This is one of the long-awaited articles I wanted to write. This is also one of the most important articles you will read here. Sleep is inadvertently required for normal functioning but when you are dealing with PCOS you should put in extra effort towards maintaining the quality of your sleep. It’s one of those things you take for granted until you actually start having trouble sleeping so before you reach that phase, I want to warn you ahead for getting your sleep cycle right!
It’s no secret that the most effective way to get your hormones under control is to have a well-functioning circadian rhythm or in other words, make some effective lifestyle changes to get your PCOS health on track – it has been talked about a 100 times, you have read it everywhere, your doctor have told you and I have told you. It is what you know. What you don’t know is that ‘a quality sleep’ is equally essential in making that lifestyle change! Yes, it’s one of the most untouched topics and I realised it myself while I was under couple of very stressful months, I wasn’t able to sleep well and no matter what I ate or did, my PCOS symptoms were still flaring up so I did my research and this article is all about that.
How a disturbed sleep cycle affects the course of PCOS?
The answer to this question lies in the core cause of PCOS i.e hormonal imbalance. Do you know what hormones play a role in this? No, I am not going to talk about much famous melatonin theory here, which is true to a certain extent but in relation to PCOS, the hormone that flares up your symptoms in PCOS is CORTISOL. Yes, when you don’t sleep well and are under too much stress, cortisol production shoots up and that messes with your PCOS more than you realise. There is much ongoing research on how PCOS and adrenal functioning is related but that’s too technical so without going into the details of that, the only takeaway message for you is – Consistently elevated cortisol level is not good for you because it can disrupt your sleep cycle and in turn your PCOS symptoms. Period.
Why cortisol leads to the flaring of PCOS symptoms?
Disturbed sleep ⇔ stress ⇔ increased cortisol production ⇒ excess androgen production! You see sleep, stress and cortisol production are all interrelated so disturbance in any one of them can lead to increase in other things and all of them together gives rise to excess androgen which is the main reason behind some of the most common symptoms of PCOS – Acne, hirsutism (facial hair), weight gain etc.
What can you do about it?
These are some of the things we all know but either ignore or when we don’t, they are too difficult to follow even though looks simple from outside.
- Go to bed at the same time daily – This is the easiest thing to say but when it comes to practising, oh boy! I had some serious trouble following this and neither did I fall asleep at the same time first few days but if you keep at it, it becomes very natural to fall asleep the same time every single day. That’s the beauty of ‘biological clock’, it does what you train it to do. Put an alarm, remind yourself, write it down, do whatever it takes but get to bed at the same time every day. You will feel the difference within a week.
- Maintain sleep hygiene – You would have probably read about it many times or watched some really cool videos if you are like me. I am not saying you to follow it start to end, not all of it but pick up things you can actually do. A comfortable bed, a cozy quilt, dark room, your comfiest PJs, maybe a pillow spray and you are good to go! I am attaching an awesome video here, please go and watch this. This is about some healthy bedtime habits by Rachel Talbott, she is one of my favourite YouTuber!
- Create some bedtime rituals – This may sound like a cliche but it works. No gadgets/cell phone/laptop in the bedroom and switching all of them off and aside at least half an hour before you go to bed. What we all do is the exact opposite, we watch on to our phone screen until we fall asleep and this may not be such a problem for you now but in a long term, it will only bring the poor quality of sleep and migraine. Creating bedtime ritual is a big favour you could do to yourself. It’s a lot of struggle but also a most effective way to get some quality sleep. Try to relax before going to bed, do not expose yourself to disturbing news or articles, reduce blue light exposure right from early evening, keep yourself hydrated. I use an app called as Twilight. It changes the blue light exposure from your phone as soon as it’s evening so your melatonin doesn’t go haywire and is stimulated by the time you go to bed. For those of you unaware, melatonin is secreted by a small gland under your brain called as pineal gland and helps in maintaining your sleep cycle.
- A light and early dinner – This is in general a very effective tip to sleep better.
- Supplements – Many people prefer melatonin spray or capsules however with regard to PCOS, it’s better if you rely on supplements useful in PCOS, here’s an article I wrote about that.
So now you know why the quality of your sleep and the whole of sleep functioning well is important to maintain your PCOS health. Do not ignore a good quality sleep, not today, not ever, with or without PCOS if you want a good, healthy and functioning life.
If you have any doubts related to this article or related to PCOS, you can always reach out to me!
Sleep well Cysters 🙂