Why do our periods make us so damn sleepy?
Welcome to the HelloGiggles PMS Diaries, where I talk all about the most insane things done, eaten, or cried about while in the throes of my period, from days before it starts, to the day it arrives (P-day), all the way to the end.
Every month, I’m documenting the best and the worst of my PMS calamities and offer a little expert insight into why our bodies do what they do, need what they need, and what we can do about it.
7 Days before P-day: The week of the nap
It’s normal for a grown woman to take a nap everyday at 3:00 p.m. Right?
I’ve been so tired in the week before P-day that I believe I’ve left a Sundi-shaped dent in my sofa. Forget about worrying about how much I’m eating, y’all need to worry about how much I sleep. Seriously, I may be sleeping my life away.
In fact, I was so tired last week that I didn’t even have the energy to dig the pork skin crumbs out of my sports bra. When I took it off at the end of the day, they just rained down all over my lap, a reminder that I ate an entire bag earlier in the day.
I thought I was the only one fighting this battle with fatigue, but it turns out it’s one of the most common and most affecting symptoms of PMS. This handy-dandy info graphic from The Huffington Post lays out the phases of our cycles and how it affects our sleep patterns. This report claims that 20% of women “report sleepiness during their daily activities” during their menstrual cycle. This happens during ovulation mostly because of “increased levels of progesterone.”
It’s kind of like your body amps up the production of estrogen, to get those eggs cranked out, and once it realizes there’s not gonna be any kind of fertilization, your estrogen levels drop and so does your ability to keep your eyes open during the day.
Ugh. It's true. The best way to combat the sleepies is to exercise.
I know. I know. It’s not what you wanna hear. It seems so counterintuitive – to workout when you’re so exhausted. But Livestrong.com backs me up here. They say, “Get some exercise each day. It can be something as light as a 30-minute walk. The important thing is to get up and get moving, which will give you an energy boost and allow you to rest more fully in the evening.”
I bit the bullet and went for the run. It was a tough start but it worked: I felt better.
3 Days before P-day: The need to just cry it out.
I’ll admit it. I’m a tender, fragile little baby bird who will cry with little to no provocation. But the week before/the week of my period is a particularly emotional time, fraught with tear-jerking landmines.
In my case, I like to just lean into the sniveling. Just give all the way into the ennui, cry as much as I need to, and then wind up on the other side. The same boyfriend that I broke up with last month, I’ve broken up with at least three times since then (which is another 1000 words altogether), so I decided to just indulge the weepies. Cue a sobfest marathon to include Casablanca, Officer and A Gentleman, and the aforementioned Grey’s Anatomy.
Why do we cry on our periods?
Women’s Health says that crying, “started out as a protective response mechanism.” Like the kind that happens when we cut onions or walk into a strong wind. But the same nerves that trigger those kind of tears “also reach higher in the brain, into the cerebrum, and that’s where ’emotional tears’ get their start.”
In our Western culture, we relate tears to our periods because, “we like to think of tears as part of our deeper, uncontrollable animal nature; that gives us permission to indulge in those cry-till-you-gag jags.” But it’s more likely the opposite. “It’s more likely that we weep because we’re so highly evolved — because our minds tease out endless ribbons of regret and conjecture and what if,” which sounds about right to this big ol’ crybaby.
“They relieve our turmoil by refocusing our attention from the mental to the physical.”
P-Day: My pants won’t button, nothing fits and everything is NOT awesome
You know the struggle. The acrobatics, the breath holding, the tugging and sucking in. Those pants were tight before, but now I’m feeling like ten pounds of sugar in a five-pound sack. While I shouldn’t complain about having to suffer through PMS and P-Day while at the beach – it makes me sound like an ungrateful grouch, I know – it doesn’t change the fact that my jeans were tight. And it’s definitely NOT because I ate my weight in seafood while I was there.
No, these jeans felt legitimately tight. In fact, I had to unbutton them a little after dinner. I actually had to reach under the table cloth at the restaurant and undo them. Of course, I rebuttoned them when it was time to leave, but trust me, it was under extreme duress.
I’ve talked a lot about my emotional eating, and how I’m prone to “eating my feelings” as a knee-jerk reaction to my PMS. And I’m not alone. It’s just the science of hormones. But… there’s new research to suggest that the very destructive way that women go through their cycle, “feeling fat” might just be in our heads. Well, sort of.
Cosmopolitan UK cites a study co-authored by Kelly L. Klump, a psychology professor from Michigan State University. The study suggests, “Essentially, our bodies become one big vicious cycle throughout our period. Hormones cause us to emotionally (or binge) eat, and as a result of that, we then become preoccupied with our weight, which fuels the negativity, which probably feeds the desire to emotionally eat. What a trauma.”
But there’s good news too:
"The weight gain is not likely to be real."
Just because you feel like you’ve gained 100 pounds, everything looks weird when you try it on, and your pants are aggressively tight, you probably didn’t really gain any weight. It’s a psychosomatic response to a lot of factors, one of which being the pressure we put on ourselves. We must stop it.
So eat the extra slider, if you want, and buy the fancy cheese. You’ll feel normal again soon. Then completely abnormal again before too long. But that’s what it means to be a woman.
I’d love to hear your PMS confessions. Tell me about the times having a period was the best and the absolute worst. Find me on SnapChat, Instagram, or Twitter @srosehole