High nocturnal body temperatures and disturbed sleep in women with primary dysmenorrhea

Am J Physiol. 1999 Dec;277(6):E1013-21. doi: 10.1152/ajpendo.1999.277.6.E1013.


Primary dysmenorrhea is characterized by painful uterine cramps, near and during menstruation, that have an impact on personal life and productivity. The effect on sleep of this recurring pain has not been established. We compared sleep, nocturnal body temperatures, and hormone profiles during the menstrual cycle of 10 young women who suffered from primary dysmenorrhea, without any menstrual-associated mood disturbances, and 8 women who had normal menstrual cycles. Dysmenorrheic pain significantly decreased subjective sleep quality, sleep efficiency, and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep but not slow wave sleep (SWS), compared with pain-free phases of the menstrual cycle and compared with the controls. Even before menstruation, in the absence of pain, the women with dysmenorrhea had different sleep patterns, nocturnal body temperatures, and hormone levels compared with the controls. In the mid-follicular, mid-luteal, and menstrual phases, the dysmenorrheics had elevated morning estrogen concentrations, higher mean in-bed temperatures, and less REM sleep compared with the controls, as well as higher luteal phase prolactin levels. Both groups of women had less REM sleep when their body temperatures were high during the luteal and menstrual phases, implying that REM sleep is sensitive to elevated body temperatures. We have shown that dysmenorrhea is not only a disorder of menstruation but is manifest throughout the menstrual cycle. Furthermore, dysmenorrheic pain disturbs sleep, which may exacerbate the effect of the pain on daytime functioning.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Temperature*
  • Dysmenorrhea / complications
  • Dysmenorrhea / physiopathology*
  • Estrogens / blood
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Luteinizing Hormone / blood
  • Menstrual Cycle
  • Pain Measurement
  • Polysomnography
  • Progesterone / blood
  • Prolactin / blood
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / etiology
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Sleep, REM


  • Estrogens
  • Progesterone
  • Prolactin
  • Luteinizing Hormone