Let's be real, the mere act of existing can be pretty tiresome at times. But if the week of your period leaves you feeling especially exhausted, it's worth knowing that there’s a real, scientific reason behind your sleepiness and period fatigue. Well, actually there's a few very real and scientific reasons!
"There may be a number of reasons why you’re feeling particularly exhausted during your period," says Dr Ashfaq Khan, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at Harley Street Gynaecology. "One of the most common is premenstrual syndrome (PMS) which, contrary to what its title suggests, can also be experienced actually during your period."
As well as feeling irritable and depressed, people who menstruate can also become very drained and weary, he adds (lucky us!). "It is thought that PMS could be triggered by a drop in oestrogen and serotonin, resulting in a double whammy for mood swings and energy levels."
Dr Khan also notes that period exhaustion could stem from iron deficiency anaemia, due to blood loss – so if you have a very heavy flow, this could be something to chat with your GP about.
Diet and sleep may also come into play too, the expert explains. "Comfort eating which lowers blood sugar levels, and disturbed sleep patterns during this time may well be to blame, too. It is certainly worth undertaking a range of blood tests to try and pinpoint the underlying reason for an extreme drop in energy levels during your period."
Instead of reaching for a slab of Dairy Milk, a few foods likely to boost your energy levels while menstruating include oats (for slow release energy), red meat, berries (most are jam-packed full of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals) and avocado (which is full of healthy fats, fibre, magnesium, potassium and vitamins E and B6 to help balance out your hormones).
It’s also worth remembering that it's not uncommon to feel totally knackered for a week of every month... because there's a lot going on inside your body (but if the period fatigue is chronic or prevents you from working and socialising, this could also be worth seeing your GP). Think about it - in the 10 days or so before your period, your body is geared up in the hopes that the egg you sent down the old fallopian tube met some sperm there and landed in a plush uterus ready to grow a baby...
Then, when your uterine lining isn’t invaded by a fertilised egg, the hormones sustaining the environment aren’t needed anymore and the hormone levels plummet. When this happens, your body goes from high alert to nothing hormonally and that shift causes other changes, which are exhausting.
How to feel less tired while on your period
There’s not much you can do about your body’s natural cycle, but the good news is that your energy levels tend to peak during ovulation, which is generally about two weeks after the start of your period.
There are natural ways of helping your body out when its feeling tired though; drinking water, getting at least eight hours sleep and exercising is all useful, general advice. But according to Nicole Telfer, Science Content Producer at period tracking app Clue, there are different ways to overcome your tiredness depending on what's causing it.
"People who experience premenstrual and menstrual symptoms may report disrupted sleep," Nicole tells Cosmopolitan. "This can be from pain (cramps or headaches) or from increased fatigue or insomnia. Using pain alleviating medications may help restore sleep quality by relieving pain."
If you have a premenstrual mood disorder, the expert suggests you're "more likely to experience sleep disturbances like insomnia, hypersomnia, fatigue, and even disturbing dreams during the luteal phase (the second part of the menstrual cycle) which could be due to disruption in circadian rhythms." In order to overcome this, Nicole explains that some researchers suggest using light therapy may help people with severe cases, but more research in the area is needed.
People with PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) are more likely have sleep disordered breathing like sleep apnea or snoring if they are obese, which in turn impacts sleep quality. "These people would benefit from seeing a healthcare provider specialising in sleep," advises the expert.
But if you’re generally feeling run down and nothing seems to be shifting it? A day in bed, plus a delicious snack and Netflix, can be an excellent form of medicine in itself...
For help with period pain, why not try:
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