Do You Struggle With Fatigue?
Tired? You’ve got company. Fatigue is the seventh most common complaint that primary care physicians hear (your parents and friends may hear it more often).
When you’re tired, you don’t think as fast or as accurately, causing you to make misjudgments. Your skill level also decreases. You may be unable to start normal activities or finish them. Fatigue falls into different categories.
Sleep Debt: You are likely to feel tired if you don’t get the right foods, enough exercise or sleep. Millions of Americans simply don’t get enough sleep. Getting the amount of sleep your body requires is not a luxury — it is mandatory.
If you stay up too late, you go into sleep debt. Sleep can’t be stored up and the debt won’t go away by itself. It can only be paid off with extra hours later, so you’re borrowing on the next night’s sleep.
Psychological: This kind of fatigue is caused by emotional problems or conflicts. Anxiety and/or depression are the most common causes of prolonged fatigue.
Medical: Fatigue may be a side effect of an underlying physical condition (e.g., flu or infections, anemia, low thyroid activity, pregnancy, overuse of alcohol, caffeine or other stimulants). However, it is usually accompanied by other symptoms.
Medical note: Mononucleosis almost always has additional symptoms beyond fatigue.
Your Sleep Needs
There is no right amount of sleep for everyone. You may need anywhere from six to ten hours a night (eight hours is just an average).
Tune in to your own biological clock. If you need six hours, that’s it. If you need ten, get them. Maintain a regular pattern of sleeping during the same hours each night.
For More Energy
Food: You’re likely to feel tired if you skip meals or eat too little. Eat balanced meals regularly.
Exercise: This increases energy, releases tension, keeps you in shape and enables you to sleep better. Exercise a minimum of 30 minutes at least three times a week.
Take Breaks: Reenergize yourself often by stretching, walking, changing your pace or scene, getting some fresh air, grabbing a quick nap and using relaxation techniques. Also consider the following:
- Identify your high and low energy periods. Match your activities to those times as best you can.
- Fatigue impairs judgment, slows reaction time and dulls aware-ness, so don’t drive or operate that crane when you’re tired.
- For muscle fatigue, try gentle stretching or a relaxing bath. If no tub is available, take a hot shower.
- Carry a snack with you at all times (graham crackers, orange juice, dried fruit or an apple).
- Caffeine or sleeping pills rarely help with fatigue and they may be counterproductive.
- Expect to feel tired for a week or so after an illness. Give your body time to recover since pushing it can cause a relapse.
- Stay tuned in to your body for stress indicators (e.g., headache, backache, grouchiness, fatigue). Counteract them with rest and relaxation.
If fatigue doesn’t go away with sleep, consider getting a medical and/or psychological evaluation.