To Your Health
October, 2010 (Vol. 04, Issue 10)
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Running on Empty: When Fatigue Stops You in Your Tracks

By Dr. Perry Nickelston

Are you running on empty? Is your life spiraling into one prolonged episode of fatigue? Are there days when your "gas tank" is so low that you're sleepy by lunchtime and craving a power nap by mid-afternoon? Ever wonder what's making you so tired all the time? There are many factors that can contribute to fatigue, including stress, poor eating habits, altered sleeping patterns, poor breathing, lack of exercise, too much exercise, and sometimes an underlying health condition. Most of the time, fatigue can be traced to one or more of your daily habits or routines. More than likely, you already know what's causing your fatigue; you're just not doing enough about it. Let's take a closer look at some of the most powerful changes you can make today to fight fatigue.

Find a Rest Stop

Fatigue rest stop - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark Whatever happened to getting eight hours of uninterrupted sleep? When was the last time you actually hit that goal? Almost never, right? That's a shame because adequate sleep is one of the most effective ways to help your body recover and regenerate from the stressors of life. It is paramount to do whatever you can to get eight hours of sleep a night. Inadequate sleep negatively affects your endocrine (hormone) system, altering cellular regeneration and impairing optimum hormone function.

Researchers have found a lack of sleep decreases growth hormone, which may lead to an increase in age-related illnesses. There also may be an alteration in the glucose mechanism, a pathway your body uses for synthesis of sugar and insulin, which could increase your risk of diabetes and metabolic syndromes causing weight gain.

Sleep deprivation also may have a dampening effect on the secretion of thyroid-stimulating hormone and increasing blood levels of cortisol, especially during the afternoon and evening. Elevated cortisol levels are thought to be related to stress-related illness, insulin resistance and memory impairment.

So, what to do? Try going to bed a little sooner than usual. Start slowly at first; if you usually don't crash until 11:00 at night, don't shift to a 9:00 bedtime starting tonight or you may end up wide awake at 4:00 tomorrow morning. Transition slowly into the ideal sleep time that will get you those precious eight hours, and aim for that schedule on as many nights as possible.

Also avoid drinking caffeine late at night, since it is a stimulant and will prevent restful sleep. And avoid carbohydrates a few hours before bedtime, to prevent spikes in your insulin and cortisol levels. Finally, develop a relaxing routine that prepares you to fall asleep - and stay asleep. Such a routine can include a bath, reading, soft music, or even a half-hour of silence to process your day; whatever it takes to get you to doze off and sleep soundly.

Rev Your Engine

Fatigue rev your engine - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark Exercise is a fantastic way to combat fatigue and increase energy while becoming healthy. They key is to not exercise so much that you end up sending your body into a state of overtraining and more fatigue. More is not better with exercise; better is better. It is recommended that you exercise 20-45 minutes three to four days per week. You must allow sufficient time for your body to recover from intensive workouts, so adequate rest is crucial if you want to achieve optimal results.

Exercise increases the metabolic hormones growth hormone and testosterone, which help maintain lean muscle and are a key to vitality. The more lean muscle you have, the faster your metabolism works and the less fatigued you feel. Weight training is the best exercise choice for increasing these metabolic hormones. Regular aerobic activity will increase oxygenation to your heart and reduce fatigue. If you are new to exercise, start off slowly and make sure you get a complete physical from your doctor prior to any strenuous activity.