Ever noticed how, just as you're gearing up for your period, your mood may seem to pack its bags and say, "I need a break"? You're not alone, and there's a scientific explanation for why your mental health might take a nosedive during that time of the month.

The Hormonal Roller Coaster

Your menstrual cycle is essentially a complex hormonal dance, choreographed by estrogen and progesterone. During the early follicular phase—aka your period—both estrogen and progesterone are at rock bottom. This hormonal withdrawal can hit your brain like a ton of bricks, impacting how you feel and function.


Estrogen isn’t just about reproductive health; it also plays a crucial role in modulating neurotransmitters like serotonin, which helps regulate your mood. Low levels of estrogen can lead to less serotonin, which might leave you feeling like a deflated balloon at a party. (1,2,3)

The Sleep Connection

Ever tried to sleep on a bed of nails? Not quite what happens during your period, but it might feel close. Progesterone, which drops as your period starts, is also involved in helping you catch those zzz's. When it dips, your sleep quality might plummet alongside it. Poor sleep doesn’t just make you cranky; it can magnify any stress or anxiety you’re already feeling (3).

Inflammation and You

Inflammation in your body tends to peak during menstruation, and this biological change can influence your brain in ways that foster anxiety and depressive symptoms. Think of it as your body sounding false alarms in your brain's chemistry, making you feel like something's amiss when everything is actually okay, physically speaking.

Sugar Cravings Spike

Hormonal fluctuations can also send your blood sugar levels on a mini roller coaster of their own. You might find yourself reaching for sugary snacks to boost your energy and mood. While that chocolate bar feels like a lifesaver, the subsequent sugar crash can send your mood tumbling down again.

What Can You Do?

Understanding is the first step to managing these cyclical changes. Here are a few strategies that could ease the mental health dip during your period:

  • Nutritional Support: Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon and flaxseeds, can combat inflammation, while magnesium-rich foods like almonds and spinach might help with sleep and mood.
  • Exercise: Engaging in light exercise, such as yoga or a leisurely walk, can increase endorphins and help stabilize your mood.
  • Sleep Hygiene: Establishing a soothing pre-sleep routine can enhance your sleep quality, even when your hormones are making a quiet night seem like a distant dream.
  • Mindfulness and Relaxation: Techniques such as meditation or deep-breathing exercises can reduce stress and promote a sense of calm.


Every woman’s experience with her menstrual cycle is unique, which means managing these symptoms often requires a personalized approach. By paying close attention to how your body and mood shift throughout your cycle, you can better prepare and adjust your coping strategies to suit your specific needs.

So, next time your mood seems to fall as your period approaches, remember: it's not just you, and it's certainly not all in your head. It's a complex interplay of hormones, sleep, and body chemistry—all of which are natural parts of the menstrual cycle. Armed with this understanding, you can find ways to support yourself through those tough days.



1. Hoffman, M., MD, 2022. Estrogen and Women’s Emotions [WWW Document]. WebMD. URL https://www.webmd.com/women/estrogen-and-womens-emotions (accessed 4.19.24). 


2. Miller, K.J., Rogers, S., 2007. The Estrogen-Depression Connection: The Hidden Link Between Hormones and Women’s Depression. New Harbinger  Publications. 


3. Ziomkiewicz, A., Pawlowski, B., Ellison, P.T., Lipson, S.F., Thune, I., Jasienska, G., 2012. Higher luteal progesterone is associated with low levels of premenstrual aggressive behavior and fatigue. Biological Psychology 91, 376–382. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsycho.2012.08.001