Updated: Jul 29
This weekend I had a weekend off, great.
It’s a time to revitalise, so I put my feet up I rested. What I noticed was the longer I rested the more fatigued I became. I could have easily become caught up in a cycle of trying to rest off the fatigue, drink caffeine and eat sugary snack to ward off the tiredness but I quickly noticed that’s not what I needed. So I am about to go out for a walk around the gorgeous Solihull canals and I will report back later the effect but before I go for the walk let me share with you why you are tired and what you can do about it to get more energy.
One of the primary pieces of feedback clients give me about having personal training at home is that they feel like they have got more energy. Let me share the secret as to why that is:
What is tiredness?
Tiredness and fatigue are words that are often used interchangeably. There are subtle differences within the terms with scientific literature discussing that tiredness is the bodies signal that you need rest whilst fatigue is the subjective experience which has implications for everyday activities, motivation and social interaction. When tired we are prompted to conserve energy through resting or sleeping and following sufficient recovery the temporary feeling of tiredness will pass.
For both tiredness and fatigue we may experience:
Feeling of heaviness
Low energy and motivation
Difficulty processing or recalling information
Here are the top 10 common reasons for tiredness and fatigue and what you can do to increase your energy level.
1) Insufficient sleep
As human beings we need roughly 6-8 hours sleep a night. The exact amount depends on several factors including age. As a teenager you will have needed 8-9 hours’ sleep, so you don’t need to compare how you used to sleep to now.
How to improve sleep quantity?
Well that depends on the cause of a lack of sleep.
Sleep doesn’t just start the moment your head hits the pillows, what you do during the day influences sleep.
Don’t have caffeine 6-8 hours before bed.
Alcohol reduces the quality of sleep so reduce alcohol intake
Ensure that you have moved your body throughout the day
Turn off gadgets early. Blue light has a significant impact on our melatonin (sleep hormone) level and can make us feel more alert.
Create a regular pattern and routine to your bedtime. Try to create a pattern in which you start to prepare and go to bed ant the same time each day. – If you work shifts then it can be useful to try and be active during your breaks at work and limit yourself to one nap outside of your main sleep.
If you have babies or children in the house it may be that you have to either accept that you are getting less sleep negotiate support from others.
2) Perception of insufficient sleep.
Perception being the key word here. Insomnia is often caused by having a heightened vigilance and negative thoughts associated with sleep combined with a belief that poor sleep contributes to day time difficulties. This anxiety leads to being more vigilant against our sense leading us to be more sensitive to noise or to the sensation of fatigue. This can lead to increased stress and less hours sleeping.
How can I improve sleep perception?
Notice any beliefs that you have about sleep and make a conscious effort to challenge these beliefs. E.g. change “I won’t be able to function in the morning” to “I may feel tired as I function in the morning”
Or “I can’t fall asleep” to “I find it hard to fall asleep.
Also remind your self that it is normal to have a disturbed nights sleep. Waking up in the middle of a sleep pattern is a normal part of it and not an indication tat “OH well I am now awake too early”
If your mouth is dry or your feel thirst you are already dehydrated. If your urine is closer to yellow than clear this is a sign of dehydration. Water is the powerhouse for how all the cells in our body function. Dehydration can lead to similar sensations as tiredness.
How do I hydrate?
The eatwell guide recommends that you have 6-8 cups of water a day, however, if you are active this may need to be increased. The easy answer to hydration is drink more water but this involves creating a new habit, so you need to make the activity Intentional. Try carrying a 2 liter bottle of water around with you and make a commitment to drink 200ml each hour. It can also help if prior to each meal or activity within your day you get in the habit of having some water.
Food is fuel, ensuring you have a varied diet will help boost energy levels. Sometimes vitamin and mineral deficiencies can lead to fatigue.
Also, the food we eat can lead the body to conserve energy. The hormone leptin (Which is stored in fat cells) can inaccurately tell your body that you need to consume more food and to conserve energy.
How my nutrition can improve energy?
You can challenge the Leptin hormone by eating regularly and avoiding sugary foods.
It can be useful to use an app such as my fitness pal to monitor if you are getting your recommended daily allowance of vitamins and minerals. If you have space cash, it can also be helpful to check your genes using something like DNA FIT. I struggle to absorb omega 3, however by being aware of this I can be proactive in addressing it.
Yes, boredom can feel like fatigue. When we are under aroused we lose concentration and find it hard to focus. By sitting and resting we are not addressing the underlying problem
How to resolve boredom?
Either go and do something interesting and energising or if you have no choice but to do the boring task try to find ways of making it more interesting.
Increase stimulation through regularly getting up to go get a glass of water or play some music. If you can make the task more challenging so that it is more likely to want to engage in it.
6) Being inactive
As I have touched on in the other reasons for fatigue, being in active can lead to a greater sense of fatigue and then we end up in a cycle of being more and more inactive and more and more vigilant to signals of tiredness.
How can I increase my energy level?
The last thing you might want to do when you are tired is think about exercise. Research has shown that exercise increases energy levels by 20% if not more! Break the cycle. Go and Move! If you do not have any idea of where to start, then get in touch with me and we can have a chat about what will be the best movement for you. I can offer personal training at home in Solihull so that you can get in the habit of moving more at home and make it a habit.
Come back to the blog next Wednesday as I will be posting up advice on how to be more active in ways that don't feel like exercise and the following week I will be posting up my favourite exercises that can be done with no kit!
Ladies, where you are in your menstruation or life stage can impact on energy levels. I talk about how to address this here.
8) Mental stress
Cortisol the stress hormone and adrenaline can lead to muscle tension and fatigue.
How to reduce stress and increase your energy level?
There is so much written about this and if it was that easy to address we would all be living stress free existences. But we have stress for a reason. Identify the cause of stress and do what is within your gift to address it. For the elements of it that you can’t control practice self-kindness and self-compassion to reduce the pressure on how you expect yourself to be.
9) Physical stress
Exercise, illness and movement all deplete our energy levels.
How to increase energy?
Rest and recovery days are important. If you have really loaded your muscles or pushed your cardiovascular system you need to rest. Two rest days a week can really help maximise the benefits of the days that you are active.
10) Medical reasons
There are sometime medical causes for fatigue. If you have ruled out the above or you have other symptoms, then get yourself down to the G.P for a health opinion.
Medications can also impact on fatigue, discuss with your pharmacist or G.P if you are experiencing this side effects.
I have just returned from my walk, my heart rate had raised and now it is settling I am feeling awake with a clearer head.
Now you have read through these reasons for tiredness choose one that you will intentionally address and jot down in your phone a reminder of what you will do and when.
Sarah is an Occupational Therapist and personal trainer who is passionate about helping people flourish @MoodLifterPT