Ever feel groggy and tired despite clocking a full night’s sleep during the second half of your cycle? Notice you get morning headaches in the days leading up to your period? Been told you snore more on some nights than on others by partners, roommates or hotel guests in adjoining rooms?
A new study from Duke University Medical Center and Boston University School of Medicine reveals one possible culprit: You could have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)–a sleep disorder where your breathing stops for short periods of time as you sleep because soft tissue in the back of your throat temporarily collapses.
And, if you suspect you have this sleep disorder, it’s vital to get tested for it during the second half of your cycle (which spans from the day after ovulation through the day before your next period). Here’s why:
This study included 28 women who were recommended by their healthcare providers to undergo an overnight sleep test (polysomnography) based on symptoms they were experiencing. This meant that the results of their sleep test would help determine their course of treatment, if any.
And, here’s where things get interesting….
Turns out, the women who were in the first half of their monthly cycle (follicular phase) were far less likely to show symptoms of OSA during the test than the women who took the test in the second half of their cycle (luteal phase).
In fact, being in the luteal phase made women four times more likely to display OSA symptoms than those in the follicular phase.
The study authors believe it’s because rising estrogen during the first half of your cycle helps strengthen and support the soft tissue in the back of your throat that falls and blocks airways in OSA sufferers.
This means that women undergoing sleep tests in the first half of their cycles who have OSA are at risk of getting misleading results–and not getting the treatment they need.
And, treatment is key for OSA sufferers. That’s because it’s not just fatigue, snoring and headaches that occurs as a result of this sleep disorder. OSA can also put you at risk of high blood pressure and heart trouble as well as exacerbate asthma in asthma patients and raise your risk of pregnancy complications.
Fortunately, there are many treatments available, including dental devices, breathing assistance machines, lifestyle changes (such as changing sleep positions, quitting smoking and/or losing weight) and medications.
Another benefit of getting more accurate sleep test results by getting tested during the second half of your cycle: It can help you definitively rule out OSA as the cause of your fatigue and other symptoms. This way, you can continue working on pinpointing the real problem so you can treat whatever it is.
Bottom line: If you suspect you might have OSA, talk with your healthcare provider about it–and if she or he recommends a sleep test, insist on scheduling it during the second half of your cycle so you can get the most accurate results, ensuring that you get the correct treatment.
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Gabrielle Lichterman is a longtime women’s health and lifestyle journalist whose articles have appeared in dozens of major magazines and newspapers around the globe including Cosmopolitan, CosmoGIRL, Glamour, Marie Claire, The New York Daily News and Woman’s World. Gabrielle began developing Hormonology® and the Hormone Horoscope® in 1999 and has been sharing menstrual cycle-related research and tips through her apps, blog, book, newsletter and magazine articles ever since.
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