Do Birth Control Pills Mess With Your Sleep? The Answer Is 'Varied,' A Doctor Tells Us

Birth control pills are a simple and effective way to help prevent unplanned pregnancies, and they also help manage symptoms of hormonal dysregulation such as acne, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), menstrual migraines, and more, according to the Cleveland Clinic. As with any medication, however, many people who use oral contraceptives report troublesome side effects, such as headaches, nausea, and spotting. But what about a change in sleep patterns? 

According to a 2020 study published in the Journal of Sleep Research, researchers found that contraceptive users experience "daytime sleepiness" and insomnia. However, a 2012 study in the International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics noted that contraceptive use appeared to improve sleep.

To get to the bottom of it, Glam spoke exclusively to Dr. Stephanie Hack, board-certified obstetrician, gynecologist, and founder of Lady Parts Doctor. Turns out, there is no definitive answer. "The data regarding birth control and sleep is varied. While there are studies that suggest sleep quality/efficiency is improved or worsened, there are others that suggest no change at all," Hack explains. In other words, it's complicated — here's why.

Everyone is different (and more research is needed)

Despite the lack of research, the current consensus regarding the relationship between sleep and birth control is that certain factors come into play and affect how an individual reacts. "I remind my patients that everyone is an individual with different body chemistry and different genetics," Dr. Stephanie Hack exclusively tells Glam. So, the reason why you experience insomnia while on the pill may coincide with how your unique biology interacts with the influx of synthetic hormones when using birth control. Pre-existing health conditions such as menstrual irregularity and sleep disorders also tie into sleep quality while on the pill, per a 2020 study published in Sleep Science.

"People who are more sensitive to the hormones in birth control pills may be more affected than others," says Dr. Hack. "For example, someone who often feels nauseous when they take the pill might be more susceptible to sleep effects as well." This phenomenon supports the idea that side effects create a cycle or snowball effect wherein one symptom leads to the manifestation of another. In this scenario, nausea caused by the pill could, in turn, impact sleep quality. "Likewise, someone who feels their mood is affected by taking the pill may feel their sleep is also affected."

Remember that you always have options

If you find that taking birth control messes with your sleep, here's a reminder that you have options. "Birth control pills reach their highest concentration in the blood within one to two hours of taking them, with each pill lasting about 24 hours," Dr. Stephanie Hack exclusively explains to Glam. "If you feel like they are negatively impacting your sleep, you can try taking them in the morning so that the peak concentration is reached while you are awake." On the flip side, if you feel the pill improves your sleep, take it before bed.

But if switching up your routine doesn't seem to do the trick, reach out to a health professional. Sometimes, it's only a matter of changing your birth control method or finding a more compatible birth control pill. However, if you don't notice any improvement in sleep quality after experimenting with different types of oral contraceptives, return to your healthcare provider to find the best alternative method.

"Until we have more convincing data, it's a matter of finding something that works best for you," Hack says. "If you feel like your sleep is affected, it's okay to stop that method and try something else. Your healthcare provider should be able to guide you in that process." Remember, there are many forms of birth control available today. Finding a contraceptive that suits your individual needs and lifestyle may be a tedious journey, but it's well worth it in the end.