Fatigue is mental or physical exhaustion that interferes with a person’s full existence. Studies show that one of the main causes of fatigue is lack of sleep, but in fact, fatigue is more than just a feeling of drowsiness.
How to know if you have fatigue?
Fatigue is a symptom rather than a disease. People suffering from fatigue feel exhausted, carried away, have delayed reflexes, and reduced vital functions during the day.
Excessive fatigue is one of the most common risk factors for road and work accidents. Whether we have become a victim of fatigue will help us understand the list of symptoms below:
- chronic fatigue and drowsiness
- inflammation and muscle pain
- muscle weakness
- delayed reflexes and reactions
- difficult decision making
- hand-eye coordination
- loss of appetite
- reduced body defenses
- blurred vision
- short-term memory problems
- poor concentration
- reduced ability to concentrate in a situation
- low motivation
What makes us “tired”?
Fatigue is associated with the following factors:
- long duration in an awake state
- insufficient sleep for a long time
- poor sleep for an extended period of time
Humans are day-oriented beings, or in other words, we were created to work during the day and sleep at night. The reasons for this are the so-called circadian rhythms. Our bodily functions take place in a repetitive cycle of 24 hours.
The main reason for this is that we have a biological clock that regulates these things. This clock is guided by light and darkness, as well as what we do. For a normal working person, the biological clock “ticks” as follows:
- the light in the morning tells our biological clock to “wake us up” and cheer us up
- the clock keeps us awake until noon
- in the afternoon the clock lowers wakefulness by several hours
- the biological clock cheers us up in the late afternoon and early evening
- the darkness of the evening again causes the clock to lower our alertness to prepare us for sleep
- immediately after midnight our wakefulness is completely “lowered” to “switch off” completely between 02:00 and 06:00.
During this time, all our vital functions are at their lowest level of activity. The biological clock controls our wakefulness and drowsiness. As it “dulls” body alertness shortly after eating lunch, studies have found that there has been a slight increase in road accidents during this period.
Is sleep enough?
While our muscles recover with rest, the “rest” for the brain is sleep. Sleep is a part of our lives and is the means to cure and prevent fatigue. Most people sleep about seven and a half hours a day, which could be called the standard daily need for sleep.
People who sleep less than this suffer from sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation accumulates as interest on a bank loan, which must be “repaid” with a few nights longer sleep.
Sleep is the only means of counteracting fatigue, effective in the long run. The optimal amount of sleep needed for the proper functioning of the body is different, but in general, the average daily requirement for an adult is about 7-8 hours.
We may not get enough sleep if we have a medical sleep problem. Fortunately, it is treatable, but in no case should it include the use of sleeping pills. A similar problem is an apnea or the so-called. impaired breathing during sleep.
In people with apnea, the tube through which air passes shrinks during sleep, leading to insufficient airflow to the lungs. Breathing stops while the brain registers stopped breathing by sending a small “wake-up” signal. This can be repeated several times during the night.
Five reasons for sleep deprivation
Sleep deprivation can be caused by a number of factors in the workplace and in personal life. Here are just a few “culprits” related to the workplace:
- increased working hours
- irregular and unpredictable working hours
- work during the part of the day set aside for sleep
- work in shifts
- work in several places at once
Working people often drink caffeinated beverages to “fight” fatigue. However, stimulants such as caffeine can do us a “bearish” favor if taken up to 6 hours before bedtime.
The situation could seem even gloomier when combined with medications that should keep us awake. Other causes of fatigue, in addition to insufficient sleep, are strictly specific to each of us, as they are related to our lifestyle. The most important of them are:
Cigarettes and alcohol – alcohol “slows down” the nervous system and interferes with normal sleep. Other drugs, such as cigarettes and caffeine, have a stimulating effect on the nervous system and increase the risk of insomnia.
Sleep Disorders – Sleep disorders can occur for a variety of reasons, such as noisy neighbors, young children waking up at night, a snoring partner, or a stuffy sleeping area.
Sedentary life – it is known that exercise improves appearance, health, and well-being, reduces stress, increases energy, and promotes regular and healthy sleep. Regular exercise is also an effective method for treating anxiety and depression.
Insufficient nutrition – low-calorie diets, low-carbohydrate or high-calorie foods have low nutritional value and do not provide the body with enough fuel and nutrients to function smoothly. Fast-awake foods such as chocolate and caffeinated beverages offer only a temporary surge of energy, which quickly subsides and further increases the effect of fatigue.
Individual factors – can be illness, injury, family problems, too many commitments, or financial problems. Many “causes” of fatigue can be found where almost all of us spend most of our day, namely at work.
Working in shifts – the human body is designed to sleep at night. Shift workers “confuse” their clock by working at a time when their body is programmed to sleep. Sleeping during the day is usually difficult because neurotransmitters released by the brain usually tune in to an “awake” wave.
Bad work practices – long hours of work, hard physical work, irregular working hours (rotating shifts), stressful work environment (excessive noise, sharp temperature differences), boredom, individual work, or focusing on repetitive tasks.
Workplace stress – it can be caused by many factors, such as job dissatisfaction, heavy workload, conflicts with management or colleagues, disputes, changes, or threats to job security.
Exhaustion – Workaholics most often suffer from fatigue, as they throw all their energy in the name of their career. Excessive career aspirations upset the balance in families, social life, and personal interests.
Unemployment – financial worries, feelings of failure, or guilt. Emotional exhaustion from a long-term job search can also lead to anxiety, depression, or fatigue.
Apart from external sources, the causes of fatigue often lie in ourselves. To find out if this is the case, it is advisable to visit your doctor as soon as you feel its symptoms. Here are some conditions that can cause fatigue:
- restless legs syndrome
- chronic pain
- Coeliac disease
- Addison’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- heart problems
- HIV virus
The mental state of a person is another very important group of factors that cause fatigue. Studies show that psychological factors underlie at least 50% of complaints of fatigue. Here are the most important ones:
Depression – This condition is characterized by a prolonged and depressing feeling of sadness, discouragement, and hopelessness. People suffering from depression often suffer from chronic fatigue.
Anxiety and stress – people who are constantly anxious and stressed keep their bodies in constant fatigue. The constant rush of adrenaline exhausts the body and gives way to fatigue.
Sadness – the loss of a loved one causes unpleasant emotions such as shock, guilt, depression, despair, and loneliness, which also “unlock” fatigue.
Diagnosis can be difficult
Because fatigue is often expressed with multiple symptoms and is caused by a combination of factors, diagnosis can be difficult. Your doctor can identify the “disease” by gathering information about:
Your medical history – recent events such as the birth of a child, treatment, surgery, or the loss of a loved one.
Your physical condition – to detect the presence of diseases. Your doctor may ask you about your diet, lifestyle, and if something happened to you recently.
Your physiological condition – blood tests, urine tests, X-rays. The reason is to isolate possible causes such as anemia, infection, and hormonal problems.
The effect of fatigue
Fatigue has an adverse effect on the human body in every way. High levels of fatigue reduce productivity and increase the risk of accidents and injuries in the workplace.
Fatigue affects our ability to think soberly, which is vital in making decisions. Tired people are not able to “measure” the level of their own fatigue and as a result, do not realize that their condition is deteriorating if the necessary measures are not taken.
When one is tired, one can experience the so-called microsleep. Microsleep is a short nap that lasts up to 30 seconds. People who fall asleep are not always aware of when this is happening, which can be a significant threat to their security.
The effects of fatigue increase with age. People over the age of 50 have lighter and more intermittent sleep. Fatigue can also affect a woman’s reproductive health. Fatigue and irregular sleep are associated with many risks in pregnant women, the most common of which are:
- increased risk of miscarriage
- low birth weight
- increased risk of premature birth
What to do to reduce fatigue?
To reduce fatigue, it is advisable to follow the following recommendation – get enough sleep, but first find out exactly how much is enough. If you answer “Yes” to any of the questions below, you are more likely to suffer from sleep deprivation:
- Do you fall asleep after lunch?
- Do you fall asleep in the car while waiting at a traffic light?
- Do you fall asleep while standing and reading a book or newspaper?
- Do you fall asleep watching TV?
- Do you fall asleep in a public place if you have no activity?
- Do you fall asleep as a passenger in the car?
- Do you fall asleep while standing and talking?
You can “calculate” the time you need to sleep by doing the following experiment – sleep 6 hours for a few days, gradually increasing the duration of sleep and, of course, do not forget to note how you feel. This way you will be able to find how much sleep you really need.
- Manage your fatigue at home. Good fatigue management does not end after you leave your job. Use your time at home to reduce sleep deprivation. This means providing yourself with as much sleep as you need. This will help you know the ten main factors for good sleep – minimal noise, light, heat, food, worries, irregularities, outside interference, household chores, alcohol, other stimulants, and coffee.
- Eat at certain times and avoid foods high in calories and fat.
- Exercise – A sedentary lifestyle contributes to sleep problems, which also lead to fatigue during the day. Exercise will help you stay in shape, and maintain your weight and blood pressure.
- If you feel the need for light stimulants, use them only as a last resort and be careful with stronger ones. There is a sure sign that you are too tired and need more rest.
- Caffeine in coffee and other drinks is one of the best mild stimulants, but it can be addictive. Avoid using it at home, consume it mostly outdoors, to limit its access. If you resort to strong stimulants, you have a serious flaw in your fatigue management strategy. These are not a cure for fatigue. Do not use them when their effect will interfere with your normal sleep and remember that after the effect subsides you will feel even more tired.
- Get regular medical checkups. If you feel constantly tired, even though you get enough sleep, be sure to seek medical help.
- Eat healthy. The preferred source of energy for the body is glucose, which comes from carbohydrates, fatty acids, and amino acids. It is delivered to each cell with the blood, then “burned” with oxygen to release energy. Each step in this process is controlled by hormones.
We have also prepared some advice on how to battle fatigue with nutrition:
Drink plenty of water – the dehydrated body functions less efficiently.
Be careful with caffeine – 1 or 2 caffeinated drinks a day/car or coffee / stimulate energy and alertness. Higher doses of caffeine cause anxiety and irritability.
Have breakfast – food boosts your metabolism and provides your body with energy. The brain needs glucose for “fuel”, so enjoy a carbohydrate-rich breakfast.
Don’t miss meals – starvation causes a drop in blood sugar and a feeling of dizziness.
Eat healthy – increase the number of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, and lean meats. Reduce your intake of foods high in fat, sugar, and salt.
Do not overeat – instead of eating 3 large meals a day, try to divide food intake into 6 small meals. This will help maintain blood sugar and insulin levels.
Eat foods rich in iron – women, in particular, are at greater risk of iron deficiency (anemia). Make sure you eat enough iron-rich foods such as red meat.
Get enough sleep – adults need about 8 hours of sleep a day. Make yourself comfortable in the sleeping area.
Avoid sleeping pills – in the long run, they are absolutely useless as they do not affect the causes of insomnia.
Don’t smoke – there are many reasons why smokers suffer from a lack of energy. To produce energy, the body needs glucose and oxygen, and the carbon monoxide contained in cigarettes lowers the level of oxygen in the blood.
Increasing physical activity – increases energy, while a sedentary lifestyle is one of the known causes of fatigue. Exercise has a number of positive effects on the body and mind. For example, exercise helps lower blood pressure, maintain a healthy weight, and treat depression and anxiety.
Reduce the time you are sitting – limit the so-called. sedentary practices – watching TV and standing in front of the computer – seek advice – if you have not exercised for a long time, are over 40, and have a chronic medical problem, be sure to seek the advice of your doctor to take action towards a more active lifestyle.
Evaluate your lifestyle – for example, do you put yourself under unnecessary stress? Are there problems in your life that cause you prolonged anxiety or depression?
Learn to relax – constant anxiety “drains” the body of energy and can lead to exhaustion. The strategy includes learning relaxation techniques such as meditation and yoga, which will make you “turn off” adrenaline and allow your body and mind to be restored.
Learn to be lazy – one of the disadvantages of modern life is to strive to conquer ever higher peaks. The hectic lifestyle is tiring. Learn to “steal” a few hours a week just to relax and unwind.
Have more fun – you may be so overwhelmed with work that you don’t have time for fun. Laughter is one of the best ways to “pump up” energy.
Finally, a little advice for overcoming drowsiness after lunch: Most people become drowsy after lunch. This early afternoon drop in energy is again related to the action of the biological clock. It is hardly possible to completely get rid of the “defect”, but we can at least try to reduce it by following these recommendations:
- Include as many of the above suggestions as possible to combat fatigue.
- Eat protein and carbohydrates for lunch, such as a tuna sandwich. Carbohydrates are a source of glucose used to provide energy.
- Eat more protein at lunch – the amino acid tyrosine allows the brain to synthesize the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine, which keep our brains awake.
- Get moving – a brisk walk or even 10 minutes of stretching on the desk will improve your blood circulation and give you new strength.
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