Research published in the Journal of Sleep Research found that women who were on hormonal contraception were more likely to suffer from both insomnia and daytime sleepiness.
Dr Kat Lederle, sleep scientist and author of Sleep Sense: Improve Your Sleep, Improve Your Health, has done extensive research into how our emotions and hormones affect our sleep, identifying ways to sleep better when both factors get in the way.
She’s given GLAMOUR the lowdown on how our sleep and contraceptive choices are connected.
What is the connection between contraception and our sleep patterns?
This is a really difficult question to answer, Dr Lederle says, due to the fact that this area of women’s health, like many, is “understudied”.
So experts have found it difficult to draw concrete conclusions about the effects of both non-hormonal and hormonal methods of contraception on our sleep, as well as how age and the specific type of pill you take might also affect things.
But certain research has found that both hormonal and non-hormonal versions of contraception can impact your sleep due to the fact they contain synthetic version of progesterone, or progesterone itself, which is a hormone released in the ovaries.
These hormones can increase your body temperature – which can mess with your sleep.
“Your body temperature also remains elevated for some days during the seven-day placebo period,” Dr Lederle adds. “This rise in body temperature is small, but for some women it might be very noticeable. This is because the nightly drop in body temperature helps us to fall asleep.”
She likens this discomfort to the struggle to sleep when it’s hot in the summer.
Dr Lederle also suggests that the hit of hormones that comes with taking certain pills could mess with your brain’s messaging to your body when it comes to sleep. Instead of the natural constant production of hormones that our body does itself, this “hit” could interrupt your circadian rhythm, which regulates our sleep-wake cycle.
She also suggests that a pill could affect any one person differently, depending on their metabolism, so one person may feel drowsy throughout the day if they take it too early, and then miss out on sleep at night, while another person may feel no difference. Each brain is unique.
What can you do if you think your contraception method is affecting your sleep?
It also may matter what time of day you take your pill. “Pay attention to when you take the pill –morning, lunch, or evening,” she adds. “If you find oral contraception is negatively affecting your sleep, make sure you take your pill in the evening.”
If that doesn’t work, consider changing to a different pill or method of contraception: “We all have our own unique biology and react differently to different types of the pill.”
If this doesn’t work, Dr Lederle suggests reflecting on why you’re using this contraception in the first place. “Consider why you are using the pill – for contraception or for something else?” she says. “If something else, how else could that be treated? If you find your lifestyle is impacting your sleep, see if you can make changes.”
This involves looking at different parts of your everyday life – including your caffeine intake and your diet, as well as your sleep environment and stress levels.
So your method of contraception may be factor in whether you have a good night’s sleep, but it’s by no means the only one.