Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal disorder that occurs in women, could affect sleep patterns. It can lead to acne, irregular periods, fertility issues and excessive hair growth. It also causes sleep disturbances in women.
An article in Hormones Australia, an initiative of the Endocrine Society of Australia (ESA) says that compared to women without PCOS, those with PCOS were around 1.5 times more likely to have sleep problems. Furthermore, women with PCOS are prone to be overweight and eventually develop obesity, which in turn is one of the symptoms and a leading cause of OSA (obstructive sleep apnea). The study that the authors conducted is published in the journal Clinical Endocrinology.
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Dr Mukta Kapila, director and HOD, obstetrics and minimal invasive gynae, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram, says, “PCOS is a hormonal problem of reproductive years.”
She says that it can happen in both obese and lean people. “In both types of people, sleep disturbances can occur. In overweight patients, fat deposition occurs in the respiratory airway, which causes the airways to narrow. It can obstruct the airway, disrupting sleep because one doesn’t breathe for a few seconds. In both types, melatonin, the hormone that helps in falling asleep, can decrease in the body.” She also says that acne and facial hair could affect one’s frame of mind and this could deprive the person of good sleep.
Progesterone, or rather the lack of it, can also affect sleep. Studies show the occurrence of low levels of progesterone in the early luteal phase (after ovulation and before the period) in people with PCOS.
“Progesterone is an important hormone that has a sleep stabilising effect; the lack of production of this hormone can also affect sleep patterns,” says Dr N Sapna Lulla, lead consultant, obstetrics and gynecology, Aster CMI Hospital, Bengaluru.
PCOS and sleep problems
“It’s unfortunate that women with PCOS face problems in having a consistent and healthy sleep cycle. The lack of progesterone, risk of obesity, deficiencies of vitamins and hormonal imbalance restrict them from having a good night’s sleep. Over time, inadequate sleep will have a long-term impact on their health, which can be alarming for the body,” she adds.
Other than obstructive sleep apnea, insomnia is another sleep disorder that women with PCOS can develop. 12.6 per cent of women with PCOS had clinically severe insomnia, according to the Athens Insomnia Scale (AIS) evaluation, whereas 10.5 per cent did so according to the Insomnia Severity Index (ISI).
Dr Kapila says, “A few diets and a few days of aggressive exercise in the gym are not going to help. It will just be a temporary measure. It requires a lifestyle and attitude change.”
Good diet and exercise can not only help reduce the symptoms of PCOS but also promote good sleep. Experts suggest the following:
- Start going to the gym and do sustainable exercises
- Be active and start small — take the stairs instead of the elevators, walk while on the phone
- Choose food rich in fibre and healthy fats. Fibre keeps the stomach full for long and healthy fats regulate hormones and provide adequate blood flow to the uterus
- Sleep on time and wake up early. Try to get eight to nine hours of sleep.
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal problem that occurs during reproductive years
- Progesterone is a hormone that has a sleep-stabilising effect; the lack of production of this hormone can also affect sleep patterns
- Reduced melatonin can also affect sleep
- Good food and exercise can help reduce the symptoms of PCOS and promote sleep.