Why Are You Tired Before Your Period? Causes and Remedies

Dr Anne HendersonDr Anne Henderson

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Dr Anne Henderson, Consultant Gynaecologist

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Woman lying on her stomach on the couchWoman lying on her stomach on the couch

Why Are You Tired Before Your Period? Causes and Remedies

Many women already feel tired on the average day, stretched by various demands of family, school, work and social networking. However, if you are feeling even more worn down in the week before your period, it’s time to look at possible remedies for premenstrual fatigue.

In the days leading up to your period, your feel-good hormones take a holiday. This happens just as your body needs them to provide the energy to power through the cravings, the loss of blood and the other transitions occurring at this time of the month.

You can combat PMS fatigue by committing to some healthy habits.

Can PMS cause fatigue?

There are six main energy-draining culprits that lead to PMS fatigue.

  • Hormonal fluctuations – Oestrogen usually acts as a stimulant, but its levels drop significantly after you ovulate, depriving you of its energy. At the same time, your levels of feel-good serotonin also dip, leaving you without its mood-boosting effects as well. Meanwhile, the calming effects of progesterone begin to kick in, which makes you feel more mellow.
  • Energy burning – When you ovulate, your body temperature rises and your body starts burning more energy in preparation for pregnancy. For the next few days, your basal metabolic rate can go up by 9 percent, draining your energy. This all adds up to making you feel more tired.
  • Anaemia – If your periods are heavy, you lose a lot of blood, which could lead to an iron deficiency in your red blood cells. This makes it difficult for your tissues to get the oxygen they need, meaning your cells need to work harder to function normally.
  • Giving in to other symptoms – You’re sore and you’re hungry. You’re not sleeping well and you feel bloated. It’s no wonder you’re not jumping for joy. All these factors may stop you from exercising, which would make you feel rejuvenated. It is hard to get motivated when faced with these factors.
  • Cravings – Your fluctuating hormones may have convinced you to binge on chocolate or other sugary foods, triggering a sugar high that is followed by a crash. This cycle can repeat itself unless you recognise it and actively switch to healthier alternatives.
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) – If you are experiencing severe emotional lows, this acute form of PMS may be to blame. In addition to physical symptoms, you may find yourself crying, lashing out at others, feeling out of control or losing interest in things that used to bring you joy. If this happens monthly, you should see a doctor.

Remedies for premenstrual fatigue

Now that you know some of the causes, let’s look at some premenstrual fatigue remedies:

  • Replace coffee with green tea.
    Caffeinated drinks make breast tenderness worse, whereas the amino acid L-theanine, found in green tea leaves, relaxes you without making you sleepy.
  • Eat more during the second half of your cycle.
    Your metabolism is higher after you ovulate, so feed yourself accordingly. Rather than bingeing, just eat until you feel full, then stop, whether you’re having a snack or a full meal. Make sure to eat protein throughout the day and to treat yourself to a little dark chocolate to stave off cravings.
  • Opt for a more mellow workout.
    If you’re tired, don’t push yourself through a CrossFit class. Listen to your body and go for a walk, or do some yoga or Pilates stretches. Just keep moving, which will help you to get a better night’s sleep.
  • Take a nap.
    Perhaps you just need a break to recharge – so go ahead and have one! Make sure you get 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night, going to bed at the same time, and leave any blue light-emitting devices in another room.
  • Track your cycle with a mobile app.
    Understanding your cycle will help you anticipate the ebbs and flows that come with it, making you more prepared for when they happen.
  • Abstain from alcohol.
    One glass of wine to relax won’t hurt, if that is part of your routine, but refrain from pouring a second. Alcohol affects your oestrogen and testosterone levels, and your hormones are already all over the place at this time of the month. If you have a drink, remember that alcohol is dehydrating, so ensure you balance it out with a glass of water.
  • Try acupuncture.
    Fans of this treatment say it energises them and then helps them to sleep.
  • Use heat to relax your muscles.
    Take a warm bath or use a hot water bottle to help ease cramps. Your body becomes sleepier as it cools down afterwards, easing you into a restful night’s sleep.
  • Check with your doctor if none of the above seem to help.
    If you’ve tried everything and still feel drained, you may have anaemia, a thyroid disorder, or another medical issue. Finding out will also help you to sleep better and waste less energy worrying.

There is good scientific evidence that properly prescribed herbal medicine – not the over-the-counter variety, and can be very beneficial for many PMS symptoms.

Disclaimer: This information aims to answer some of your questions or concerns. If you are worried about your health, talk to your family doctor or your gynecologist for professional medical advice.

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