Do periods make you sleep more?

5 reasons your period makes you sleep more

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Qualified Nutritionist (BSc, MSc, RNutr)
@EmmaThornton
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25 November 2019

5 reasons you might need more sleep during your period

Our recent survey told us that low energy and tiredness were really common period symptoms, and you may not be surprised that there's a variety of reasons as to why you might feel like you need more sleep during this time. These include:

  • Hormones
  • Dehydration
  • Cravings
  • Anaemia
  • Poor sleep.

I'll talk through each of these factors and explain how they could be contributing to your tiredness, and offer a few simple tips to help.

1. Hormones

As usual, your hormones have a lot to answer for! The two main female sex hormones play important roles here – oestrogen can be considered a stimulating hormone, while progesterone helps us to relax. If the ratio of these hormones becomes skewed as they fluctuate throughout the month, this can affect your energy levels and sleep.

In the week before your period, progesterone levels tend to be higher than oestrogen, so you may be more likely to feel low in energy during this time. If there is a significant imbalance in these hormones, you might suffer from PMS symptoms like low mood and fatigue, both of which could make you feel like crawling into bed and sleeping the day away.

Actually, both hormones are quite low at this point so, even if your progesterone isn't dominant, you are likely to feel tired due to the lower oestrogen. What's more, this drop in oestrogen can also reset your internal thermostat higher so you feel warm faster, like a mini menopause! If you're too hot at night, you might find it difficult to get to sleep – even though your energy levels are low.

On the other hand, some women might have an oestrogen dominance which means that there won't be enough of that drowsy hormone, progesterone, to make them feel sleepy and ready for bed.

Serotonin can also be relevant in this situation, as it plays a role in creating your sleep hormone, melatonin. If progesterone levels are low, serotonin levels can decrease too, which can have unwelcome repercussions for your sleep and energy levels. Phew!

2. Dehydration

Another reason you might be feeling fatigued and in need of a good nap is dehydration. If you are dehydrated, your blood can thicken which can have an effect on your circulation. Without sufficient circulatory stimulus taking blood to your brain, you may feel woozy and sluggish.

Research has shown that, when we are dehydrated, we are more likely to experience fatigue, low mood and poor cognitive function – none of which you want to experience during your period.1

Drinking 1.5 – 2 litres of water every day is a good start, and it can help with other period symptoms too, such as bloating, skin problems and cravings.

3. Cravings

When you are dehydrated and your hormones are wreaking havoc, you're more likely to crave (and eat!) the wrong foods. This can affect your energy levels and leave you feeling worse for wear.

Refined carbohydrates are a key culprit here – think sugary cakes, biscuits and drinks, and white bread, pasta and rice. All of these are likely to spike your blood glucose levels.

This might make you feel energised for the first half an hour or so, but then your blood sugar levels will plummet again and you'll be left with a severe energy crash – not to mention, refined sugars can exacerbate inflammation which plays a key role in menstrual cramps and skin flare-ups.

Sticking to healthy snacks like whole-wheat bread and pasta as well as nuts, seeds and fruit will give your body the nutrients it needs rather than draining your energy and making the whole situation worse!


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4. Anaemia

Losing blood when menstruating is another possible cause of tiredness and might be a reason why you feel like you need more sleep during your period, especially if you suffer from particularly heavy periods. These are classified as:

  • Having to wear tampons and towels together
  • Having to change protection more than once every 2 hours
  • Blood soaking through your clothes
  • Having to cancel work or social plans.

Whether you are losing a lot of blood or even just a little, this can lower the iron levels in your blood and put you at risk of anaemia. With this condition, there is a lack of red blood cells in the body, and these are responsible for carrying oxygen to organs like the brain, as well as converting blood sugar to energy.

So, if you're bleeding every month, it's easy to see how this could put you at risk for low iron levels and, thus, make you feel sleepy and sluggish. If you think you might be suffering from iron deficiency, talk to your doctor and ask for a ferritin test which measures how much iron is stored in your body.

In the meantime, you can try to up your iron levels by eating foods like:

  • Spinach
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Good quality red meat
  • Lentils.

5. Poor sleep

Finally, and quite simply, you might be feeling like you need more sleep during your period because you're just not getting enough!

It can be difficult to sleep if you are experiencing physical symptoms like menstrual cramps and bloating and it can be near impossible to wind down if you're feeling anxious or irritated about the events of the day.

So, it's no wonder that you might be waking up in the morning feeling lousy if you tossed and turned for hours, or only managed to fall into a light sleep and didn't have a proper rest. Worse, your pain tolerance can decrease if you're sleep deprived, so this can lead to a vicious cycle.

I cover my top tips for a good night's sleep on your period in a previous blog, including getting some exercise to tire yourself out before bed and running a hot bath to soothe period cramps and help your body get ready for sleep.

When should I talk to my doctor?

If you are experiencing extreme tiredness during your period or otherwise, I would advise a trip to your doctor. Although a range of everyday factors can play a role in low energy levels, there are other conditions that could be involved.

It's important to speak to someone who can examine your individual symptoms to determine if there's anything more serious going on that needs to be treated.

 

1 http://ase.tufts.edu/psychology/spacelab/pubs/DAnciEtAlHydrationPMS_2009.pdf

Vote

Results: Do you feel extra tired during your period?

Low energy and disrupted sleep are common period symptoms, and it seems that 76% of you agree. If you struggle with tiredness regularly, it might be worth getting tested for iron deficiency or upping your intake of magnesium, especially during your period.

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