The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has classified “insufficient sleep” as a public health problem.
According to a recent report, lack of sleep is linked to car wrecks, industrial disasters, and medical and other occupational errors.
People who don’t get enough sleep are now known to be at a higher risk for hypertension, diabetes, depression, and obesity, as well as from some forms of cancer. Worse, they are more likely to die prematurely, and to have reduced quality of life and productivity.
Most of us can relate. We know how it feels to be tired all the time. It can be a constant struggle to try to get to bed, and then once you’re there, to actually go to sleep and sleep well.
But what if I told you it’s not only a lack of sleep that’s causing you to feel tired all the time?
If you want to enjoy more energy in your days, this post is for you. We’ll help you understand what’s causing your fatigue, and what you can do to turn it around.
1. You’ve skipped your exercise routine one too many times.
Often, when we’re tired, we find it difficult to stick with our exercise routines. We beg off, maybe for a day or two or more, thinking we’ll recover and then get back to it.
Problem is that when we don’t exercise for a couple days or more, we tend to feel more tired, not less. In a 2008 study, researchers treated one group of fatigued participants with 20 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (on an exercise bike) three times a week for six weeks. The second group engaged in low-intensity exercise for the same time, and the third group did no exercise.
Results showed that both of the exercise groups had a 20 percent increase in energy by the end of the study, compared to the control group. And get this-the moderate-intensity group on it’s own experienced a 49 percent drop in fatigue, but the low-intensity exercise group experienced a 65 percent drop. That means you don’t have to kill yourself during your exercise time to enjoy the benefits. A nice energetic walk may be all you need.
2. You’re not drinking enough water.
Even if you’re slightly dehydrated, you can feel fatigued as a result. Estimates are that just a two percent fluid loss reduces energy.
A 2012 study, for example, reported that even mild dehydration-of only 1.5 percent loss in normal water volume-can alter mood, energy level, and the ability to think clearly.
Here’s another tip-if you wait until you’re thirsty, it may be too late. “Our thirst sensation doesn’t really appear until we are 1 or 2 percent dehydrated,” said study author Lawrence E. Armstrong. “By then dehydration is already setting in and starting to impact how our mind and body perform.”
Studies in young women have also shown that mild dehydration can cause headaches, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating, and that women seem to be more sensitive than men to the effects of low levels of dehydration.
Drink about eight, 8-ounce glasses a day, and watch your urine color. It should be a very pale yellow. Dark yellow or tan indicates dehydration.
3. You’re a perfectionist.
Perfectionists tend to spend more time on everything in an attempt to make it perfect, robbing themselves of their energy in the process.
Researchers on perfectionism report that in the workplace, perfectionists are often less productive than other people because they lose time and energy on small, irrelevant details or mundane daily activities.
If you find yourself laboring over your kids’ lunches, for example, making sure they’re just right, or if you’re taking more than ten minutes to respond to an email making sure the wording flows like Shakespeare’s prose, you may be wasting your energy and causing your own chronic fatigue.
Try to set priorities. Choose at least five things each day that aren’t that important, and learn how to do them more quickly and let them go before they’re perfect. The more you practice, the better you’ll get at it, and you may find your energy coming back to you.
4. You’re living on junk food.
We all know that eating healthy is best, but when we’re rushing around in our daily lives, we may slip.
We get busy doing things and suddenly realize we’re famished, and then we dive for the closest thing to satisfy our hunger. Usually those things aren’t healthy. Fatty, sugary foods and simple carbohydrates are high on the glycemic index, which means they spike blood sugar. You may feel better for twenty minutes or so, but then you’ll experience the crash, and long for a nap.
Keep your blood sugar steady for more energy. Choose high-fiber snacks, and make sure each meal has some lean protein, fiber, whole grains, and healthy fruits and veggies. Make your own snacks and take them with you to avoid feeling famished throughout the day.
5. Your world is full of clutter.
Did you know that clutter is exhausting to the brain?
A 2011 study found that when you have a lot of clutter around you, be it at home or in the office, all that stuff competes for your attention. Of course you can’t address it all, so it sits there like a nagging toddler going “Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom!!”
It also distracts you, messes up your focus, and makes it harder for you to get things done. All this can wear on your mind and body, leaving you tired at the end of the day, and you’re not even sure why.
Try picking up to see if you don’t feel more energy. Clean out the office and take a spring-cleaning attitude to your house. If you haven’t used it in the past year and are unlikely to in the future, give it away. Cutting back on material things helps lighten the load, and you’ll probably feel it with a new spring in your step.
6. You haven’t taken a vacation in over a year.
Americans are horrible at taking vacations. We leave more vacation days on the table than almost any other culture in the world.
We have our excuses. It’s too expensive. It takes too much work to plan. I’ll just have all this work to do when I get back.
Ditch your excuses and plan your getaway now. If you can’t go out of town, plan a staycation that includes trips to the surrounding areas you haven’t visited in awhile.
It’s critical not only for your energy, but for your health. Studies have linked overwork to depression, heavy drinking, diabetes, memory problems, and heart disease.
7. You’re on your gadgets late at night.
Bad. Very bad.
Studies have connected using smartphones, computers, and tablets late at night to less sleep, and less sleep leads to all sorts of health problems.
It’s that blue light these gadgets emit. It tells the brain it’s not time to sleep yet, so the brain holds off on producing melatonin, the sleep hormone. When we finally shut the gadgets off at 11 or midnight or whatever it is, the brain isn’t ready, and we have trouble sleeping, especially getting that critical REM “deep” sleep which is so important.
The result is we feel tired the next day, and our circadian rhythms get thrown off. The effects can last for days, and get worse every time we use our gadgets late at night.
Put all technological tools away at least two hours before bed, and keep them all out of the bedroom (including televisions). If you sleep in a dark, quiet, cool room free of technology, you’ll sleep a lot better, and feel more energy the next day.
Note: There are certain health conditions that can contribute to constant fatigue, including anemia, thyroid disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, sleep apnea, and more. If none of the tips above help, be sure to see your doctor in case one of these conditions may be wearing you out.
Do you find you often feel tired? How do you cope? Please share your tips with our readers.
Sources“Insufficient Sleep is a Public Health Problem,” CDC, http://www.cdc.gov/features/dssleep/.Tara Parker-Pope, “The Cure for Exhaustion? More Exercise,” Time, February 29, 2008, http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/02/29/the-cure-for-exhaustion-more-exercise/?_r=0.Colin Poitras, “Even Mild Dehydration Can Alter Mood,” University of Connecticut, February 21, 2012, http://today.uconn.edu/2012/02/even-mild-dehydration-can-alter-mood/.“Perfectionism (psychology),” ScienceDaily, https://www.sciencedaily.com/terms/perfectionism_(psychology).htm.McMains S, Kastner S., “Interactions of top-down and bottom-up mechanisms in human visual cortex,” J Neurosci, January 12, 2011; 31(2):587-97, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21228167.