Why Am I Really So Tired On My Period? 6 Natural Remedies
Have you ever wondered, “Why am I so tired on my period?” Period fatigue is real. That week of bleeding can drain your energy and leave you wanting to do nothing but don your silk eye mask and crawl under your weighted blanket with a slab of your favorite chocolate, just in case.
And you’re not alone. A 2022 study of premenstrual symptoms found that almost 60% of women experience period fatigue. In addition to tiredness, symptoms like period cramps, bloating, headaches, mood swings, depression, and nausea are all common.
But in our toxic masculine-led society, we are encouraged to keep pushing, hustling, and doing at all costs. Most jobs don’t allow women to take a few days off each month when bleeding, even though this is exactly what we should be doing.
While Spain recently passed a paid period leave law for women with especially painful periods, this doesn’t actually target the root cause of why so many women experience painful periods and period fatigue. I’ll be exploring all of this and more in this post.
Is it normal to feel tired during your period?
The truthful answer is yes, and no.
To a certain extent, it is normal to feel tired during your period and in the week leading up to it because your hormones start to plummet, which is necessary for your uterus lining to shed. This is what causes you to bleed.
But if we honored our menstrual cycle and lived and worked in harmony with it rather than pushing against it, I believe the fatigue, cramps, and other premenstrual symptoms would be significantly reduced, if not completely.
I’m not a doctor, but I (along with countless other women) have experienced this for myself. Since I started to learn more about my cycle, live in harmony with it, and take rest when my body asks me to, the cramps I feel are much milder that they barely bother me.
Of course, other factors play a part, which I’ll explore later.
Why am I so tired on my period?
What science says
> Hormone changes
During the second half of your menstrual cycle, estrogen production decreases, and serotonin levels often decline in line with this, which can lead to a decrease in energy levels and a change in mood. But of course, so many external things can affect our day-to-day mood too.
Many people in the medical field claim that PMS, including period fatigue, is predominantly the result of these hormonal changes.
But what concerns me is the underlying implication that the fluctuation in a woman’s hormones is inherently wrong and the problem. Why aren’t we creating an external environment where these changes, which will affect 50% of the population in their lifetime, are accommodated?
> Low iron
Why am I so tired on my period?
Well, it could also be low iron levels, which I suffer from. If you have heavy periods (menorrhagia), you are more at risk of iron deficiency which can lead to general weakness and fatigue.
It’s worth getting a blood test done to check your iron levels. If they’re low, your doctor can prescribe you an iron supplement. You can also increase your iron levels by consuming more iron-rich foods each day, like lentils, chickpeas, beans, tofu, nuts and seeds, kale, and dried fruit.
> Circadian misalignment
We all have natural circadian rhythms, which are natural 24-hour processes that respond to light and dark, and affect most living things on Earth. Hormonal changes can dictate your natural circadian rhythms. For example, in the week leading up to your bleed and during it, you’re likely to need more sleep.
However, many of us don’t respect these bodily rhythms or don’t have the luxury to. We stay up late to work, care for our kids, party, or watch TV. And this can lead to you being tired on your period when you may otherwise not be.
> Other health issues
Other health conditions can make your PMS and period fatigue worse. This includes endometriosis, PCOS, and thyroid disorders.
Doctors may also try and regulate a woman’s hormones with
Birth control pills
Doctors are notorious for prescribing hormonal birth control to women to regulate hormone levels, perhaps even taking back-to-back pills (without a free week) to prevent fluctuations and reduce PMS symptoms.
Some doctors may also prescribe antidepressants—selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)—to treat the physical and mental symptoms of PMS.
These have their own side effects, and once again, they do not attempt to treat the root cause of period fatigue or other PMS symptoms.
Why you’re really so tired on your period
Now you know what science says, I’d like to explore a couple of things that generally aren’t discussed regarding periods and PMS. I believe these play the biggest role in period fatigue, period pain, and sometimes depression among women.
Hormonal birth control interferes with your cycle
What’s crazy is that hormonal birth control is known to completely fuck with your menstrual cycle, give you fake periods, and is also linked to so many other health issues, including depression.
Plus, birth control pills make it harder to sleep, so you are likely to feel even more tired on your period than you would without them.
If you can and want to, stop taking hormonal birth control, and see what happens (make sure you are still having safe sex).
Society does not honor your 28-ish day cycle
Women have a 28-ish day cycle (just like the moon).
Men have a 1-day cycle (just like the sun).
The friction happens in how our society is set up to support a man’s cycle, i.e., every day is the same. You, as a woman, are forced to try and bend to that cycle, but your natural cycle is completely different.
Women need space to rest each month during the bleeding phase, but we are not granted this. We are told to “power through,” but the result is an enormous sleep debt and feeling incredibly out of sync with our bodies. Of course we’re all tired on our periods.
6 Natural ways to reduce period fatigue and PMS
1. Learn about your menstrual cycle and work with it
I believe the number one way to reduce period fatigue and other PMS symptoms is to connect more deeply to your menstrual cycle and learn to embrace it rather than loathe it.
Learn about the four main phases and your energy levels during each one. Track your cycle to predict when your next period is due, and organize your calendar accordingly. Over time, you’ll notice patterns that are unique to you.
I avoid all client calls, if possible, during my week of bleeding, and on the first couple of days, I create more space in my days and make sure I’m not working on anything too taxing. This may not be feasible for you, but are there other ways to protect your energy during this time? Like swapping out plans with friends or dates for a yin yoga class or a blissful bath at home.
2. Eat the right foods & hydrate
Diet plays a huge part in how our bodies feel and how much energy we have. It’s important to always strive to eat a nutritious, balanced diet. During your period, you may crave certain foods, but the wrong kind (or too much of them) will lead to a spike, then a dip in your glucose levels and leave you feeling even more drained.
Foods and drinks to avoid while bleeding:
- Anything processed
- Anything high in saturated fat
- Refined sugar
- Too much caffeine (coffee and black tea)
Foods to reach for:
- Green veggies
- Fresh fruits
- Nuts and seeds
- Whole grains
- Dark chocolate
Staying hydrated is also important because dehydration will lower your energy levels. Try to drink at least two liters of water each day, more if you live in a warmer climate and when you work up a sweat.
3. Try holistic health methods
Acupuncture, acupressure, and targeted massage stimulate trigger points in the body and can help to regulate any PMS symptoms you experience.
If you want to begin your holistic journey at home, try swapping out your regular tea or coffee for a herbal one. The best herbal teas for PMS are ginger, chamomile, peppermint, and raspberry leaf.
4. Gently move your body
When you feel tired on your period, it’s normal to want to just flop into bed after work and turn on Netflix. And while I wouldn’t recommend a high-intensity workout at the gym, moving your body gently can boost your mood and help you sleep better.
Try walking, a gentle yoga class, or a nourishing slow-paced swim. Compare how you feel before and after.
5. Do things that help you relax in the evening
The next time you find yourself tired on your period, do things that help you relax in the evening and promote better sleep.
Meditate, get a massage, do some gentle stretching, take a warm bath, get lost in a lovely fiction book, or listen to a guided yoga nidra or sound bath.
6. Get more sleep
On average, we need just over eight hours of sleep each night, while some of us will need more. But in reality, how many of us get that?
Certain things will always be out of your control, but focus on what you can control. Can you cut out that hour of TV so that you can wind down a little earlier? Can you put your kids to bed earlier? Maybe you can put your phone on airplane mode or in a separate room so you’re not tempted to check it right before you sleep? Can you say no to date night with your partner? Maybe you can also take a 15-minute power nap during the day if you need one.
Creating a relaxing evening ritual will help you enjoy better sleep.
Ready to feel less tired on your period?
If you start trying some things on this list but still feel exhausted and unable to carry out daily tasks, consult a health practitioner, as you may be suffering from another underlying health condition.
I hope this post has helped you understand the cause of period fatigue and other PMS symptoms and given you some helpful tips to conserve your precious energy and connect to your sacred cycle.
If you have any questions about your menstrual cycle, PMS, or anything else this post has stirred up, please drop them in the comments below.