Feeling constantly tired? Heavy eye-bags under your eyes? Feeling sluggish and an inexplicable craving for raw meat? It is a sign of tired and you just don’t have the energy to do the things you want to do on a daily basis. Let’s explore some methods for breaking that cycle of constant tiredness and getting back your daily energy reserves. Be mindful that we are not referring to chronic fatigue syndrome and systemic exertion intolerance (SEID). These Syndromes affect millions of people here in the US alone and are very difficult to cure and pin down. We will be discussing about that much more common feeling of general tiredness that affects many people and is entirely preventable through adopting healthier habits.
We may have probably heard of the recommendations put out by the National Sleep Foundation. They have suggested some guidelines on how many hours we should be sleeping each night based on our age. However, even if we’re using those figures as a guideline, we still might be waking up in the morning feeling as if we just got hit by a truck. If that’s the case, it’s probably because you’re not respecting your body’s sleep cycle. During the night, sleep happens in several different stages. Each stages correspond to different levels of brain activity. Together these are known as the sleep cycle. Waking up in the wrong stage of the sleep cycle will make one feel absolutely awful. Using an alarm clock may just create such situation.
Back to the human history, our sleep patterns were much more in tune with the cycle of day and night. And eventually governed by the body’s sleep cycle. This also means someone living before the invention of the alarm clock would almost always wake up at the completion of a sleep cycle. As a matter of fact, they’d almost always wake up feeling well-rested.
By contrast, letting alarm clocks disrupt you in the middle of a sleep cycle will end you up in a ‘zombie’ mode. As Pierce J Howard put it in his book, The Owner’s Manual for the Brain, a person who sleeps only four cycles or six hours will feel more rested than someone who has slept for eight to ten hours but who has not been allowed to complete any one cycle because of being wakened before it was completed. Each of these sleep cycles takes an average of 90 minutes to complete.
Instead of setting the alarm based on that 90 minutes, you should work to figure out when you naturally wake up. This might take a while for you to learn. Once you know it, you can then use your alarm as a backup method. Ideally, you’d wake up at the completion of your final sleep cycle before it goes off in a natural well-rested state. Basically, be disciplined to disengage from anything you typically get sucked into well before your bedtime.
This method always works and can bring people out of that ‘brain fog’ state. Our bodies were designed to move. Humans used to trek miles to catch their prey and even when we turn to agriculture for food production. All activities still involved being outside for most of a day. However, many of us are now sedentary by spending a lot of time on chairs. Most of the time we sink into screens and books which keeps us indoors and away from the sun. This could be a huge contributor to why you feel so tired.
There might not be an obvious connection, but the sun plays a huge role in maintaining your energy levels. Sunlight exposure helps your body correctly time its production of melatonin. This hormone helps you go to sleep and plays a part in maintaining your circadian rhythm. Further to that, it also helps you stay in sync with the cycle of day and night.
Sunlight exposure is also your body’s main source of vitamin D. It not only plays a role in keeping your bones healthy, immune system and lungs working, but also plays a vital role in helping to avoid fatigue. A study that was done in 2014 found a high correlation between vitamin D deficiency and fatigue. With a good amount of Vitamin D, it yields a big improvement in those fatigue symptoms. Improving your diet with vitamin D-enriched food will definitely help your energy levels. Dietary efforts to obtain vitamin D are almost inconsequential compared to sun exposure.
A standard American diet will get you about 300 IUs of vitamin D per day. Experts recommend getting around 4000. Just going outside for 20 minutes during the peak months of sun exposure can easily supply the vitamin D your body needed. However, when it comes to winter, it is best to consider vitamin D supplement during those months when the sunlight is scarce.
Low intensity exercise could be even more effective at getting rid of fatigue symptoms than a more intense workout. In 2008, researchers at the University of Georgia did a study and found that students who did just 20 minutes of exercise three times a week had huge improvements in both their daily energy levels and their levels of fatigue. More importantly, their improvement in these areas were actually better than the group in the study that did more intense exercise. So, the bottom line is, if you’re tired all the time get some exercise every single day.
Caffeine can actually be a useful tool to chase off fatigue when we need to finish a particularly big project. The drawback is caffeine can get you addicted. It is super easy to start using caffeine on a regular basis, but for some, if drinking caffeinated drinks later in the day can really mess with sleep. Having coffee six hours before bedtime could be compromising to your sleep. It will subsequently makes you further dependent on it the next day. Additionally, much like any other drug, your body starts to build up a tolerance to caffeine as you use it regularly. Our body particularly the brain has lots of receptors for a compound called adenosine. This compound functions to inform the body that it’s tired and ready to sleep.
Caffeine works by essentially impersonating that adenosine and it blocks up the receptors, thus preventing the adenosine from getting through. When this occurs, you temporarily feel like you’re energetic and not tired. Once the caffeine is depleted from your system, that built-up adenosine comes rushing through creating a caffeine crash. Not only that, regular caffeine use will also cause your body to upregulate to create more adenosine receptors, and in a long run, you need higher dose of caffeine to get the same effect. Weaning from coffee can be tough. It is important to adopt the correct sleep and exercise habits and also try switching to tea. While most tea does have some caffeine, it’s almost always a lot less than other.
It is good to start off with Earl Grey or Irish Breakfast which aren’t exactly like coffee but when mixed with milk make pretty good substitutes. Secondly, use a habit tracking app and do a 30-day challenge to kick caffeine. This will give you extra motivation as you’re working towards your goal every single day.
Drink more water as a replacement for other drinks especially caffeine because water is actually useful for feelings of fatigue and brain fog. Even mild dehydration can make you feel tired because basically every part of the body including your brain needs a good supply of water to function properly. The best is to get eight glasses a day.