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PCOS & Sleep Disturbances Part II: Tips to Manage

Posted by Allie on 18th March 2016

A range of helpful tips and ways to manage sleep disturbances in PCOS
Photo: Unsplash.com

In part I of this blog post we looked at the different types of sleep disturbances that women with PCOS can experience, the potential causes and long term health implications. As sleep is so vital for our health and wellbeing, managing any disturbances or issues is crucial. However, sleep issues in women with PCOS appear to be going largely undetected and the European Society of Endocrinology has recommended that all obese women diagnosed with PCOS are screened for sleep disorders (1).

How can sleep disturbances in PCOS be managed?

It is recommended that all treatments options are discussed with your doctor before undertaking.

Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA): If you think you have OSA, which is linked to PCOS, it is important that you speak with your doctor. You can find out more about how OSA is diagnosed on the NHS Choices website.

Common treatments for OSA include the following (2):

Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP): Individuals with moderate to severe OSA will usually need to use a CPAP. Consisting of a small pump and mask that covers your nose or nose and mouth, CPAP is a device which delivers a continuous supply of compressed air and prevents your throat from closing.

A mandibular advancement device (MAD): If there are issues with using or tolerating a CPAP, an MAD may be recommended as an alternative. An MAD holds the lower jaw and tongue forward to make more space to breathe and reduce snoring.

Make healthy lifestyle changes to lose weight if you are overweight or obese. Read more about PCOS & Nutrition and PCOS & Exercise. Other lifestyle modifications include stopping smoking and limiting your alcohol intake.

Natural sleep aids: Valerian, a sedative herb, has been used for centuries to help with insomnia. Melatonin is a hormone that helps to control your sleep and wake cycles, and is also used to aid sleep. It is recommended that you discuss taking any supplements with your doctor, registered medical herbalist or relevant health professional.

Sleep hygiene tips: This involves creating habits to improve your quality of sleep and alertness during the day.

Establish a regular sleeping pattern and bedtime ritual: Are you going to bed and/or waking up at different times every day? A regular sleeping pattern can help your body clock get into a natural rhythm. Try to go to bed and wake up at similar times, even on weekends, and establish a calm wind down routine an hour or so before bed i.e. not using electronic devices and doing something relaxing such as reading.

A regular sleeping pattern can help your body clock get into a natural rhythm

Sleep environment: Make sure the room you sleep in is quiet, a cool temperature and dark,including avoiding lights from mobile phones or other devices.

Have a bath or shower before going to bed: Your body cools down after a warm bath or shower which can help prepare you to sleep.

Be mindful of consuming stimulants or food before going to bed: Stimulants, such as caffeine and nicotine, interfere with your body’s ability to fall asleep. Eating a heavy meal even a couple of hours before you go to bed can, for example, lead to indigestion or heartburn and disrupt your sleep so try not to leave it too late to enjoy your evening meal.

Alcohol: Although it can help you actually fall asleep, it doesn’t promote good quality sleep and can leave you feeling not well rested on waking.

Emotional health: Is your mind racing when you’re trying to sleep? Are you staying awake with worrying thoughts? Some people find it helpful to write down any worries or a to-do list before going to bed. Speak with your doctor if you feel that any anxieties are disrupting your sleep.Read more about PCOS and emotional issues, and tips to help manage them.

Medications: Some prescribed tablets or herbal remedies and/or their combinations may have side effects. Make sure you read the accompanying written material and speak with your doctor.


Note that referenced or mentioned authors, websites and organisations are not affiliated with, nor endorsing, the content published on Positive PCOS.

1: G. Conway et al. 2014. The polycystic ovary syndrome: a position statement from the European Society of Endocrinology. European Journal of Endocrinology. 171:1-29

2: Qaseem. 2013. Management of obstructive sleep apnea in adults: a clinical practice guideline from the American College of Physicians. Annals of Internal Medicine. 159 (7):471-83

National Sleep Foundation: Insomnia. https://sleepfoundation.org/insomnia/home. Accessed on 01/03/16

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