Feeling tired is a national epidemic – it’s time to stop the suffering!
Ever been working away and found yourself blinking, rubbing your eyes and yawning? Soon, the line between being awake and asleep starts to blur. Feeling drowsy during the day is too common among Americans. According to the National Safety Council, 76% of us admit being tired at work.
And that drowsiness doesn’t just affect productivity – it can be a serious safety factor too. Approximately 15% of work injuries can be attributed to fatigue. And some of the latest data raises red flags around getting behind the wheel of a car tired with an estimated 21% of all fatal car crashes attributed to drowsy drivers, says an AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety report.
Try as we do, navigating life drowsy is a serious problem that can’t be fixed with a jumbo cup of coffee. Not getting enough sleep is the obvious culprit, but our reasons for exhaustion are more complex and wide ranging, according to our experts.
Want to feel fully awake and present each day? Then you’ll want to be aware of these sources of fatigue and sleep disruption:
7 sneaky reasons why you’re exhausted
1. Too much blue light from electronics
According to August Brice, a tech wellness expert with TechWellness.com, evening use of screens is wrecking our sleep. “It’s important to cut back on using your screens at night,” she says. “The best way to avoid the blue light from suppressing your melatonin production or changing your circadian rhythms is to not use your phones, computers or pads at night.” At the very least, power down all devices at least two hours before bedtime.
If you don’t feel like you can tear yourself away from your email or Candy Crush game, consider changing the temperature shade for your screens. Use a software program like Flux or iPhone’s nightshift setting.
Another option is to wear glasses with orange lenses. Though you might look a bit odd, they do work for many. “I find orange-tinted computer glasses, which change the color temperature of the blue light work best for me,” says Brice. “Typically around 7 or 8 pm, I’ll put them on when I’m winding down for the night. There have been a couple of studies done on the efficacy of wearing them.”
Note: Blue light isn’t bad. “It’s just not good during the naturally dark hours as it messes with evening melatonin,” she points out.
2. Not enough calories (and carbs) at night
“An increase in calories, especially from carbohydrates, can help people fall asleep faster and stop waking up,” says Kirsi Bhasin, a New York City health and wellness expert who specializes in helping women sleep, eat and live better.
She explains that it’s all about improving blood sugar control that comes from consuming an appropriate amount of calories and carbohydrates. At night, blood sugar drops and your liver releases its stored glucose in order for your blood sugar to remain steady. If your liver doesn’t have enough glucose, your body releases stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. If these levels get high enough, they can wake you up.
How to sleep through the night? Make sure you’re eating enough and pack in the carbs and healthy fat (avocado on whole grain toast, for example) a couple of hours before bedtime to help keep your blood sugar steady throughout the night.
3. Not eating enough sleep-inducing foods before bed
Look to your diet for foods linked to snoozing, according to Dr. Fran Walfish, a Beverly Hills, Calif.-based family and relationship psychotherapist, author, The Self-Aware Parent and an expert child psychologist on The Doctors.
The ingredient tryptophan has a natural calming agent that relaxes you without medication. It’s found in turkey, almonds and dairy products such as cheese, yogurt and milk. Turkey, bananas, pumpkin seeds, whole grains, eggs and dairy products also contain magnesium, a muscle relaxant, which helps to naturally reduce muscle and nerve function while steadying heart rhythm.
Some people take melatonin supplements to help them fall asleep faster and then sleep deeper. But did you know that melatonin occurs naturally in oats, cherries and oatmeal?
Honey not only tastes good but also contains glucose, which sends a message to the brain telling it to shut off orexin, also known as hypocretin. It’s a chemical that regulates arousal, wakefulness and appetite.
4. Too much stress, depression and anxiety
The mood/mind/body connection is well documented, but it’s easy to forget that these all tie into the quality of your sleep as well. “In my work with adult women, sleep issues are often a result of anxiety or depression, recent change and loss such as the death of a parent and worry about troubles their children are having,” says Anna Bradshaw, a licensed clinical social worker from New Jersey with the Feel Better Group.
Sleep issues vary by age, broadly grouped into young children, adolescents/young adults, middle age and mature age. In all these groups, sleep deprivation can be caused either by difficulty going to sleep and/or sleep disruption during the night. She also explains that medical or psychiatric conditions may cause sleep disturbances in adults. If you’re experiencing sleep problems, whether it’s fatigue, oversleeping or insomnia, consult with your healthcare provider to see if there’s an underlying mental health issue.
5. Bad nighttime wake-up habits
“Another issue that leads to drowsiness is the mishandling of a nocturnal awakening,” says Dr. Lynelle Schneeberg, a licensed clinical psychologist and fellow, American Academy of Sleep Medicine, based in Westport, Conn.
Most people think they should lie in bed and “relax” to get back to sleep, but this doesn’t usually work well. Most people who do this “download” their daytime worries and start trying to solve these at night.
A better strategy, according to Schneeberg is to read in bed with a blue-light blocked device or a real book (or listen to an audio book) until drowsy enough to fall back to sleep. This technique often shortens the incidents of nocturnal waking significantly.
6. Undiagnosed sleep apnea
Drowsiness may also be due to sleep apnea. Its symptoms include snoring, witnessed breathing pauses, high blood pressure, daytime drowsiness, waking to urinate (more than once), heartburn, dry mouth in the morning, headache in the morning and being overweight. Overnight sleep clinics are able to test patients for the condition and offer solutions, ranging for CPAP machines to customized dental implements to help keep air passages open.
7. Caffeine, carb and sugar crashes
It’s important to remember that caffeine is a drug that can cause ill effects including, among other things, adrenal fatigue. Typical symptoms are crashing in the afternoon and evening and having a reliance on a few cups of coffee to wake up in the morning. If you start feeling drowsy mid-day, take a closer look at your coffee habits.
You may be suffering from reactive hypoglycemia. It occurs within four hours after a meal that has a high level of carbohydrates. It’s characterized by lethargy, irritation and tiredness. Both diabetics and non-diabetics might experience this condition tied to an abnormally fast spike in blood glucose after eating. Avoid consuming carb-only meals. Be sure to include fat and protein, which have slower rates of absorption.
While that sugary donut may taste great, you’ll pay for it afterward in more ways than one. Sugar causes a rapid increase in blood glucose level, causing the pancreas to pump out insulin. In turn, your blood sugar drops. You might experience sudden headaches, irritability, increased heart rate, along with fatigue. The American Heart Association recommends consuming no more than 100 calories per day of refined sugar for women (the equivalent of 10 jelly beans) and 150 calories for men (equal to 15 jelly beans).
Americans eat about five times more sugar than they should. Go easy on the sweet stuff and you’ll avoid the wild ride in energy levels that come with it.
Rest well & wake up ready to go!
Better sleep gives rise to better mornings, bringing your goals into focus and dreams within reach. Hungry for more sleep info? Dig into these posts:
- The joy and benefits of reading before bed
- Sleeping with science to live your best life – now and in the future
- The essential guide to creating a (bed)room you’ll love sleeping in