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Wellness > Health

Rejecting the circadian rhythm: What if it is just a phase?

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Nottingham chapter.

The circadian rhythm. Another way that the world is implicitly male revolved.

The circadian rhythm is the 24-hour cycle of which we live our lives. Each day the cycle of our physical, mental, and behavioural processes supposedly resets and repeats, the same as the last day. So human routine views each day, and week as with the assumption that we wake up with the same capabilities each day. We live our lives around this; five-day work weeks, weekly gym goals, weekly essentials from the supermarket and the assumption we must achieve the same as the week previous. Yet women’s bodies are not made to adhere to this structure; capabilities cannot be assumed to be identical when women are not internally identical each day themselves due to the various and vastly varying hormones that are thrown at them for each stage of their cycle.

It is a well-known fact that during menstruation women are perceived differently during the 4-7 days of bleeding, but periods aren’t just bleeding. They are a whole cocktail of pain and hormones that affect energy levels, moods, concentration, and relationships…. it doesn’t just happen for those 4-7 days either. What is less known is that they are not merely in a state of ‘not menstruating’ and therefore supposedly neutral for the remaining days of the month. That would, of course, be too easy for women. Instead, we are sent to battle each day with every changing phase.

I am no scientific expert but from my own research I will briefly outline these stages:


Yes, this is the phase you already know. The 3-7 days of bleeding, pain, and irritability. No need for elaboration, everyone knows it.

Follicular phase

The good phase. The fun phase. The ‘I have energy’ phase.  We have Greater brain activity, greater brain sensitivity, more inspiration, and a rise in oestradiol, which lowers our stress hormones, resulting in happier moods, for longer periods of time.  


As the egg is released, there is an increase in luteinizing hormone, testosterone and oestradiol. All of these come together to simultaneously increase your libido, pain tolerance and awareness of your appearance. So, if, halfway through your cycle, you find yourself crying in the mirror and blowing your student loan on ASOS for new clothes, maybe wait the 24-48 hours for your ovulation to finish… 

Luteal phase

The follicle releases its eggs and progesterone and oestrogen increase, to thicken the uterine lining. Of course, the fun doesn’t stop at thickened linings; this comes hand in hand with a whole host of treats for your body:  bloating, headaches, mood swings, hunger, and changes in the way you perceive relationships. Rising progesterone levels are linked with increased cortisol levels (the stress hormone) which can cause bad moods and a situation, that in another phase would only affect you a little, release far more cortisol and therefore feel more stressed and upset about the same situation.

We also need more food and more sleep during this time. To top it off, this lasts around 14 days. So, if the average woman is battling these delightful symptoms for half of their time, it stresses even more the need for prioritising the two ‘good’ weeks.

Hopefully these distinct phases demonstrate that each phase results in a slightly modified version of you, and so it should be expected that your daily life also revolves around these changes.  I understand that the structure of the five-day work week cannot be upheaved, so a more realistic change would be to, cliché as it is, get in tune with your bodies and cycles. Adapt the day around them, setting aims for each phase, not the repetitive circadian week.  This involves not putting too much pressure on yourself for your harder days in the luteal and menstruation, whilst still making sure you utilise your optimum days in the follicular and ovulation phase. Don’t feel guilty that in your follicular phase you can go to the gym six times a week, finish your work early and still have energy left to socialise. Whilst in your luteal phase you can only manage the gym once, struggle to focus on your work and don’t want to socialise as much. Your body is different, so your routine should be different too.

Essentially, what I am attempting to hypothesise is, as far as can be realistic, the rejection of this circadian rhythm for people who have periods; Setting goals and making plans around cycles may be more efficient, to ultimately result in an easier, happier, and more successful life.

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Scarlett Wood

Nottingham '23

Third Year English Student at University of Nottingham ❤️