Nobody enjoys feeling exhausted. It makes it more difficult to focus on the details of an uninspiring work project, to respond calmly to the wailing of a child, or to take the time and energy to prepare a meal instead of grabbing unhealthy fast food. Feeling tired causes irritability towards people around us, decreases our motivation for tasks, and reduces out coping abilities for difficult situations. Simply put, it leaves us with the desire to curl up in bed and stay there for the rest of the week.
While it’s never particularly healthy to run on inadequate sleep, the body can recover from short periods of mild sleep deprivation. However, chronic, long-term insufficient sleep increases chances of diabetes, depression, cardiovascular disease, as well as weight gain. It is important to pay attention to what our body is communicating to us through the feeling of fatigue.
Are you getting enough sleep?
How much sleep a person needs varies, but on average, adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night, while the number of hours necessary per night tends to decrease with age. Different strategies can be employed to figure out how much sleep you personally need, but remember that getting too much sleep may also leave you feeling tired.
Are you sleeping well enough?
When it comes to sleep, how well you sleep is just as important as how long you sleep. Things you wouldn’t expect may be disrupting the quality of your sleep. The use of technology in and around the bedroom is becoming increasingly common nowadays. People often watch television close to bedtime and may use their cell phones, tablets, or even laptops while in bed. This type of electronic stimulation does not help us prepare for restful sleep but instead leaves our minds buzzing as we continue to process all the information. The light radiating from devices may disturb our melatonin production, and confuse the body’s natural association of sleep with darkness according to a study done by Charles Czeisler, professor of sleep medicine at Harvard Medical School. The quality of our sleep might improve significantly if we decide to leave these devices out of the bedroom, or at least make sure that they are completely shut down about an hour before we go to sleep.
How do you treat your body when you are not sleeping?
We all realize that our experiences during the time we spend awake have a profound effect on how we sleep and how well-rested we feel afterward. Nutrition, for example, plays a vital role in energizing or exhausting the body. Regular, balanced meals are the way to go, preferably around the same time every day. Try to avoid going five hours without eating during the day; regular eating avoids cravings so you can ward off overeating and the following energy crashes. Reducing your added sugar intake, which may cause a brief burst of energy but leads to general sluggishness, is a great way to boost your overall energy. Remember, losing excess weight thanks to healthy changes in your diet may also help you feel less tired.
Eating regularly can also keep you from going to bed hungry. Eating right before sleep is a not such a great idea, but having a small snack (e.g. cottage cheese, grapes, oatmeal) 1-2 hours before bed can eliminate the hunger pangs that may keep you from a good night’s sleep.
Participation in plenty of physical activity earlier on in the day can improve your sleep quality; if you are sufficiently tired physically, you will be able to sleep better. Another benefit of exercise is the production of endorphins which help you feel better and improve your overall mental well being. Of course, aerobic exercise is not recommended close to bedtime as the increased metabolic rate it creates works against the lower metabolic rate of sleep.
Is it all in your mind?
A very powerful contributor to feeling fatigued is mental exhaustion. Struggling with feelings of stress, anxiety, depression, even boredom during the day, can put you under considerable amounts of mental strain. If you have recently experienced a major uprooting life change, such as moving to a new home, the breakup of a relationship, or anxiety over a new job, it is only natural that these things may upsetting or difficult. Such life events can be somewhat overwhelming and may take their toll on the quality and quantity of your sleep for quite some time.
A strategy helpful in dealing with feeling overwhelmed is to write down the list of issues that are causing your stress, adding a possible solution to each concern. Another useful tip is taking an hour or so before bedtime to begin to wind down. During this time, abandon technology, take a warm shower or bath, have some decaffeinated tea, listen to soothing music or read in bed. Take this time to do whatever it is you need to do to calm down, clear your mind, and get ready for turning in.
Is it a medical issue?
While we all go through temporary phases of tiredness at several points in life, it is important to recognize warning signs of chronic fatigue. If you have tried making changes in your diet, your sleeping habits, as well as put effort towards de-stressing your life, but you still feel drastically fatigued, perhaps you should visit your doctor. Long-term fatigue could be a symptom of anemia, thyroid problem, metabolic problems like diabetes and other serious psychological illnesses like depression.
If you are struggling with fatigue you may discuss this with your doctor, find the cause, and treat the issue before it becomes a greater health problem.