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Period fatigue: what it is and how sleep hygiene can help

Ever felt tired before your period? Like your eyelids are heavier than usual, your brain’s suddenly foggy, and your energy’s MIA?

If this all sounds familiar, you’re not imagining things. What you’re experiencing is period fatigue, and it’s a very real thing. It’s also generally very manageable.

Read on as we take a look at what period fatigue actually is and share some strategies for nipping pre-flow drowsiness in the bud.

What is period fatigue?

Fatigue can be super frustrating, especially when it starts getting in the way of everyday life. But it’s also one of the most common symptoms of PMS (premenstrual syndrome). So if you get tired in the lead-up to your period, know that this is totally normal and usually nothing to worry about.

Experts believe that PMS is caused by hormonal fluctuations that happen in the body during the ovarian cycle. In the luteal phase of your cycle, before your period starts, estrogen (also spelled oestrogen) production tends to drop, right along with your serotonin levels. Serotonin influences our energy and mood, so too little of it can make us feel sluggish and low.

Do you get headaches, bloating or cramps before your period? These PMS symptoms can also have you tossing and turning in the night, leaving you depleted the next day.

Plus, it’s normal for your body temperature to rise in the luteal phase, which can also interfere with sleep.

Other PMS symptoms to watch for

You might experience the following PMS symptoms alongside period fatigue:

  • Anxiety
  • Appetite changes
  • Bloating
  • Crying spells
  • Depression
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Period pains
  • Trouble sleeping

What is sleep hygiene?

If you’re wondering how to beat PMS fatigue, sleep hygiene practices may help you do just that.

What is sleep hygiene? Well, it’s all about creating the ideal conditions for healthy, uninterrupted sleep.

Broadly, you can do this by:

  1. Prioritising self-care throughout the day
  2. Establishing a relaxing bedtime routine
  3. Making changes to your sleeping environment

If you’re struggling with fatigue before your period, improving sleep hygiene can help put some pep in your step, boost your productivity and get you feeling like yourself again. And it’s a lot easier than you might think.

How can I alleviate period fatigue?

Managing period fatigue is all about being kind to yourself. As humans, we need some time to decompress after a busy day before we’re able to drift off. This is why it’s important to prioritise sleep hygiene by incorporating self-care habits into your day – and sticking to them.

If you’ve been wondering how to reduce PMS symptoms naturally (fatigue included), these science-backed tips are worth trying:

  1. Create a calming nightly routine. At least one hour before bed, start winding down with relaxing activities like a warm bath, a good book, a cosy drink, light stretching, meditation, nature sounds, breathing exercises or a massage. These will help settle the body and mind and can be especially helpful if you get anxiety before your period.
  2. Keep a stable sleep schedule. Creating a sleep schedule means going to bed and waking up at roughly the same time every day (yes, even on weekends). This sets your body’s internal clock to anticipate rest after dark. Keeping siestas to a minimum should also help.
  3. Invest in period underwear. The potential for unexpected overnight bleeding can cause wakefulness. Wearing leak-proof underwear or sleep shorts to bed provides peace of mind, leading to better sleep.
  4. Stay hydrated. Dehydration can worsen fatigue, so fill up your emotional support water bottle (with H2O) and keep it handy. Try to drink the equivalent of 8 glasses each day.
  5. Keep your bedroom cool and distraction-free. A cool, quiet, dark room can help you fall and stay asleep, even when your body temperature goes up. Heavy curtains, an eye mask, cooling PJs and earplugs can stop light and sound from disturbing your sleep. Temperature-wise, aim for 17–19°C. (No AC? Try popping open a window or using a fan.)
  6. Put the devices away. Electronic devices stimulate our minds, which can keep us awake. They also emit blue light, which may inhibit the production of melatonin (the hormone that controls our sleep and waking patterns). Try to go analog at least one hour before bed. (Keep your phone in another room if you can, or switch it to sleep mode.)
  7. Move more during the day. A 2013 study showed that regular exercise can encourage restful sleep. Try to avoid exercise in the 3 hours before bed, though.
  8. Say no to nightcaps. While alcohol might help you doze off, it can actually alter your sleep’s natural flow throughout the night and result in a lighter, more restless sleep (and probably a toilet trip or two). Best to avoid drinking later in the evening.
  9. Use your bed for sleep and sex only. Avoid using your bed as a second living room. This means no TV, internet browsing or drawn-out DNMs between the sheets. You want your brain to associate bed with rest, not activity.

Start building these sleep hygiene hacks into your routine and you should start feeling more energised throughout the day, all month long. Pretty soon you’ll start to notice improvements to your overall health too, because the quality of our sleep has a big impact on our physical and mental wellbeing.

Still tired? Time to see your doc

If you’ve tried practising proper sleep hygiene at home but your fatigue continues to make day-to-day life challenging, it’s time to make an appointment with your doctor for a diagnosis and treatment options.

Want to know how to balance PMS hormones? The best person to ask is your doctor. (They might suggest some home remedies, refer you to a specialist or recommend some PMS supplements.)

Head to our blog for plenty more period-related info, including tips for getting blood stains out of fabric (sleep hygiene of another kind!).

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