If I Had a Dollar……

If I had a dollar for every patient that complained of fatigue I would not still be on the 30 year plan for paying off my school loans and I definitely would not still be driving my Honda Odyssey.

Far too often in my day to day interactions with patients do I hear “ I am tired all the time.”   I hear complaints of waking up tired and relying on energy drinks or far too much coffee to make it though the afternoon slump.   It isn’t just sleep deprivation that is to blame.    Many report actually spending enough time in bed, but still fighting fatigue all day.   One frustrated patient stated “it’s depressing that the first thought I have when I wake up in the morning is fantasizing about how long it is until they can go to bed again.”   When someone is living in this cycle, they can forget finding the energy to exercise and usually their relationships struggle as well.

Below are five factors that contribute to fatigue and some recommendations to combat it.

Too much caffeine.

This one might come as a surprise.  Isn’t coffee supposed to give you energy? When used correctly caffeine can provide a helpful boost of energy and brain power.  But it’s important to be wary of caffeine dependence and overuse.   Too much caffeine can make you anxious, spike your heart rate and blood pressure, interfere with your sleep at night, and ultimately put your body under increased stress, contributing to adrenal fatigue, which can lead to extreme fatigue.  Try instead to slowly decrease your caffeine intake, limiting it to only the few hours after waking.  Simultaneously increase your intake of healthy fats and proteins, which will provide lasting energy for your body and brain throughout the day.

An irregular sleep schedule.

If you are sleeping 8 or more hours a night but you are still tired, it may be because your sleep schedule is inconsistent.  Our bodies have an internal biological clock that drives the release of certain hormones, such as melatonin and cortisol throughout the day.  This means that going to bed at 8PM on the weekends and staying up to 3AM on the weekends can leave the body confused and feeling like you are jet lagged all the time.  The solution is clear on this one.  Keep your sleep wake times as consistent as possible throughout the entire week and notice how your energy levels, level themselves.

Lack of exercise.

I know the last thing you want to do when you’re tired is exercise.  But it almost always helps to get your body moving. In fact, it may be the cure to your fatigue that you’ve been hoping for. Studies have shown that exercise, especially mild-to-moderate intensity exercise, can actually lead to decreases in fatigue. So go ahead and dig deep and drag yourself to the gym, out on that run, or to that hot yoga or spin class.  If needed, start slow with a daily walk and work your way up more intense exercise and hopefully you will find your newfound burst of energy.

Poor Dietary Choices

The average American consumes 57 pounds of added sugar per year, which means a lot of us have some serious unstable blood sugar issues on a regular basis.  This roller coaster can affect your mood, cravings, weight, and energy levels.   In fact, fatigue is one of the primary symptoms of diabetes.    Keep a food journal and pay attention to your daily sugar intake and how much processed foods you eat.  Start replacing all the bad stuff you have come to realize that you eat with fruit and vegetables and increase your fiber intake and see those blood sugar levels stabilize.

Depression

We all have a rough day here and there and days where we have a “glass half empty” type of mentality.  For others, these days tend to me more frequent and meet the criteria or a diagnosis of depression.   One of the most common signs of depression is fatigue and lack of motivation to do things that you used to enjoy.   The most important thing to do if this describes you is to seek professional help and possible treatment.   The good news is that once treated depression sufferers usually notice energy improve and they can get back to enjoying life.

Hopefully addressing the above 5 things proves to be helpful for someone reading this who fantasizes about the next time they get to go to bed.

In the meantime….take a nap, it’s good for you!