If you feel that your period is unpredictable in terms of arrival dates or if you notice a change in the flow, you might not be aware of things you are doing that are affecting it. Here are eight everyday things that can mess up your menstrual cycle.

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Yes, there really is such a thing as too much exercise. With excessive exercise, your period can either get lighter or just stop altogether – this is, in fact, a common issue with female marathon runners. This is because your body needs a certain amount of fat in order to ovulate so if you have very low body fat as a result of excessive exercising, your body stops producing reproductive hormones. Skipping your period for a month or two might be okay but if you go three months without getting a period, it’s time to see your doctor.

If your job involves shift work or you work irregular hours because you deal with different time zones, your cycle can get affected too. Research has shown that women who work irregular hours are more likely to have cycles that are less than 21 days or more than 40 days (ie. too short or too long), as opposed to women who work set hours. This is because working irregular hours affects your body’s circadian rhythm, which controls a lot of functions in your body, including your period.

If you don’t get enough sleep, apart from feeling perpetually, your hormones will be affected too. This then affects the process of ovulation, as well as your menstrual cycle in general. Another thing affected when you lack sleep is your melatonin levels, which has a part in regulating your cycle.

Too many fat cells in your body results in higher levels of oestrogen, which stops the process of ovulation. This is why is very common for obese women to have heavy, infrequent and longer-lasting periods. Having elevated oestrogen levels for a long period of time increases your risk of endometrial cancer – as your endometrial lining still continues to get thicker – so try to lose weight or speak to your doctor about going on the pill, as this makes your endometrial lining thinner.

You might have noticed that when you’re going through a period of immense stress, your period tends to be very unpredictable. This is because of your body’s natural response to high stress levels – it shuts down the production of hormones that you need to ovulate. However, this doesn’t happen if you just have the usual everyday stresses of living in the 21st century; it only happens in periods of extreme stress, such as losing a loved one or going through a divorce.

Don’t be surprised if you find that you’re slowly but surely getting your period around the same time as your best friend, sister or flatmate. It’s not a myth, your period actually does get affected by other women’s cycles, especially those in close proximity to you. This is called menstrual synchrony and pheromones are the reason it happens.

Certain types of prescription medicines can affect your cycle, especially when you first get onto or get off the course of medication. Some examples are steroids, antidepressants, blood pressure pills and even allergy medicines. This is because your body is adjusting to the medication, or lack of it. If your period stops when you’re going through this, you should see a doctor

We’re not talking about going on holiday twice a year here, it’s when you’re flying between time zones every few days. If that’s part of your job schedule, your period might be suffering too. This relates to the melatonin produced by your body, which gets out of whack when you’re switching between daylight and night time very irregularly.

Got more concerns about your period? Read our stories Try some TCM the next time your period pains you with nausea and cramps; 15 weird vagina problems and how to deal with them and 5 quick fixes for back pain, menstrual cramps and other common aches

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