National survey results suggest that “utterly exhausted” may be America’s new normal, Consumer Reports notes. In one survey, 37 percent of working adults admitted they’d felt fatigued in the previous two weeks.
Letting fatigue drag on can mess with your mood and may even boost your risk for depression, as well as impact your health, weight, work performance, and sex life. But there’s no need to live in a dog-tired state.
Assuming you’re logging seven to nine hours of sleep time (and if you aren’t, that’s what you need to address first), Consumer Reports suggests following these steps, in order, to help you get to the root of your weariness.
1. Improve your sleep hygiene. Sometimes it’s not lack of sleep that causes fatigue – it’s the lack of refreshing, high-quality slumber. You want to spend the optimal amount of time in deep, restorative sleep and minimize fragmented sleep.
Many people believe that a nightcap before bed will help them sleep soundly, but alcohol can cause disrupted sleep. Snoring bedmates, letting pets sleep with you and bright lights could be causing you to toss and turn at night without your realizing it.
2. Consult your doc. If you still feel pooped during the day after two weeks of sleep upgrades, it’s time for a visit to your doctor. Fatigue is a symptom (not a condition) of many treatable health problems.
“See your primary physician rather than a sleep specialist,” says Dr. Martin Surks, program director of the Endocrinology Division at Montefiore and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. “He or she can ask questions that will help pinpoint the cause and run tests to rule out a wide range of conditions like depression, diabetes or hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid).”
3. Review your meds. Bring a list of the drugs you take to your appointment or simply toss the pill bottles into a bag (a drug review with your doctor is a smart thing to do every six to 12 months anyway). From antidepressants to blood pressure drugs to cholesterol-lowering statins, many common prescription medications can leave you dragging through the day. If it turns out that you take a potentially energy-draining drug, ask about alternatives.
4. Move a little more. Exercise seems to create energy and alleviate fatigue by reducing stress, helping you sleep and increasing circulation so that your muscles get more oxygen and nutrients.
And you don’t have to train for a marathon to see the effects. In a small University of Georgia study, chronically tired couch potatoes embarked on a low- or moderate-intensity exercise routine three times per week for six weeks while a control group didn’t exercise.
The low-intensity group got the best results: a 65 percent drop in fatigue. The moderate-intensity group improved, too, but less so. The researchers think that’s because some of those people may have been working out too hard.
5. Clean up your diet. Stay fueled with regular meals and healthy snacks that are low in fat and packed with fiber (beans, fruit, whole grains and vegetables). According to a recent Pennsylvania State University study, the more fat people eat at a meal, the sleepier they become afterward. Beware of very high-protein diets; some evidence suggests that they can increase fatigue.
6. Reorganize your day. Still having trouble after taking steps 1 through 5? You may think you’re tired when you’re actually tense. One in three people who say they’re stressed attribute their fatigue to their mood, according to a survey from the American Psychological Association. Saying “no” more often to activities that aren’t high priority gives you more time for the things you enjoy.