You know, watching sanitary napkin advertisements showing women refusing to get out of their houses out of fear of a blood stain on their lowers really makes me cringe for glorifying the stigma attached to menstruation.
But this anger lasts only for the first three weeks of the month. Because when PMS (Premenstrual syndrome) hits me in the fourth week (approximately 7-8 days ahead of my period), I can relate to these women.
What if they too are hit by PMS and get into their cocoons out of sheer fatigue just like I do? Yes, the taglines of the products suggest otherwise. But let’s just focus on the point.
Feeling sleepy and tired during menstruation is a real problem
As you know, PMS or the premenstrual syndrome is a compilation of all the various psychological and physical signs or symptoms you might face before Aunt Flo’s final bloody hit and quite literally so.
From experience, you’d also know how it can make you feel really exhausted and sleepy apart from causing headaches, stomach cramps, acne, food cravings, mood swings, and tender, swollen breasts to name a few. But where do you get the energy to deal with these symptoms if you’re fatigued in the first place?
Here’s understanding why menstruation does that to us in the first place
Out of all the mess, sleepiness during PMS can occur due to the following science-backed reasons:
The hormonal frenzy
“Some women feel sleepy before their period because of hormonal
imbalance,” says Dr. Savita Bansal, senior consultant at the obstetrics and gynaecology department, Fortis Escorts Hospital, Jaipur.
Girls, y’all know how the uterus simply waits for just one chance to get back at you after a night of pleasure. Basically, every month, approximately two weeks before your period hits, a process called ovulation makes your excited ovaries release eggs.
As they eagerly await one of these eggs to get fertilised by a man’s sperm, the hormones in your body such as the oestrogen and progesterone already start preparing the uterus to conceive a resulting baby by doing crazy things like thickening the uterus walls and making it more fetus-friendly.
However, upon not being able to meet and greet a sperm, you disappoint your ovaries, and hence, they get back at you anyway. In this case, your unutilised hormones, which had made such warm-welcome preparations become the weapons of its revenge.
According to a 2009 study, having been used up to perform a completely unnecessary task, the level of the energy-boosting oestrogen dips. While the progesterone, which was supposed to maintain the expected pregnancy, remains unused and thus, its levels rise. This collectively decreases serotonin, a hormone responsible for happiness, appetite, sleep patterns, and an active state of mind—obviously causing fatigue in life.
The other PMS symptoms could be the reason
As mentioned earlier, excruciating stomach cramps and headaches can also be a part of the PMS package.
“The pain can disturb your sleep, causing you to be tired and sleepy the next day,”Dr. Bansal points out. Not to mention, the depression or a dip in the mood caused due to decrease in serotonin can also result in fatigue.
Blame it on your body temperature
According to a report by the National Sleep Foundation, a U.S.-based non-profit organisation, our body temperature is likely to rise up to half a degree after ovulation and the discomfort from this increased temperature can also disturb your sleep, again, leading to tiredness and fatigue.
Dehydration can worsen your case
A study, published in the Journal of Nutrition, talks about how even mild dehydration can cause weakness and fatigue.
Now, not only can all that hormone fluctuation make you dehydrated, but also your reduced appetite can make you want to stay away from gulping water down your throat. Sadly, this makes your situation even worse.
Don’t underestimate your nutritional deficiencies
Deficiencies of important macro or micro nutrients such as iron and zinc can make you feel low on energy. “This kind of fatigue will persist even when you’re not PMSing, however, it’ll become worse during PMS,” warns Dr. Namrata Gupta, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at Fortis Escorts Hospital, Jaipur.
That’s not it, folks. There’s more to it
While the above-mentioned causes are definitely to look out for, certain more serious underlying issues could be responsible if your fatigue and sleepiness are out of control. Take a look.
Women with a heavy period, beware! That extra blood loss could also be making you lose excessive iron from your body, resulting in anaemia, which in turn could be responsible for your fatigue and tiredness.
Sometimes, the small butterfly-shaped thyroid gland in your body doesn’t produce adequate amounts of the thyroid hormone. As a result, you could gain extra weight, have feelings of depression, and finally–face extreme fatigue.
Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)
Characterised by severe depression, irritability, crying spells, extreme anger, unbearable headaches and stomach cramps, and tension before menstruation, this disorder is a more severe form of the PMS and affects 5-10% women in their reproductive years, as per a report by the Center for Women’s Mood Disorders.
Though the exact causes are still debatable, the hormonal fluctuations are touted to contribute to this condition majorly.
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)
If you’re constantly fatigued and tired regardless of your menstrual cycle, so much so, that it hampers your daily-life activities, then perhaps, you could be suffering from CFS, which doesn’t have much to do with your period anyway.
In fact, the causes of this syndrome might be entirely different. A viral or a bacterial infection, a problematic immune system, a genetic issue, or a mental-health issue like anxiety, stress, and emotional trauma can be the real reason for it.
Don’t lose hope, you can fight the fatigue
Ladies, if your fatigue is not due to the above-mentioned serious underlying causes, you can fight it off easily.
“Avoiding consumption of fast food, alcohol, and cigarettes, having a balanced diet, managing a proper sleep pattern, and avoiding a sedentary lifestyle can help you overcome fatigue,” suggests Dr. Bansal.
She also recommends taking naps in the day to make up for the lost sleep.
Diet wise, Dr. Gupta suggests eating foods rich in antioxidants like fresh fruits and vegetables, decreasing intake of junk food and caffeine, and limiting salt and sugar in your balanced diet—not just during the PMS week, but on a regular basis—as doing this can improve your condition
Don‘t take the fatigue lightly though
“If the fatigue hampers your daily-life activities and makes you less productive, then visit a doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment,” warns Dr. Bansal.