“Doctor I’m so tired all the time…”
Boy do I hear that a lot. At least 3 times a week, I have a patient who comes in specifically because she (and it’s almost always a woman) is chronically fatigued. They also have all visited my good friend Dr. Google and know everything there is to know about Epstein-Barr Virus and leukemia.
The brutal truth is, however, that the vast majority of cases of chronic fatigue are due to lifestyle choices, not due to infection or medical problems.
Here are 3 areas to focus on in your OWN life if you suffer from fatigue. Everyone has times where they feel run-down and, if you look, I bet you can see where one or more of these 3 factors is playing a role.
There is no substitute for sleep. Period.
Our brains need to have enough sleep. You can’t store it ahead of time. If you get behind, the only way to catch up is to, well, catch up. Neurologists and sleep researchers talk about the concept of “sleep debt,” which means that you’re not getting enough and you need to let yourself sleep until the sleep debt is erased.
Most adults need 7 1/2 to 8 hours of sleep every night. Small children need upwards of 12 hours of sleep per day, and teens need 9 to 10 hours. Be honest with yourself and think about your own sleep habits. Do you sleep enough?
Teens in particular are peculiar. At the adolescent stage of brain development, sleep onset tends to be later, and therefore wake-up times tend to be later too. High-school administrators who insist on starting class in the 7 o’clock hour are fighting the biology of their students. (My personal opinion is that high school should begin at 10 and last until 5 PM. They haven’t asked me, though.)
So if you’re feeling tired the very first thing to do is to look at your sleep pattern and make sure you’re getting enough hours of sleep. Then check sleep quality: Do you wake rested? Are you getting up overnight to visit the bathroom or having a pet or small child (or snoring spouse) wake you up? If so, try to get those problems fixed.
It seems counterintuitive but exercise actually IMPROVES your energy level. Physical activity relieves stress, releases endorphins, improves circulation, and improves sleep quality.
If you don’t exercise regularly, see if you can choose a form of exercise that sounds fun. Dance, Zumba, martial arts, yoga, basketball, you name it! Pick something new that you’ve never tried, and take a class. I guarantee it, you will feel better!
How is your diet? Do you eat a lot of junk food and processed food? Do you drink soda?
Taking a long hard look at your diet and making improvements will fight fatigue as well. Sugars, artificial sweeteners, refined flours, and other highly processed ingredients decrease energy levels. Eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and healthy fats improve energy immensely.
Supplements can definitely help with chronic fatigue and the dreaded I-Don’t-Feel-Good disease. A high-quality multivitamin is the first thing to try, and B complex also helps with energy metabolism. Hands down, though, my best track record for treating chronic fatigue with supplements involves this one product: Vitalizer. I’ve taken it daily for the last 5 years and I don’t think I’ll ever stop! Check this page for age- and gender-specific supplement suggestions.
So if you’re struggling with fatigue please take a look at these three areas: sleep, exercise and nutrition. I bet you’ll find some easy-to-implement steps that will see quick improvements in your energy levels.
QUESTION: What one area above do you struggle with most?