How to Beat Fatigue

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IMG_0608Fatigue is the No. 1 complaint I hear from my clients. There are things we can do to get our energy back.

Fatigue may result from overwork, poor sleep, worry, boredom, or lack of exercise. It is a symptom that may be caused by illness, medicine, or medical treatment. Anxiety or depression can also cause fatigue. If you have experienced fatigue for over two weeks, a visit to your physician for a physical exam is the first step.

If the exam didn’t reveal any medical or emotional causes here are some things you can do to get your energy back.

Eating protein is essential for staving off fatigue, especially early in the day when your cortisol levels are high. At breakfast eat an egg, a slice of ham on the side, cottage cheese or add milk to your oatmeal. Eat whole grains which are a complex carbohydrate that take longer to break down into glucose and provide sustained energy. 100% whole wheat toast or oatmeal are a good addition to your breakfast.

Eat small amounts of food every three to four hours to keep your blood sugars up in between meals. Snacks like fruit and nuts, string cheese, a scoop of cottage cheese or even leftover meat from last night’s dinner will satiate your hunger and boost energy levels in between meals.

Hydrate yourself because being dehydrated can lead to feelings of fatigue and increased heart rate.

Lack of sleep is most likely the main culprit behind low energy. Adults need 7-8 hours of sleep per night and teens 9-10 hours. To get better sleep you need to improve your bedroom hygiene. Here are some ways to improve bedroom hygiene:

Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. Having a regular sleep schedule helps to ensure better quality and consistent sleep. Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day sets the body’s “internal clock” to expect sleep at a certain time night after night. Try to stick as closely as possible to your routine on weekends.

Establish a regular relaxing bedtime routine. Try to avoid emotionally upsetting conversations and activities before trying to go to sleep. Don’t dwell on, or bring your problems to bed.

Ease the transition from wake time to sleep time with a period of relaxing activities an hour or so before bed. Take a bath (the rise, then fall in body temperature promotes drowsiness), read a book, watch television, or practice relaxation exercises. Avoid stressful, stimulating activities—doing work, discussing emotional issues. Physically and psychologically stressful activities can cause the body to secrete the stress hormone cortisol, which is associated with increasing alertness. If you tend to take your problems to bed, try writing them down—and then putting them aside.

Avoid stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol too close to bedtime. While alcohol is well known to speed the onset of sleep, it disrupts sleep in the second half as the body begins to metabolize the alcohol, causing arousal.

Exercise can promote good sleep. Vigorous exercise should be taken in the morning or late afternoon. A relaxing exercise, like yoga, can be done before bed to help initiate a restful night’s sleep.

Food can be disruptive right before sleep.  Stay away from large meals close to bedtime. Also dietary changes can cause sleep problems, if someone is struggling with a sleep problem, it’s not a good time to start experimenting with spicy dishes. And, remember, chocolate has caffeine.

A quiet and dark, and environment can help promote sound slumber. Use heavy curtains, blackout shades, or an eye mask to block light, a powerful cue that tells the brain that it’s time to wake up.

Keep the temperature comfortably cool—between 60 and 75°F—and the room well ventilated.

Lower the volume of outside noise with earplugs or a “white noise” appliance.

Make sure your mattress and pillows are comfortable.

It may help to limit your bedroom activities to sleep and sex only. Keeping computers, TVs, and work materials out of the room will strengthen the mental association between your bedroom and sleep.

Go to sleep when you’re truly tired: Struggling to fall sleep just leads to frustration. If you’re not asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed, go to another room, and do something relaxing, like reading or listening to music until you are tired enough to sleep.

Don’t be a nighttime clock-watcher: Staring at a clock in your bedroom, either when you are trying to fall asleep or when you wake in the middle of the night, can actually increase stress, making it harder to fall asleep. Turn your clock’s face away from you.

And if you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep in about 20 minutes, get up and engage in a quiet, restful activity such as reading or listening to music. And keep the lights dim; bright light can stimulate your internal clock.

Ensure adequate exposure to natural light during the day. This is particularly important for older people who may not venture outside as frequently as children and adults. Natural light keeps your internal clock on a healthy sleep-wake cycle. So let in the light first thing in the morning and get outside for a sun break during the day.

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