More Than Mood Swings: Study Reveals Link Between Menstrual Cycles, Emotions, & Sleep

NORWICH, United Kingdom — A woman’s menstrual cycle has been stereotypically linked to mood swings for ages. However, a new study finds an even deeper and more nuanced connection, with periods affecting a woman’s emotions and sleep patterns. Researchers from the University of East Anglia report that women tend to experience disruptions in their sleep, as well as heightened feelings of anger, in the days preceding their next period.

“Our research provides valuable insights into the complex interplay between menstrual cycles, emotions, and sleep and the impact of hormonal fluctuations on women’s well-being,” says study co-author Dr. Jo Bower, of the University of East Anglia’s School of Psychology, in a media release. “By understanding how these factors interact, we can better address the unique needs of women in terms of sleep health and emotional well-being.”

Researchers analyzed data pertaining to 51 healthy women between the ages of 18 and 35. All of the women reported having regular periods and were not taking any hormonal contraception. Then, through the use of ecological momentary assessment (EMA) methodology, study authors had reproductive-aged women complete a series of daily self-reports on their sleep and emotions. Those same women were also asked to wear actiwatches (a sleep/wake tracking watch) in order to track their sleep patterns across two menstrual months.

This led to the discovery of compelling associations between menstrual phases, emotional states, and sleep quality.

🔑 3 More Key Findings:

  • Women experience disruptions in their sleep patterns in the days leading up to and during their period (peri-menstrual phase). More specifically, spending more time awake at night, with a lower proportion of time spent in bed actually asleep (lower sleep efficiency).
  • During the peri-menstrual phase, women report heightened feelings of anger in comparison to other phases of their menstrual cycle.
  • Sleep disturbances during the peri-menstrual phase correlate with reduced positive emotions (calmness, happiness, and enthusiasm).

These findings contribute to a growing body of evidence indicating menstrual cycles may play a significant role in women’s vulnerability to insomnia and mental health issues.

“The findings underscore the importance of considering hormonal fluctuations when addressing sleep disorders and emotional distress in women,” Dr. Bower adds. “The implications of this research reach further than just the controlled setting, providing potential pathways for interventions and treatments aimed at enhancing sleep quality and emotional resilience in women.”

This project featured a number of unique strengths. For example, the use of both objective and subjective perspective data across two menstrual cycles. Still, researchers caution their conclusions must undergo interpretation within the context of several limitations; data collection occurred between May 2020 and January 2021, and precisely how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted outcomes is unknown.

While the study authors did not find strong effects of pandemic stress on outcome variables, they cannot discount the chance that the pandemic likely impacted participants’ emotional experiences and sleep-wake behaviors.

The study is published in the Journal of Sleep Research.

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About the Author

John Anderer

Born blue in the face, John has been writing professionally for over a decade and covering the latest scientific research for StudyFinds since 2019. His work has been featured by Business Insider, Eat This Not That!, MSN, Ladders, and Yahoo!

Studies and abstracts can be confusing and awkwardly worded. He prides himself on making such content easy to read, understand, and apply to one’s everyday life.

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  1. As Joan Rivers quipped on Johnny Carson:
    A woman should never be elected president.
    She would declare war every 28 days.

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