Do you commonly report feeling excessively tired and lacking in energy? Fatigue as a concept is extremely hard to define as everybody has their own idea of what being tired means. Everybody experiences tiredness once in a while and the most common reason is lack of sleep however there can be a number of reasons and some obvious or not so obvious ones are as follows.
It is obvious that getting too little sleep will make you tired; most of us have experience of this! A minimum of 7 hours sleep is required every night for most adults in order for their body to rest and gain the benefits of deep sleep which allows the body rebuild and restore cellular health.
People with irregular sleep patterns are more likely to be tired than those who regularly get only 6 hours sleep per night. Most tiredness is seen in those who sleep around 6.5 hours night Monday to Friday but then sleep in at the weekend as this upsets your body clock resulting in a worse sleep pattern.
A study has found that those who had a minimum of 1.5 hours of sleep before midnight had significantly higher concentration levels throughout the day than those who did not.
TOO MUCH CAFFEINE
Small amounts of caffeine may help you feel more alert but too much can raise your blood pressure and increase your heart rate. In turn your body is constantly ‘ready to go’ and buzzed up causing your muscles and organs to fatigue without any physical demands actually being placed on them. Caffeine can make you more anxious however if you are to completely cut out caffeine you may show signs of an addictive withdrawal.
Your body needs water to function. It is the body’s principal chemical component and makes up about 60% of your body weight. Without it you are putting extra pressure on your body which causes it to simply fatigue. Every cell and system in your body depends on water and cannot perform at their optimum without it; from concentrating and working to performing essential life functions such as digestion, flushing toxins out of vital organs and carrying nutrients to your cells; it is important to remain hydrated.
The amount of water you need varies from person to person and depends on size, diet, climate and activity levels. However the Institure of Medicine determine than an adequate intake for men is roughly 3 litres (13 cups) of total beverages a day and for women 2.2 litres a day. It is important to drink little and often to keep hydration levels up, don’t drink it all at once!
A study asked those drinking less than 1 litre of water per day to increase this to 2 litres per day for 3 weeks, at the end over 84% felt their tiredness had significantly reduced.
UNDIAGNOSED MEDICAL CONDITION
Diabetes: Causes abnormally high levels of sugar in the bloodstream as the body doesn’t make enough insulin or it can’t use it as well as it should be able to; insulin helps glucose get into the cells and convert to energy. In diabetes this doesn’t happen and can result in you feeling excessively tired as your cells don’t have enough ‘food’, despite eating enough. Diabetes can be checked easily by your GP with a blood test.
Hypothyroidism: When your thyroid gland (located in your neck) becomes underactive characterised by low thyroid hormone production. The results are tiredness and fatigue, weight gain, feeling sluggish, decreased concentration and excessive sleepiness. A blood test is needed to confirm the diagnosis.
Low grade Urinary Tract Infection (UTI): Most people are fully aware when they have a UTI due to the sense of urgency to urinate and a burning pain! However if the UTI is in early stages or is of a low grade then fatigue and a light increase in the need to urinate may be the only signs and in the long term this can result in increased levels of tiredness as the body is trying to fight infection. A urine check by the GP will confirm this.
Food intolerances have been found to make people sleepy as this is the body’s reaction to a food it does not like or finds difficult to process. A lot of people still eat food which their body maybe intolerable to and according to Allergy UK up to 45% of the population suffer from food intolerances.
It is easy to assess your own intolerances by writing down what you eat for 2 weeks and also making a note of when you feel particularly tired or sleepy or unable to concentrate. You may spot a pattern, then simply eat those individual parts of those meals and see what happens; try taking them out of your diet and see if there is an improvement. Often people are just eating too much of the same food so their bodies are overloaded and once the food had been eliminated from the diet for 6-8 weeks it could be reintroduced in small amount with no problems.
A study found that those eating ready-meals more than 3 times a week are 6 times more likely so suffer from tiredness than those who eat less ready-meals; they also consume between 15-36% more calories than the same type of meals but home-cooked! Eating a health, balanced diet is important for maintaining good health and can help you feel better.
LACK OF EXERCISE
With the pressures of home and family life it can often feel like there is little time to fit in exercise; it’s certainly tough to get started but once into a routine you will definitely feel the benefits.
Exercise makes you feel more energetic whilst sitting around not doing much makes you feel sluggish and unable to do anything. It improves your sleep as your mind and body feel like they have actually done something and are ready for rest at night. Reduced activity over a period of time can slow down your metabolic rate and unbalances your hormone system so you increase in weight whereas exercise can help keep you at a healthy weight. A lack of exercise causes you whole body to ‘shut down’ making you tired, lethargic and unable to concentrate.
HOW TO HELP YOURSELF…
If you are tired, give this programme a go for 4 weeks and see what happens! A study that involved 44 participants who were re-evaluated after 4 weeks found that their tiredness and lack of energy scores had reduced by an average of 78%.
Get into a regular sleep pattern. Try and get to bed before 10.30pm every evening and get up no earlier than 6.30am but no later than 8.30am
Drink a minimum of 1.5-2 litres of water every day
Drink no more than 2 measures of caffeine per day
Plan your meals at the start of the week, aiming not to repeat meals and to have lots of variety with fresh fruit and vegetables
Do a 30 minute (minimum) walk every day, preferably in daylight
Daylight is the best way to control the hormone melatonin which regulates our sleep/wake patterns in response to daylight hours. With the clocks having gone forward it is much easier to do this but take care in the winter if you go to work and come home in the dark and don’t get outside during the day.