Your spouse says it’s all in your head. You say it’s in your head, your neck, your arms, your legs. You’re tired down to your toes and you’re tired all the time. Your doctor says it’s not chronic fatigue syndrome, anemia, anxiety disorder or any other of the usual instigators of fatigue. So what is causing you to feel like you’re walking underwater? There are many things–a lack of exercise, poor sleep, too much boredom that can cause long-term fatigue. There are also many diseases and medical conditions that can cause chronic tiredness. For this reason alone, fatigue is a symptom that should not be ignored.
You sit behind a desk all day. You go to bed at 9 p.m. You never overexert yourself. Yet you’re always tired. How can that be? Experts agree that not being active can make you feel lethargic and fatigued. Regular exercise, on the other hand, can make you more energetic not only in the long run but on the spot. What’s more the benefits can last for hours. If you’ve been inactive up until now, consult your doctor before jumping into any exercise program.
The “no pain, no gain” theory has no place with beginners, particularly those already pained by fatigue. If you are experiencing pain-either while exercising or the day after, you’re probably pushing yourself too hard. Take your exercise program slowly and advance gradually. Keep in mind that vigorous exercise can initially wear you out. After a 30 minute aerobics session, for example, you may feel fatigued–the energy enhancing effects will come an hour later. But a less intensive workout–a brisk walk, for example, can boost your energy sooner. To help you stick to your exercise program, set aside 30 minutes several times a week. How hard should you push yourself? As a guide, try the “talk test.” If you can’t talk comfortably while you’re working out, you’re probably working too hard. Of course, if you experience chest pains or dizziness you should stop and see your doctor.
You’re early to bed, early to rise and still you’re exhausted all the time. An often undetected cause of fatigue is called obstructive sleep apnea. Most common among middle age men, obstructive apnea occurs when breathing is blocked by collapse of throat tissues during sleep. This causes breathing to stop for 20 to 40 seconds at a time. Each episode is accompanied by a brief awakening. Besides causing fatigue, obstructive sleep apnea often causes loud snoring as well. So even though you may not realize something is wrong, your spouse most certainly will. If you suspect you have sleep apnea, see your doctor. However, there are things you can do yourself that may help.
Cut the fat
Doctors agree that losing weight can often reverse obstructive sleep apnea. If you’re overweight, extra tissue in the neck and throat, combined with poor muscle tone can restrict the movement of air through the upper airway.
Don’t drink alcohol before sleeping
Alcohol works as a depressant on the central nervous system and increases muscle relaxation and enhances airway blockage. Skipping alcohol can reduce the severity of obstructive apnea. It can also improve the overall quality of your sleep thus boosting the next day’s energy levels.
Cut the calories
When you aren’t eating well–you’re dieting perhaps, or simply too rushed to eat correctly, fatigue can hit you hard. And why not? You’re not taking in enough calories to sustain your body’s normal functions. This is abnormal and very stressful to the body and one of the many symptoms of this type of stress is fatigue. To lose weight without losing energy you have to:
Forgo the fat. Calories from fat are more easily turned into body fat than those from proteins or carbohydrates. Plus, fats contain more calories per gram of food. So replacing fatty foods with high carbohydrate foods like fruits, vegetables, grains and pasta can give you an edge in losing weight without reducing energy.
Lose in moderation. It’s reasonable to lose 1 or 2 pounds a week. Any more than that is risky. Drastic weight loss, doctors say, only increases your chances for feeling fatigued.
Breathe away fatigue
Some people feel fatigues simply because they breathe wrong. In fact, doctors have suggested that many of their fatigued patients may have a condition called hyperventilation syndrome–a disorder caused by improper breathing. People with this hyperventilation syndrome, breathe shallowly and rapidly. This causes an excessive loss of carbon dioxide, making the blood less able to carry oxygen throughout the body. So even though they’re breathing quickly, they’re really getting less air. Hyperventilation syndrome can cause anxiety and tingling, coldness or numbness in the fingers as well as fatigue. While hyperventilation syndrome can be caused by many medical problems, it can also be caused by stress and even by good posture. People who keep their stomach firmly tucked in when they stand up straight may be tensing the diaphragm muscles, making it difficult to take in a full breath.
Do you have hyperventilation syndrome? Put one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen. If your hands don’t rise with each breath, you may be hyperventilating. Most people can relearn proper breathing techniques, says Dr. R. Fried, author of “The Breath Connection.” One way is simply to keep your mouth closed. When you breathe through the nose, it’s virtually impossible to hyperventilate–the nasal passages are too narrow. Also, relax that tummy. These two simple steps may help you breathe a little easier and perhaps recoup some of your lost energy as well.