Whenever you start a new medication, there is the potential for unwanted side effects. With birth control pills, one of the side effects you may experience is decreased sleep quality or insomnia.
This article will discuss how birth control pills can impact your sleep, other causes of poor sleep, and how you can improve the situation to get the rest you need.
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There are several factors unique to female physiology that contribute to decreased sleep quality compared to males:
Hormonal changes during menstruation, perimenopause, and menopause
Drastic changes to a woman’s body during pregnancy
There are other reasons for poor sleep in women as well. For example, women are more likely than men to have depression and anxiety. Both of these conditions can result in a harder time falling asleep and staying asleep.
Everyone reacts to medication differently, but it isn't unusual for birth control pills to cause issues with sleep. A survey¹ conducted in 2020 showed that women on hormonal contraceptives were more likely to experience insomnia and daytime sleepiness. Some side effects of the drugs can affect sleep quality, including depression.
A large study² involving over one million women in Denmark found that using birth control increased the risk of a woman's first use of antidepressants. However, the authors note that other studies have given conflicting results.
Still, depression can increase the chance of someone at risk for insomnia developing the condition. If you've experienced depression after starting birth control, this may be the cause of your insomnia.
If you believe your birth control pills contribute to your inability to sleep, speak with your doctor. They can help you determine whether the pills are to blame or if there is some other cause. They may be able to offer solutions that will help regardless of the underlying cause.
You and your doctor may find that changing your contraceptive options is necessary. This could mean trying a different birth control pill or switching to another form of contraceptive entirely.
Many people find that improving general sleep habits enhances their sleep schedule. Before making any changes, try developing better sleeping habits to see if that solves the problem. Sleep hygiene is vital to a good night’s sleep, so try these tips:
You can't sleep if you aren't comfortable, so investing in a quality mattress and pillow that fit your sleep preferences is wise. You should also look for comfortable bedding that maintains your ideal sleeping temperature.
Keeping the room as dark and quiet as possible will also help you sleep better.
You’ll sleep best when you’re on a set schedule. Setting a schedule is easy; decide on a time you'd like to get up and how many hours you'd like to sleep to determine when your bedtime should be. Avoid napping during the day to make it easier to fall asleep at bedtime. If your new schedule differs wildly from your current one, make gradual adjustments to ease the transition.
Your body needs time to unwind before bedtime, so taking steps around 30 minutes beforehand can help. Dimming the lights can induce melatonin production, a chemical that controls your sleep cycle.
Try to avoid screens or other distractions that might keep you awake. Instead, do something relaxing, such as meditation or light reading.
We've already discussed taking fewer naps, but other things can be avoided during the day. Drinking caffeine in the afternoon or at night can keep you up when it's time to sleep. While alcohol will make you sleepy, it harms sleep quality. Smoking can impact sleep as well.
For these reasons, you should avoid all of these substances. Getting sufficient exercise during the day will also make it easier to sleep at night.
Your doctor may prescribe you medication to aid with sleeping. If depression is the cause of your insomnia, this may include antidepressants.
Over-the-counter sleep aids may help, but you should discuss their usage with a doctor to ensure they are safe to take with your other medications. This includes sleeping pills and melatonin supplements.
Your doctor may recommend insomnia-based cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT-I) as another option. This form of therapy focuses on any negative thoughts and behaviors around sleep and heavily emphasizes sleep hygiene.
Some women on birth control pills experience insomnia. This may be a direct side effect of the drug itself, a result of one of its other side effects, or have an entirely different cause. Your doctor can determine the cause of your insomnia and provide you with the best treatment options.
Major depression | NIH: National Institute of Mental Health