Sometimes, I dream about how pleasant life would be if I didn’t get my period every month. I wouldn’t have to deal with brain fog or cramps, or worry about whether or not I have any tampons in my house (or scramble when I realize I definitely do not). I also wouldn’t have to force myself to function when all I really want to do, at least for a day or two, is cozy up in bed and nap. When my period hits, my energy crashes, and I transform into a slothier version of myself—and I know I’m not alone.

Fatigue (a.k.a. extreme tiredness) consistently ranks among the most common PMS symptoms. A recent report that looked at data from the Flo period tracking app, for example, found that about 57% of users experience some degree of tiredness or fatigue right before menstruation starts.1 Another recent study found that period symptoms, like cramps and heavy bleeding, prevent many people from sleeping soundly—and if you’re not well-rested, you’re not going to be the zippiest version of yourself.2

To put it bluntly, menstruation can be a total energy suck, especially if your symptoms push you to the limit every month. Here’s why your period can be so draining—as well as a few ways to feel like less of a zombie whenever, in the iconic words of Cher Horowitz in Clueless, you’re riding the crimson wave.

Why your period can make you feel so tired

In general, there is a lot going on in your body before and during your period, Lubna Pal, MBBS, a reproductive endocrinologist and professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at the Yale School of Medicine, tells SELF.

Naturally, hormones are part of the problem.

A few days before your flow starts, the hormones estrogen and progesterone plummet in your body.3 This decline in estrogen, in particular, causes a dip in serotonin, too—a chemical that affects your mood and energy.4 As a result, you may feel weak and worn out, Abby Eblen, MD, a board-certified reproductive endocrinologist with the Nashville Fertility Center, tells SELF. In fact, it’s well-documented that lower estrogen levels are intertwined with feeling worn out.5

Meanwhile, the tissue lining your uterus (a.k.a. the endometrium) starts to break down, triggering an inflammatory response, Dr. Pal says.6 Your uterus contracts to release the lining, causing cramps, menstrual bleeding, and, to put it in scientific terms, the blahs. All of this hard work your body is doing, along with the pain and discomfort associated with it, can be exhausting, Dr. Pal says.

Your period also messes with your sleep.

That’s not all (and why would it be!). Your period can disrupt your sleep, too—especially if your flow is on the heavier side and/or you’ve got particularly awful cramps, Dr. Eblen says.7 (Good to know I’m not the only one who bolts awake with pain shooting across my lower abdomen at 3 a.m.) Basically, all of the emotional and physical turmoil that goes down during this hellish week or so can make you toss and turn, she adds.

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