Do you feel permanently exhausted? Well, join the club – at any given moment 20% of us would claim to feel unusually tired, according to the Royal College of Psychiatrists. Most of the time doctors will tell us there is unlikely to be anything physically wrong with us, and our tiredness is most likely to be linked to habits, mood and stress. So what can we do to feel more awake?
The first thing to do is sort out your lifestyle. Fatigue can often be attributed to factors well within your control, such as drinking too much. If you drink in the evening, it might help you drop off initially, but then you will often wake up in the early hours of the morning – leading to total exhaustion the next day. Cut down on the booze before bed. You’ll get a better night’s rest and have more energy.
While we’re on the subject of bedtime, you also need to develop a good evening routine; which means turning off the light at the same time every night; banning computers in the bedroom; and maybe having a warm bath, a milky drink or reading a good book before you hit the hay. Think of what you might do to help a toddler develop good bedtime habits – and then do the same for yourself!
What you eat will have an enormous impact on your liveliness levels. Many studies have shown that eating regular meals and healthy snacks every three to four hours is much better at combating low energy than having a large meal. Include plenty of iron-rich foods in your diet, such as dark green vegetables, lean meat and pulses. And all of us will find we have more vigour if we eat less sugar! We reach for biscuits and chocolate to perk us up – but in fact after the initial spike in our blood sugar levels, there will be a huge dip leaving us feeling crotchety and no less shattered. Protein is a vital energy giver and a breakfast that includes eggs, fish or yogurt is a good way to banish tiredness for the whole day.
Snacking on nuts or seeds is also an ideal way to keep your protein levels up. And don’t forget to drink plenty of water. Being dehydrated is a frequent cause of fatigue.
You might feel too tired to exercise, but force yourself up off that sofa because regular exercise will help. A short 15-minute walk is enough to give you an instant lift. Something a bit more intense such as cycling or jogging, makes your heart and lungs work even more efficiently to pump oxygen and vital nutrients around your body.
And if you’re overweight – then lose it. Those extra pounds put extra strain on your heart, which means it has to work that much harder, which makes you feel drained. Lose weight and you’ll feel much more energetic.
It is possible however, that your tiredness is due to a medical reason – so it’s always best to visit your doctor if you’ve tried all of the above and still feel drained of energy. Iron deficiency anaemia, coeliac disease, ME, glandular fever, diabetes and an under-active thyroid gland are all illnesses that can lead to tiredness. Depression and anxiety can also make you feel very weary. Talk to your GP if you feel your exhaustion may have a physical or mental cause.
And finally – coming back to that caffeine that you think you crave – it’s been proven that it actually does more harm than good – and can end up making you feel even more exhausted! The Royal College of Psychiatrists recommends that anyone feeling tired should gradually cut out coffee, tea and cola drinks to see if it helps.
P.S. If constant fatigue is an issue, check out our other article – “Tired All The Time? You May Be Lacking Vitamin B12”