Feeling tired and sluggish is the expected norm for many, but it shouldn’t be. This guide will help you figure out why you’re so tired throughout your menstrual cycle and what you can do about it. With this guide, you learn about:

What is it, and is it normal?

As your period approaches, you may experience changes in your energy levels. The hormonal and chemical changes and physiological responses our bodies experience monthly can cause us to feel extra sluggish at specific points in our menstrual cycles. 

According to our research at Active Iron₁, 49% of women experience tiredness and fatigue due to their periods. While feeling tired before your period typically isn’t a sign of any underlying issue. Severe tiredness may be outside what doctors consider usual period symptoms.

How common is Fatigue among other Period Symptoms

The following list₁ shows the percentages of women who experience these typical period symptoms: 

  • Stomach cramps/pain – 64%
  • Tiredness/fatigue – 49%
  • Mood changes – 44%
  • Stomach bloating – 43%
  • Backache/pain – 39%
  • Sore breasts/breast tenderness – 35%
  • Headaches – 27%
  • Skin breakouts – 27%
  • Change in bowel movements – 27%
  • Change of appetite – 20%
  • Migraines – 13%
  • Insufficient iron levels – 12%
  • Vomiting – 3%
  • Fainting – 3%

You may feel exhausted throughout your cycle if you:

  • Feel low in energy
  • Find yourself sleeping in later than usual
  • Feel the need to nap during the day
  • Feel tired and listless

Below, we’ll take a closer look at why you’re feeling tired and what you can do about it.

What causes tiredness during your period?

Most doctors and researchers believe that period fatigue, in addition to all PMS symptoms, is due to hormonal and chemical changes that occur around the time of menstruation. Additionally, some PMS symptoms can add to our levels of exhaustion.

What are the direct causes:

  • Hormonal changes: estrogen production increases during the first half of the menstrual cycle (the follicular phase). Estrogen production decreases after ovulation and during the second half of the menstrual cycle (the luteal phase). Low estrogen levels can leave us feeling sluggish and tired.
  • Chemical changes: Feeling tired leading up to your period may be linked to a lack of serotonin, one of our mood-boosting brain chemicals. As your period approaches each month, your serotonin levels may fluctuate significantly, which can lead to a significant dip in energy levels.
  • Inadequate iron levels: Monthly periods are the most common cause of iron loss worldwide, and research shows that women of childbearing age need up to 2X more daily iron than men. It is estimated that 220 to 250mg of iron per pint of blood is lost during menstruation. Inadequate iron levels can cause tiredness, but you can replenish your iron stores by increasing your dietary intake and considering taking an iron supplement such as Active Iron.

What are the indirect causes:

Quality sleep is essential for our physical and mental wellbeing, but period symptoms can disturb our sleep and bring other symptoms to make us feel extra tired.

  • Insomnia and sleep problems: A 2017 study published in the US National Library of Medicine states that PMS influences stage 2 of REM sleep in women. They found that menstrual-related hormonal fluctuations may be responsible for women having more disturbed sleep than men.
  • Pain and bloating: Cramping, back pain, and bloating are other period symptoms. Feeling physically unwell in these ways can increase lethargy.

9 tips about relieving period symptoms

  1. Pain killers: Anti-inflammatory pain relief, like Ibuprofen, can help reduce pain and inflammation. Taking them before bed as per the manufacturer’s guidelines can relieve mild cramping to help increase your sleep quality if cramps and discomfort keep you awake.
  2. Contraceptive pill: When period symptoms are severe, doctors sometimes suggest birth control pills to help keep hormone levels more regulated.
  3. Supplements: Iron supplements such as Active Iron can help support iron levels throughout your cycle. Active Iron is clinically proven to increase iron levels by 94% while helping to avoid the common side effects of iron, including constipation, nausea, and diarrhoea.
  4. Exercise: Regular aerobic physical activity throughout the month can help with period-induced fatigue. A 2015 study published in the National Library of Medicine corroborates this tip. They found that participants who exercised regularly showed a significant reduction in PMS fatigue.
  5. Nutrition: Choosing healthy foods and reducing caffeine, salt, and sugar may ease period symptoms, including feeling drained during your period. The Cleveland Clinic explains that eating various fruits and vegetables can help alleviate period symptoms. They state that leafy greens like kale and swiss chard, rich in iron and B vitamins, can help with sluggishness. However, it’s important to note that leafy greens contain non-heme iron, which is harder to absorb. Therefore, iron supplementation may be beneficial in helping to support iron levels.
  6. Sleep: A woman’s baseline body temperature increases by about 0.5C before her period, which may lead to poor sleep. If you’re struggling to fall asleep, try lowering the temperature of your home before going to bed. Aim to get about eight hours of sleep each night to ease period symptoms like depression, anxiety, and fatigue.
  7. Relaxation techniques: Find healthy ways to cope with stress, like meditation, breathing exercises, gentle exercise, yoga, massages, or warm baths. These techniques can help you wind down before bed and enjoy a deeper night’s sleep.
  8. Acupuncture: A 2014 review published in the BMC found that acupuncture resulted in a 50% or better reduction of period symptoms.
  9. Hydration: Drinking enough water throughout the day is especially important when you’re on your period and losing more fluids than usual. Harvard Health Publishing explains that adequate hydration can make a big difference if your energy is low. Dehydration can leave us feeling tired, and replenishing the water in our bodies may help to lift our energy levels again.

When Should You See a Doctor about your Period Fatigue?

The Office on Women’s Health reports that as many as 5% of women experience premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), a more severe form of period symptoms. Severe period fatigue may be a symptom of PMDD, which may require medical treatment.

Talk to your doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Fatigue that interferes with your ability to carry out daily activities and duties
  • Fatigue that persists after your period has ended
  • Other severe or debilitating PMS symptoms

Whether you want to get back to work, have the energy to take care of and play with the kids, play a sport, or feel more vivacious, try these steps throughout your cycle and see if they ease your symptoms.

Avril Flynn

Avril Flynn


Avril Flynn is a registered midwife and mum of one. As an expert in women’s health, Avril has been helping women gain knowledge and confidence for years. She takes a holistic approach to ensure parents feel empowered as they navigate parenthood. @AvrilTheMidwife