, thoughts and experiences.