Ever wonder why you feel like the most productive human some weeks and a sluggish zombie the next? You’re probably familiar with common period symptoms—that may vary in intensity from person to person—like mood swings, curious cravings, heavy bleeding, unexplained crying, bloating or even pain. But, have you ever wondered how periods affect your sleep cycle and energy levels?
Periods are often referred to as a ‘cycle’ because there are four different phases of menstruation that are on repeat. Understanding why period-related sleep loss occurs, and how your hormone patterns impact your energy can make you more aware of what your body needs at each point of this cycle and how to schedule your month.
But first, we need to understand exactly what’s happening inside…
So, what exactly is happening inside my body during my period?
Periods are ultimately the cycle related to our reproductive system, where changes are naturally made for a potential pregnancy each month.The ovary releases an egg (ovulation), which goes into the fallopian tube for 24 hours, give or take. If the egg is fertilized by sperm, it moves into the uterus, which was prepared to host a fertilized egg guest for the next several months. In which case, the fertilized egg would attach to the uterine wall for further development—also known as pregnancy.
However, if the mature egg doesn’t meet a sperm, the uterus gets the message that a fertilized egg will not be attaching to its wall. When the body doesn’t need to carry out a pregnancy, the changes that were made in anticipation of a pregnancy can now be reversed, and the body will work to return to its original condition. Fun. This involves breaking down the uterine wall, and bleeding during your period. Periods are the body’s way of naturally getting rid of the blood and mucosal tissue left behind after this process.
So, what role do hormones play in your period? There are four phases to the menstrual cycle, and each phase is guided by hormones that directly impacts our sleep and energy. The hormones involved in these phases cause changes in the body to prepare for a fertilized egg, or the opposite—to clean house and repeat the cycle if the egg is not fertilized.
This means the body goes from a high alert state to one of low hormone activity. Decreased hormone levels and the physiological changes that occur to repeat the cycle over and over have an effect that can be exhausting. Literally.
How does my period impact my energy?
Taking a closer look at the four phases of the menstrual cycle, some of the phases explain period fatigue, low energy, and demand that you get more sleep and restorative time. While other phases explain why you have heightened energy, more focus and crazy stamina. Here’s a breakdown of each menstrual phase, including how you might feel, and what might be good for you during that phase of your cycle!
PHASE 1 | Day 1-5
The uterus is shedding its lining, and your estrogen and progesterone hormone levels will be low. Blood loss of 2 teaspoons-1/3 cup (10ml to 80 ml) is considered normal, while 2-3 tablespoons of blood loss is the average.
You might feel:
Tired and sad. You may experience abdominal cramps caused by the contraction of the uterine and the abdominal muscles to expel the menstrual fluid.
Good for you:
Yoga, swimming, and walking help with cramps. With less progesterone in your system breaking down protein, this is a great time to do strength training for muscle gain.
PHASE 2 | Day 6-13
The uterus lining has reformed and you’re at your most fertile stage. Your estrogen levels are rising leading up to ovulation. Estrogen increases the blood flow to the brain and raises the levels of certain hormones in the body, including serotonin (the happy hormone).
You might feel:
With testosterone up, you'll feel strong, energized, sharp and alert—you’ll be able to push yourself a little harder during this phase. Your skin will be glowing!
Good for you:
You’re at your sexiest and most fertile. Orgasms are most intense and attainable during this phase.
PHASE 3 | Day 14-22
The ovary releases an egg, and if not fertilized, it dissolves.
The body has lots of estrogen and progesterone during this phase, increasing your metabolic rate and the sharpness of your memory.
You might feel:
You’ll likely experience sudden hormone changes which may intensify emotions and tiredness. You may crave fats because your body is burning more fats than carbohydrates during this phase.
Good for you:
Endurance workouts are great right now, as you have more energy and your body is burning fat. Plus, exercise releases endorphins to elevate your mood.
PHASE 4 | Day 23-28
The body prepares to shed the lining of the uterus, and estrogen and serotonin levels drastically drop, while testosterone and progesterone surge, making you feel sluggish.
You might feel:
Stressed, frazzled, and fatigued. You might retain water, experience cramps, aches and pains, bloating, lowered labido, and food cravings. Breasts will be more sensitive and skin more oily, including breakouts.
Good for you:
Motivating yourself may be hard, but gentle exercise like yoga, walking or swimming will increase your endorphin levels to make you feel better, fight fatigue, and curb cravings. It's a good time to eat healthy and recharge.
Period fatigue—why can’t I sleep and why do I feel so tired during my period?
If you’re missing sleep at night during your period or experiencing period fatigue, you’re not the only one. According to the National Sleep Foundation, about 23% of women have disrupted sleep in the week before their period, while 30% have disrupted sleep during their period.
Most menstruators would agree they get the worst sleep during the first few days of, and the days right before their period. This is mostly related to uncomfortable menstrual symptoms like headaches, cramps, heavy bleeding, bloating and pain. Some menstruators even experience indigestion and stomach issues during their period, making it hard to fall or stay asleep.
RAISED BODY TEMPERATURE
Your body’s core temperature increases by about half a degree right after ovulation, which can disturb your sleep during your period. You will feel the most sleepy when your body temperature drops and is towards the lower side of the normal range. So, while a half a degree of raised temperature doesn’t seem like much, it is a known culprit for causing trouble sleeping during your period.
The variation in hormone levels during the menstrual cycle also affect our sleep and moods. Four hormones are involved in this process—estrogen, progesterone, FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) and LH (luteinizing hormone)—and their levels drop right before the start of the cycle. Changes in their levels can lead to feelings of anxiousness, depression, and nervousness. And, while it may be normal to feel these emotions during your period, it can also be exhausting. Meanwhile, progesterone levels increase after ovulation, which causes most women to feel extra sleepy.
What can I do to improve sleep and energy during my period?
While it may feel frustrating sometimes managing uncomfortable period symptoms and the effects they have on your energy levels and sleep cycles, you should know that having periods is actually good for your body. Believe it or not,there are many benefits of going through the menstrual cycle each month, such as prevention of diseases including osteoporosis, breast cancer and heart disease, detoxification of our body, greater sexual satisfaction, and slowing down of the aging process.
That being said, it doesn’t change the fact that periods can make you feel tired and energy depleted during the day, while also making it difficult to catch zzz’s at night. The lack of proper sleep can be a real struggle. However, there are some simple things you can do to feel energized and get better sleep during your period:
Take a walk outside
Eat a healthy and balanced diet
Take short naps
Drink plenty of water
Avoid caffeine several hours before bed
Consume magnesium-rich foods such as bananas, brown rice, whole grains and nuts
Eat frequent small meals instead of 3 large ones a day
Consume healthy fats such as oily fish, olive oil, nuts and avocado
Take supplements, including melatonin, magnesium, and calcium
Try a soothing bedtime routine with relaxing teas to aid the sleep process
Practice relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, body scan, meditation or yoga
In the end, if all these tips don’t cut it, you can always try the most popular way to feel better: curl up in your bed for a cozy day off with snacks and your favorite movie—or, deal with the low energy and mood by sleeping it off.
Have you noticed any interesting patterns with your sleep and energy during your cycle? Share in the comments below.
Thinking about switching to more convenient period care
that doesn’t require changing every 2-3 hours?
Knowledge is empowering. Share the love.