I’ve always been someone who loves my sleep, but lately I realized that I had trouble falling asleep at night. I have to be up by 5.30 am on most days to send my sons to school, but there are days when I cannot fall asleep till 1.30am! I do not take an afternoon nap on most days (thanks to my boys, but trust me, sleep is the only thing on my mind between 3-4pm) and I do not exceed 2 cups of coffee on any given day. As a result of sleeping late, I find it really tough to be able to get up and stay awake in the morning and it has started affecting my immunity and mental health.
Recently, I attended a PCOS Support group and while discussing some common PCOS symptoms I realized that Insomnia, or not being able to fall asleep easily, is actually very common in a lot of women with PCOS!
Common PCOS symptoms
I had to get to the bottom of this sleep issue! A simple Google Search suggested that PCOS leads to problems like:
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Skin & Hair Problems like acne, hair loss, etc.
- Hirsutism (excessive male-pattern hair growth)
- Weight Gain/loss
These symptoms are mostly related to negative body image, which would generally cause a lot of anxiety and even depression in sufferers, which in turn would lead to sleepless nights. But medically, there is a reason for insomnia in PCOS patients. Insulin Resistance. Since most women with PCOS also suffer from Insulin resistance, which is when your body cells do not absorb the Insulin released by the Pancreas and it is then stored in the body as fat.
Insulin Resistance, PCOS & Insomnia
“In PCOS women, the pancreas works doubly hard to keep blood glucose levels within normal limits because of Insulin Resistance. These glucose fluctuations can trigger your body to pump out epinephrine or norepinephrine, which prompts your body’s fight-or-flight response that we get during emergencies or instances when we feel threatened. This is why falling asleep could be difficult – your confused body is physiologically preparing you for some kind of battle that doesn’t exist.” (www.pcos.com)
Dr Keya Rahul, Specialist Gynaecologist and Obstetrician at Aster DM Healthcare, Business Bay, says that lack of sleep and hormonal imbalance is like a vicious cycle. PCOS patients suffer from EDS, Excessive Daytime Sleepiness, which leads to Obesity and high testesterone levels, thus increasing insulin resistance in our bodies and obstructing regular sleep patterns. She also mentions that Insulin resistance changes the Cortisol and Melatonin levels in our bodies, which are hormones required for a normal sleep cycle.
Taking control of the situation
But we cannot let PCOS affect our lives to this extent and have to take control. You can have a look at my previous blog post KITCHEN HEALING – PCOS (POLYCYSTIC OVARY SYNDROME) to see how natural remedies like Cinnamon, Liquorice roots, flax seeds, etc can help cure your Insulin resistance and PCOS.
As per Dr. Keya Rahul, a few points can help improve sleep patterns in PCOS patients:
- Diet & Lifestyle change
- Lose weight
- Fixed time of sleeping every night
- Avoid any kind of bright light at least one hour before sleeping
- Avoid caffeine, tobacco / nicotine, alcohol, etc. at least 8 hours before bedtime
- Physical exercise should be done in morning only
- Ensure to maintain Vitamin D levels, and get at least 15 minutes of sunlight daily
- In worst cases of sleep disorders, visit a sleep therapist and undergo CPAP treatment for Sleep Apnea.
Other solutions to help induce sleep include:
- Chamomile Tea
- Aromatherapy (using essential oils like Lavender, Chamomile, Jasmine, etc in a diffuser help induce sleep)
- Dimming lights and using scented candles
- Listening to calming music or white noise
Hope the above helps you understand and tackle your insomnia as one of the symptoms of PCOS. Please do leave a comment below if you have anything else to share with me on the topic.
Please note: This post has been written in collaboration with Sleep Expo ME. For the first time in the region, Sleep Expo Middle East is poised to bring together all stakeholders of the Sleeping Technology industry in the GCC region under one roof to provide an insight into the latest technologies, proven products, and to present their latest collections to B2B and B2C visitors. Dr. Keya Rahul, from Aster DM Healthcare, is one of the panel discussion speakers at the conference.