We all know the feeling. That seeping, sinking feeling that turns your brain to fog, your feet to lead and your hands into clumsy slabs of meat. It can sneak up on us at any time of the day, and turn us into a stumbling, clumsy facsimile of who we’re supposed to be. We’re talking about fatigue, and while it happens to the best of us, it can be debilitating when it comes at an inopportune moment. 

Fatigue can turn our thoughts into pea soup while we’re working on an important task or when you’re in the middle of an important conversation with your significant other. It can sneak up on us when we’re behind the wheel and potentially endanger our lives. While it’s perfectly normal to feel tired from time to time, fatigue rarely sneaks up on us without a reason. If you feel more fatigued than you should, this may be a symptom of a greater overall problem. Here we’ll look at some of the reasons why you may be feeling unduly fatigued…

You’re stressed

Stress isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, a little stress at the right time can bring out the best in us. Any actor who’s felt jitters before stepping on stage, any student who’s sat down to an exam or any sales person who’s about to step into an important pitch meeting knows just how effective stress can be when properly used. It can sharpen our instincts, keeps us from apathy and can aid concentration. 

However, when stress is endured all day every day it becomes chronic, and this can lead to all kinds of undesirable health outcomes. Chronic stress is one of the most common causes of chronic fatigue, which is why it’s so important that we all have an outlet for stress relief. This might be a few minutes of mindfulness meditation every day, hitting the gym on your lunch break, punching the hell out of a bag or watching your favourite stand up comedian do a set. There are no wrong answers here. It’s all about what’s best for you. 

You’re getting enough sleep, but not enough good quality sleep

Of course it stands to reason that the amount of sleep we’re getting will impact how fatigued we feel throughout the day. However, what many do not know is that it’s not just about how much sleep we get. It’s also about the quality of that sleep. So if you get your 7-9 hours of sleep consistently, yet still feel fatigued, it may be because you’re not getting the quality of sleep that you need. Perhaps you’re waking up through the night or struggling to achieve REM sleep

Some steps you can take to remedy this include;

  • Try and go to sleep at the same day to achieve consistent circadian rhythms.
  • Avoid napping throughout the day (or at least stick to 20 minute “power naps”).
  • Avoid using tablets or smartphones throughout the day. The blue light they produce can inhibit the body’s production of melatonin.  
  • Take a bath an hour before going to bed. This can lower your core temperature and prevent you from waking up in the night because you’re too hot.

You’re not wearing your glasses

Believe it or not, if you’re supposed to wear prescription eyeglasses, not wearing them can also make you more fatigued. Your glasses are more than just a fashion statement. However great you look in them, they’re also working hard on behalf of your eyes every day. Opticians believe that when you don’t wear your glasses, it results in more strain on your eyes. Symptoms of this can not only include fatigue but frequent headaches which might impair your concentration and diminish your overall quality of life. So be sure to wear your glasses, especially when reading, working or watching TV.  

You’re drinking too much coffee and too little water

Yes, you read that right. Drinking too much coffee can actually make you more tired. This might seem completely counterintuitive. After all, who doesn’t rely on a good honest cup of joe to give them energy and motivation in the morning. But if your day consists of chugging latte after latte to get you through, you might just find that the caffeine kick becomes increasingly fleeting and is followed by feelings of fatigue and sluggishness. 

This is because the caffeine in your coffee makes your brain develop more receptors for the neurotransmitter adenosine. This means that your body becomes more tolerant of the caffeine and you start to feel more sleepy after the initial jolt wears off. What’s more, if your working day is already stressful, your coffee can actually exacerbate your stress and lead to a syndrome called hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal dysregulation, or “adrenal fatigue”.

You can’t stay away from the vending machine

You’ve been working hard all morning, your blood sugar is dipping and cravings are starting to cloud your thought processes. So, what do you do? You head to the vending machine to pick up a bag of potato chips. Or perhaps a cookie. Or a candy bar. In any case you’ll be taking in a lot of refined carbohydrates, including sugar- the most refined carbohydrate there is. These can result in an insulin spike which makes you feel like your energy levels have come soaring back. 

But what goes up must come down!

As the day wears on you may find that your blood sugar crashes and you start to feel very sleepy and sluggish. So make sure you have access to snacks that will give you slow-release energy and keep your blood sugar stable throughout the day.

And finally… You’re not moving enough

Again, this may seem counterintuitive. Surely, physical activity would make you more tired than staying still? Nonetheless, studies show that when we engage in mild to moderate exercise, our energy levels are higher and more sustained. So try and get up from your desk at least once an hour. Go for a brisk walk instead of taking a coffee break. All that sitting won’t be doing your body any favors anyway!

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