How do you know if your room is dark enough at night? There one easy test:
Can you see your hand when you hold it up in front of your face after turning the lights off at night?
If yes, then this could be having widespread negative effects on your health.
Everyone has a circadian rhythm. You can think of it as a constantly running 24h clock that influences when you feel sleepy, and when you feel awake. Your circadian rhythm makes you feel sleepy and awake by affecting how and when different hormones are released.
Females have another cycle that is constantly ongoing which is SO powerful that it influences their circadian rhythm. This cycle is your menstrual cycle.
Your menstrual cycle influences your circadian rhythm through the interaction between melatonin and sex hormones. Melatonin is a hormone that is released from the pineal gland in your brain. In simple terms, melatonin helps you to feel sleepy and gets you physically ready for bed. The system works both ways: affecting your melatonin levels can affect your sex hormones, and vice-versa. One way that you can bring stability to your hormonal profile is by influencing melatonin levels through what is called a “chronotherapeutic” intervention.
This is just a fancy term for:
a) keeping regular sleeping hours (even on weekends!)
b) making your sleeping environment as dark as possible (ideally pitch-black).
Retinal light exposure (light coming in-contact with your eyes) suppresses melatonin levels. Melatonin levels affect your sex hormone levels, which affects your menstrual cycle. Stabilising melatonin levels is one easy way to get a more regular, healthier menstrual cycle.
Here are a few ways to improve your sleep quality:
1) If you can, get blackout blinds AND curtains!
2) If you can’t make your room dark, get a mask
3) Wake up at the same time every day
4) Set a bed-time that is (actually) achievable. Remember, being consistent is more important than getting to sleep really early
As an Osteopath, Alex routinely works with patients to help them achieve their optimum health. For female patients, this requires having an in-depth knowledge of female-specific health, and how hormonal dysregulation can have a widespread negative impact on wellbeing.
Her keen interest in female-specific health began during her time as a competitive swimmer, when Alex was committing wholeheartedly to her training but not seeing the results. As Alex developed as a clinician, she learned about the critical role that the menstrual cycle plays in female health, and how instead of working with her body she had unknowingly spent years working against it.
Alex now routinely works with female patients to address their health concerns and develop individualised treatment plans. She empowers them by teaching them how to read their fertility biomarkers, and how to use their unique cycle to inform their training and lifestyle.
Armitage R, Baker FC, Parry BL. The menstrual cycle and circadian rhythms. In: Kryger MH, Roth T, Dement WC, editors. Principles and Practice of Sleep Medicine. Philadelphia, Pa, USA: Elsevier; 2005. pp. 1266–1277.
Shechter, A., & Boivin, D. B. (2010). Sleep, Hormones, and Circadian Rhythms throughout the Menstrual Cycle in Healthy Women and Women with Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder. International journal of endocrinology, 2010, 259345.
Cagnacci, A., Soldani, R., Laughlin, G. A., & Yen, S. S. (1996). Modification of circadian body temperature rhythm during the luteal menstrual phase: role of melatonin. Journal of applied physiology (Bethesda, Md. : 1985), 80(1), 25–29.