Struggling with tiredness or PMS? Understand how to reduce your symptoms

Sometimes it can be hard to distinguish symptoms which are being caused by tiredness compared to those menstrual related…or premenstrual symptoms can seem worse because of tiredness.

This is something that has taken me a while to work out personally, I experience similar symptoms when I am tired as those that are menstrual related. Usually this is lower motivation, forgetful and irritable. However, it is important to distinguish between the cause of these symptoms – to do this I have tracked my cycle and sleep for several months. Through tracking I have increased awareness of how my sleep and menstrual cycle interact and as a result can manage and resolve these symptoms. 

How to complete this?

  • Track your menstrual cycle for 3 months, noting symptoms. If you are unsure of symptoms to track using a free online app can be helpful (I would recommend Clue).
  • Track your sleep at the same time, how many hours sleep, how long it took to get to sleep and also rate your quality of sleep – did you wake up frequently, were you restless?
  • Identify if these relate, do you see an increase number of severity of symptoms when you are tired the week before your period? Do you experience premenstrual like symptoms at the start of your cycle when you have had either less hours or reduced quality of sleep.

What to do?

  • Focus on improving your sleep quality and quantity which can be achieved by:
    • Work on something called sleep hygiene – try and have a regular wake up and sleep time, ensure your room is dark and quiet (eye mask and ear plugs if this isn’t possible), a comfortable mattress and pillow, not too hot in your room.
    • Keep your bedroom for sleeping, avoiding working, eating or watching TV here
    • Avoid large meals immediately before bed, instead a light protein snack can help with sleep (as well as improve recovery from exercise)
    • Lower lighting when it gets close to bedtime to reduce waking you up, using your phone can be similar as well

Continue to track and monitor your menstrual related symptoms and sleep to see if there are any improvements in your symptoms.

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Dr Natalie Brown

Hey! I am Natalie, a research associate exploring all things menstrual cycle and sport related, whether that is Olympic performance or factors affecting participation in physical activity. When I am not talking about the menstrual cycle, I love climbing and being active outside. I have a background in physiology and research related to hormonal responses in athletes (male and female), combined with my own personal experience in sport, I am passionate to share information on the menstrual cycle with you.

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