Some people report a lack of energy or increased tiredness shortly before or during their period. They may refer to such episodes as “period fatigue.”
In this article, we outline the symptoms and causes of period fatigue, as well as the treatments and home remedies that may help alleviate it. We also discuss tips for preventing period fatigue and offer advice on when to see a doctor.
Period fatigue is a symptom of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). PMS is a group of symptoms that some people experience shortly before and during their period. These symptoms are due to hormonal changes that occur around the time of menstruation.
More than 90% of people who get periods report experiencing PMS symptoms. Some PMS symptoms that may accompany period fatigue include:
Although there is still debate about what causes PMS, experts believe that it occurs as a result of hormonal changes. A female’s ovaries produce the hormones estrogen and progesterone. Estrogen production increases during the first half of the menstrual cycle and decreases during the second half.
Levels of serotonin often decline in line with decreasing estrogen. Reduced levels of this neurotransmitter can lead to low mood and decreased energy levels. Other possible causes of period fatigue include:
- Low iron: Heavy bleeding during a period could lead to iron deficiency anemia. Without sufficient iron, the body is unable to produce the hemoglobin that red blood cells require to transport oxygen to the body’s cells. Symptoms can include weakness and fatigue.
- Food cravings: During a period, a person may experience food cravings. Eating too much food could lead to a spike and subsequent dip in blood glucose levels. This dip could leave a person feeling tired and fatigued.
- Disturbed sleep: Period pains and mood changes may make it difficult for a person to get to sleep or stay asleep throughout the night. The person may then experience tiredness and fatigue the following day.
Below are some potential treatment options for period fatigue:
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, can help alleviate pain and inflammation. If cramps are keeping a person awake, taking an NSAID before bedtime may help them get more restful sleep. As a result, they may feel less tired the following day.
Birth control pills
A doctor may prescribe birth control pills to help regulate hormone levels. They may recommend taking the pills back to back and skipping the placebo pills or the pill-free week. Doing so should help prevent fluctuations in hormone levels, thereby reducing PMS symptoms.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists suggest that taking 1,200 milligrams of calcium a day may help reduce physical and mental PMS symptoms.
A person should always talk to their doctor before taking a supplement for the first time. Some supplements can interact with other medications that the person may be taking.
In some cases, a doctor may prescribe antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) to treat both the mental and physical symptoms of PMS. By reducing these symptoms, a person may feel more rested and less fatigued, but a doctor will need to monitor this treatment closely.
Examples of SSRIs include:
- fluoxetine (Prozac)
- citalopram (Cipramil)
- sertraline (Lustral)
Below are a few strategies that people can try at home to help alleviate period fatigue:
Adjusting room temperature
A person’s baseline body temperature increases by about 0.5°C before their period, which may contribute to poor or interrupted sleep. Lowering the room temperature slightly may help improve comfort and sleep quality, resulting in less fatigue the following day.
Practicing relaxation techniques
Some people may experience difficulty getting to sleep while on their period, and this can lead to increased levels of fatigue the next day.
Sleeping difficulties may arise as a result of physical aches and pains or increased levels of stress or anxiety. The following relaxation techniques may help alleviate tension in the body and mind:
- mindfulness meditation
- breathing exercises
- gentle exercise
- taking a warm bath before bed
Engaging in aerobic exercise
A 2014 study investigated the effects of aerobic exercise on 30 young women with PMS symptoms. All of the participants received daily vitamin B6 and calcium supplements. Some also performed aerobic exercise three times a week for 3 months.
In comparison with the control group, the participants who exercised regularly showed a significant reduction in period fatigue. Alongside this were improvements in blood health, including increased hemoglobin levels.
Trying alternative therapies
The findings of a 2014 meta-analysis suggest that both acupuncture and some herbal remedies may be beneficial in the treatment of PMS symptoms. According to the research, acupuncture and herbs such as ginkgo biloba reduced PMS symptoms by 50% or more compared with no treatment.
However, the researchers note that further large-scale, randomized controlled trials are necessary to support the findings.
It may not always be possible to prevent period fatigue. However, people can adopt certain measures to help regulate their energy levels throughout the month. These include:
- Adopting healthy sleep habits: Going to bed at the same time each night and waking up at roughly the same time each day can help regulate the hormones that induce sleep.
- Eating regular, balanced meals: Eating small, regular meals throughout the day helps stabilize blood glucose levels, possibly preventing energy crashes and fatigue.
- Staying hydrated: Dehydration can worsen fatigue. Drinking fluids at regular intervals will help prevent dehydration.
- Exercising regularly: Regular exercise can improve mood and sleep quality.
A person should see a doctor if they experience any of the following:
- fatigue that does not respond to at-home treatment
- fatigue that interferes with their ability to carry out daily activities
- other severe or debilitating PMS symptoms
According to the Office on Women’s Health, as many as 5% of females of childbearing age experience a more severe form of PMS known as premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). Severe period fatigue may be a symptom of PMDD, which generally requires medical treatment.
Anyone who experiences severe fatigue that persists after their period has ended should see a doctor. The doctor will want to rule out other possible causes of persistent fatigue, such as:
Period fatigue refers to a lack of energy or increased tiredness shortly before or during a period. It is a symptom of PMS.
Some people may be able to alleviate period fatigue and other PMS symptoms using home remedies, such as exercise, relaxation, and alternative therapies. Others may require medical treatment.
Anyone who is concerned about period fatigue should see a doctor. People who experience fatigue at times other than during their period should also see a doctor to help determine the cause.