Jan 27, 2023

 As a menstruator, do you know about your infradian rhythm? 

It’s likely you’ve heard of your circadian rhythm. The rhythm that cycles every 24 hours and governs things like your sleep, appetite and other behavioural changes, yet our infradian rhythm seems to get forgotten about. 

In this blog post we will break down what your infradian rhythm is and how it connects you to your menstrual cycle and the world around you. 


So, what is an infradian rhythm? 

Infradian rhythms are biological cycles that occur over a period of days or weeks as opposed to circadian rhythms—which typically occur within 24 hours. The most widely recognised example of an infradian rhythm is the female menstrual cycle which typically occurs on a 29 day cycle (though this varies greatly). Other examples include bird migration patterns and hibernation cycles in animals. 

Your infradian rhythm governs not only your menstrual cycle, but your gut microbiome, stress response, brain, metabolism and immune system.  So it’s an important system to know and to regulate. 

Due to our infradian rhythm, it can often feel as though we are pushing against a force greater than us; coming up against obstacles that those without a menstrual cycle are simply not. 
This is because the world that we exist in, its systems and its social structures were not designed with menstruators in mind. In fact, it was designed by men for existence in the male body. 
If we have a look at the hormonal journey for a cis-gendered male we can see how this is true. For men, testosterone is the primary hormone, and works on the same 24 hour cycle as their circadian rhythm.
Testosterone peaks in the morning, is slowly burnt throughout the day and by the evening it’s at its lowest. As they sleep, testosterone is replenished.
It’s a fairly simple and straightforward rhythm and it follows the cycle of the sun.

This, however, is vastly different from the hormonal landscape of a menstruator which is slightly more complex and has several key hormones at play. Both the lunar cycle and the average menstrual cycle are around 29 days in length. We move with the moon.
While the average menstrual cycle is approximately 29 days long, anything from 21-36 is considered ‘normal’.

A deeper look:
The first few days of our cycle, that is when we are bleeding, hormones are at their lowest and stabilised. From there, oestrogen builds, and with the help of a couple of other key hormones, we reach the peak and whole purpose of our cycle: ovulation.  After this, oestrogen drops and progesterone rises. Until eventually, both of those hormones bottom out and we shed our lining and begin another slow cycle.

Just like the moon, we wax and we wane. Each day, we experience these changes reflected in our bodies cues, our energy levels, emotions, resilience, sensitivity and intuition. When we pay attention, when we learn to read and understand the language of our bodies, we can notice the changing states and fluctuations that accompany these hormonal shifts.
They are a natural part of our biology and resisting them only causes pain and dis-harmony. And the expectation on us to show up and ‘perform’ the same each day is an impossible standard to meet.

I truly believe that a lot of the pain, tension and aggravation around so many women’s menstrual cycles is the body's way of communicating with us when things aren't working. When we are pushing too hard or not allowing space for rest when we need it. And it has been my experience that in living in alignment with, understanding the innate nature of my body, these tensions can fall away. 

When we look at these two very different hormonal trends, it may be easier to understand why so many more women report experiencing burnout than men; why so many of us find it difficult to meet the standards that are imposed on us without any consideration for our biology. All of these things compile, and until we are made aware of them, we don’t even realise how hard we are having to swim against the current.


So what can we do?

We can learn to read and understand the language of our bodies so that we may better meet our changing needs and desires.
We can learn to live in alignment with our natural rhythm, instead of pushing against it. 
We can lean into cyclical living to form patterns and habits that complement our internal landscape.
We can align our self-care accordingly to each phase.
We can re-examine what success looks like for us as menstruators in this productivity driven society.
And through all of these processes, we reclaim sovereignty over our bodies and experience these vessels as the safe, comfortable and loving homes they were always meant to be. 

This work is not always easy, but it’s important and it’s worthwhile.

If you would like to learn more about your cycle and how to live your life, move your body and care for yourself throughout each phase, take a look at ORBITAE.


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