PCOS is a hormonal condition that affects one in five women worldwide, and while some symptoms such as cysts, weight gain, hormone imbalances and fertility concerns can be drastic and obvious, some women are unaware they have the disorder. PCOS invokes symptoms both physically and psychologically.
In addition to the number of physical side effects that polycystic ovary syndrome can bring, most women with PCOS are disturbed by an additional side effect and suffer from problems with falling or staying asleep.
The jury is still unsure whether women with PCOS are more likely to have sleep disturbances, as psychological issues related to PCOS may be a driving factor behind these sleep disturbances. On the other hand, there could be an underlying physiological cause of these disturbances.
How PCOS and Sleep Disturbances Relate
While diagnosing PCOS can be a complex process, a very defining characteristic of PCOS is a lack of ovulation, leading to a lack of menstruation and the formation of small fluid-filled cysts on the ovaries. Because PCOS affects the hormones the brain uses to regulate sleep, approximately half of women with PCOS also suffer from sleep disturbances.
Insomnia, a condition where you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep for long enough, is the most common sleep disturbance problem in women with PCOS. In fact, it is estimated that up to 70 percent of women with PCOS experience insomnia symptoms.
Insomnia can make you feel tired during the day, which can affect mood, concentration, and productivity at work or school. In addition, for those who don’t get enough sleep at night, it’s more likely to indulge on eating sugary foods or drink caffeinated beverages during the day, which can lead to weight gain and other health problems, or even intensify already present PCOS symptoms such as bloating, irregular periods, and acne because poor sleep quality adds additional stress to the body and disrupts hormone levels.
The exact cause of why some women develop insomnia while others don’t isn’t understood yet, but it’s thought that stress levels play a role in causing insomnia symptoms.
In addition to insomnia, women with PCOS are also more likely to experience sleep apnea than women who do not have this condition. Sleep apnea, a condition in which breathing stops for short periods during sleep, can be caused by obesity and may contribute to high blood pressure and heart disease in people with it.
This condition leads to gasping for air and awakening from sleep as the body tries to compensate for the lack of oxygen supply. In severe cases, it can result in a heart attack or stroke due to low blood pressure and oxygen deprivation.
Is Whole Food a Remedy for Sleep Disturbance Associated With PCOS?
When you think of sleeping tips, diet may not be the first thing that comes to mind, however whole foods have been minimally processed and retain most of their nutrients and fiber content. Whole grains, legumes (such as beans), fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, herbs, and spices are all good examples of whole foods, thus, eating these types of foods should be an essential part of any PCOS diet plan.
The reason why whole foods can help treat these types of sleep disturbance symptoms is that:
This is a hormone that helps regulate sleep cycles. Melatonin also helps regulate other hormones in the body, including estrogen and progesterone, which are often out of balance in women with PCOS, thus directly impacting fertility health.
Women with PCOS may have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep at night due to irregular periods and insulin resistance. The adrenal glands become overworked due to high levels of insulin in the body, which can lead to fatigue and insomnia.
In order to reduce your risk for sleep disturbances associated with PCOS, you should eat foods that are rich in magnesium and tryptophan. Whole foods have these essential nutrients needed by the body to function properly without causing any adverse side effects or health risks associated with prescription medications.
High blood sugar levels are a hallmark of PCOS and can cause poor sleep quality. This has been confirmed through research, as well as anecdotal evidence from women with PCOS. The symptoms of sleep apnea include snoring, interrupted breathing, and a feeling of being tired in the morning despite having slept well.
The reason why whole foods help treat sleep apnea is that they contain substances that can lower blood sugar levels. Whole foods are also great sources of magnesium which is known to help relax muscles and prevent muscle twitches, which may be associated with sleep apnea. Magnesium also helps regulate blood pressure, which is another cause of sleep apnea.
While researchers are still exploring the connection between PCOS and sleep disturbance, the evidence around it is beginning to mount. Women who suffer from PCOS are more likely to report sleep problems than their peers, which can negatively impact the management of their bodies’ hormone profiles. A basic understanding of hormonal changes during sleep can be useful in preventing or treating these sleep disturbances. Understanding what’s happening in your body before you go to bed and while trying to fall asleep can also be invaluable in achieving an equitable balance between hormones and lifestyle.
For additional Tips for Improving Sleep When TTC, click here.