Friday, May 9, 2014

What to do When You're Always Tired

People often ask "Why am I so tired?" Of course they're really asking, "What can I do about feeling so tired?"

When someone asks "Why am I so tired?" on the diet-related forums I visit, folks usually respond with food-related advice, such as, "Cut back on your carbs," or "Eat more raw vegetables," or "Eat more iron-rich food."

Diet is only a small piece of the vitality puzzle, so I usually glaze over while reading the repetitive (and sometimes contradictory) dietary responses.  Then I weigh in with the other basics: water, sleep, exercise, and especially breathing.  This is how I reply:

Drinking plenty of water will make it easier for your body to rid itself of toxins.  A secondary effect is that the cool sensation of water on your lips, in your mouth and penetrating more deeply, provides a brief refreshing break from whatever hypnotizing monotony happens to be dragging you down.  Personally, I follow some experts' rule of thumb of dividing my body weight (in pounds) in half and then drinking that many ounces of water.  Since I weigh about 160lbs, I plan to drink about 80 ounces of water every day.  Turns out that I get about 30% of that before I leave for work in the morning.

Well, lack of sleep is the obvious answer to being tired.  Does anyone out there not feel a bit weaker and sluggish the day after going to bed a few hours later the night before?  But even if you've been going to bed and getting up at the same time every day, you might be getting less sleep than usual.  Foods and beverages that contain caffeine or alcohol can alter sleep patterns, reducing quality of sleep.  Sleeping with a light on can prevent your body from achieving the most deep levels of sleep.  (I highly recommend reading "Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar, and Survival" and "Good Night: The Sleep Doctor's 4-Week Program to Better Sleep...")  Finally, a condition called Sleep Apnea, in which your airway is partially obstructed during deep sleep, can rouse you several times each night -- not enough to make you fully wake up, but just enough to restore muscle tone to your airway so that you can resume breathing. I wrote about the sleep study that I experienced as well as the solution I adopted.

Yes, I know, the last thing you want to do is exercise when you're tired.  But the exhilaration you get from a single bout of exercise can last for hours.  Your body produces wonderful chemicals that course through your body when you exercise, and these chemicals linger.  Blood flow improves, too, bringing mental clarity.

My Water, Sleep and Exercise advice all have one thing in common -- improving breathing.  Of course, during exercise your rate of breathing will increase, as well as how deeply you breathe.  When you sleep, breathing slows down and your breaths become shallow.  And if you have Sleep Apnea, breathing stops.  But what about water?  You might not think drinking water is related to breathing.  But imagine drinking, not sipping, a several gulps of water at once.  It's almost like diving into a deep pool.  You breathe in deeply as you bring the tumbler to your lips, hold it while gulping the water, and gasp after you're done.

Breathing is the most important part of survival.  Humans can survive for days without eating or drinking.  But survival time is measured in minutes when breathing is involved.

Most people never learn to breath properly.  They fail to use the full capacity of their lungs.  A proper breath first starts with expelling all the air from the deepest recesses of your lungs.  Then draw breath in deeply into your belly through the nose before allowing your chest to expand.  A beginner's yoga instructor might tell her students to lie on their backs and place their hands on their belly buttons and then tell them to breathe so that their hands rise into the air.  She would also tell her students to exhale fully, pressing the small of the back (lumbar) into the floor.

So try working on these four aspects of basic living to improve your vitality.


Rummuser said...

And there is always that under diagnosed illness -

Square Peg Guy said...

Yes, absolutely. There are many other causes of fatigue. I tried to avoid medical conditions. I only included Sleep Apnea because I was diagnosed with it.

Thank you for commenting!