Fatigue can have a significant impact on every area of your life. Have you ever had that feeling when you are desperate to sleep, but you are lying in bed staring at the ceiling? Your thoughts are going around your head like they are a high-speed train trapped on a never-ending circular track. You know that as the new day dawns, you will feel irritated, fed up, and exhausted.
The worst part? This pattern is happening night after night. And you can’t figure out why you can’t get some valuable and restorative rest when you are so tired.
When you are suffering from fatigue, it starts to impact your ability to focus on work, and how you care for your children. You begin to feel like you are not fully engaged, and you struggle to do exercise. Your eating patterns may go awry, and you strive to have healthy regular meals. And this can, of course, lead to weight gain. Which makes you even more miserable and fed up.
Added to this, you are stressed because you are not functioning properly. And your heightened anxiety levels can increase your cortisol levels, which will also contribute to you holding and gaining weight. It’s a vicious cycle.
So, what can you do about fatigue and how do you stop it causing havoc physically and mentally?
Fatigue has many causes, but it’s not usually associated solely with disease. Dietary and lifestyle habits, as well as several medical and non-medical reasons, can all contribute to the problem.
What is fatigue?
Fatigue is also known as tiredness, lack of energy, and lack of motivation, to physical and mental exhaustion. The causes can be psychological, physiological, and physical. When making a diagnosis, doctors will ask you questions about your sleeping patterns, do urine and blood tests, and possibly carry out a physical examination.
Symptoms of fatigue can include:
*Lack of motivation
*Muscle weakness and sore or achy muscles
*Inability to follow through with activities
*Difficulty with concentration and memory (confusion, forgetfulness)
*Chronic sleepiness; sleep disturbances
*Anxiety with no cause or feeling fearful
Whether you are suffering from one or many of these symptoms, they can have a severe impact on your life and health.
What are the causes of fatigue?
Fatigue is usually the result of one or more of the following:
Psychological and psychosocial – this includes stress, depression, and anxiety.
Physical –these include anemia, diabetes, cancer, and glandular fever.
Physiological – this could be from to you being pregnant, breast-feeding, lack of sleep, and excessive exercise. It can manifest itself as a change in your appetite, or unexplained weight loss, or gain.
Another physiological reason for fatigue is having enlarged lymph nodes. You may also have a cough, pain, or fever, which is the result of an infection.
If you have sleep apnea (a potentially serious disorder where your breathing stops and starts) or restless leg syndrome (an unpleasant or uncomfortable sensation in your legs which makes you really want to move them), this will also stop you from getting proper rest.
Having a thyroid disorder, or an underactive thyroid gland can also leave you feeling tired. Your thyroid, among other things, produces hormones that govern how fast you burn calories. You may feel cold, or have constipation, and joint or muscle pain if it’s not working properly. And of course, you may gain weight, as well as feel sad and depressed.
If you are suffering from fatigue because of lack of sleep, or you are bored, have emotional stress, or have done a lot of exercise, this is not considered a medical problem.
You also need to recognize if you are tired (fatigued) or you are just feeling sleepy, because there is a difference. If you are tired, you lack energy and concentration. You are also irritable, and you will be feeling unmotivated.
But if you are sleepy, you will be struggling to stay awake. You could be sitting in the chair and falling asleep. Sleepiness can be a sign of a sleep disorder or not getting enough sleep at night.
The irony with fatigue is, you may have seven or eight-hours of sleep, but it may be poor quality. So, you aren’t actually getting proper rest at all!
How do you treat fatigue?
Ditch electronics from your bedroom
Do you check your phone before you turn the light off? Guilty as charged! But that quick last glance at your emails before bed (who is really going to answer at 10.30 pm at night anyway?) could stop you from getting some serious shut-eye.
Removing electronics and phones from the bedroom can improve your ability to relax. This includes your TV and laptop. Studies have shown that the light coming from computers can stimulate your brain, making it harder for you to ‘switch off’ when trying to rest.
You should also stay away from that TV binge. Staying up for an extra half hour just to watch one more episode can leave you feeling tired and rotten for up to 16 hours the next day. But if you have an extra 30 minutes of sleep, that makes all the difference. And if you do that five nights a week, it adds up! You may not get into the rhythm at first, but it can soon make a difference.
Back to that phone. Thousands of years ago when we used to have to worry about being eaten, humans would wake to check their environment was still safe before going back to sleep. But today, with our phone’s inches away from our heads, any notification can bring you out of your slumber. In sleep lab studies, the first thing people did was reach for their phone when they woke up. And that stimulates your brain to snap out of sleep mode. If you MUST have your phone in the bedroom, charge it under the bed or place it on the other side of the room, and keep it on silent.
Your diet can have a huge impact on treating fatigue. For example, sugary and carbohydrate-heavy meals cause fatigue because they make your blood glucose level spike then plummet.
If you try and eat protein with every meal, it can help keep your blood sugar balanced. This can also help you avoid the dreaded mid-afternoon energy slump. The bonus is foods that are rich in protein also often contain iron. Go for meat, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, and beans for protein.
Try and avoid processed foods and sugars as much as possible. If your diet is high in calories and low in nutrients, this affects your energy. You won’t have any! Load up on whole, unprocessed foods, and include lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. If you are still feeling tired, get your doctor to check your iron and vitamin D levels. A deficiency in either could be the reason behind your exhaustion.
Stay away from alcohol before bed
Do you enjoy a nightcap or glass of wine to unwind? Be wary of having that last evening drink. Why? It actually interferes with your sleep cycle. You might fall asleep faster, but you’ll get less REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. That’s the deep, restorative sleep you need to operate at your best. So steer clear of the vino before going to bed.
When you’re not drinking enough water, your organs struggle to work efficiently. They have to work harder to pump blood and nutrients around your body. Water is truly the elixir of life!
Try and have six to eight glasses of water throughout the day. But you don’t have to drink gallons of the wet stuff. You can get water from fruits and vegetables, like melon, grapes, oranges, and peaches.
If the thought of working up a sweat is making you sweat, you don’t have to push yourself to the limit every day to get exercise benefits.
It’s recommended you should exercise for at least 150 minutes each week. That can be broken down into 30 minutes, five days a week. And even a 30-minute walk can help you make that your weekly quota.
Studies show regular exercise boosts energy levels, even among people who are tired. So not only will it help you sleep, it will help you have more energy as well.
Stay away from stimulants
Caffeine is a no-no if you want to get some sleep. As you age, your ability to digest and eliminate caffeine plummets. So, if you love your cold brew, try and stick to 200 to 300 mg of caffeine per day that’s about 1 to 2 cups of an 8-ounce coffee. And try not to drink it after 10 am. If you do to have an afternoon coffee, don’t have it any later than 2 pm.
Keep calm and carry on
Stress and anxiety can be worrying and draining. When you’re constantly in 'fight or flight' mode, your heart works harder, and your blood pressure is up. It’s like you are on high-alert 24/7. That’s a lot of pressure on you mentally and physically.
Make sure you add some relaxation strategies into your day. Go for a walk, read a 'feel good' book, or practice yoga. Just taking a few moments several times a day to do something calming can make all the difference. In fact, just one minute of meditation practiced daily can make an impact. And I’m sure you can find the time to spare at least 60 seconds to take a step back.
If you liked this blog post, then check out my blog post on 5 'Healthy Foods' That Are Sabotaging Your Body Goals.