According to a survey conducted by the Conference Board of Canada, 27% of Canadian workers report being fatigued most days or every day during a typical work week. That’s a quarter of the people surveyed! Lack of sleep or poor sleep can have serious consequences not only in the work place, but also for general well-being. It is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, mental health disorders like depression and anxiety, lowered immune function, and decreased quality of life. Not to mention fatigue impacts productivity, mental function, working memory, and ability to stay focused on a task.
This is all well and good, but there are numerous factors that can contribute to chronic fatigue issues, and finding and establishing balance can be difficult if you don’t know what’s contributing to your fatigue in the first place! Let’s have a look at some common causes for fatigue.
- Not enough sleep
- Poor dietary choices
- Low blood sugar
- Stress and/or adrenal fatigue
- Food allergies and sensitivities
- Low Vitamin B12
- Too much caffeine
- Low thyroid
- Heart disease
- Prescription medication
- Shift work
As you can see, the list is numerous. As such, I’ve divided this post up into 4 parts, for ease of reading.
NOT ENOUGH SLEEP
About one third of Canadians get less than the recommended daily amount of sleep that is required for optimal mental and physical health. It may seem like an obvious solution but with a busy on-the-go lifestyle being the norm these days, some individuals may not make sleep a top priority. But inadequate sleep can have a significant negative impact on both physical and cognitive function.
Aim to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. Get into a routine: go to bed at the same time every night and try to wake around the same time each morning. Make sure your sleep environment is comfortable, a cool temperature, and free of any distractions (such as cell phone or television). If you are still having difficulties with falling or staying asleep after establishing a routine with the above recommendations, you may want to consult a qualified health care professional to see if there are any underlying causes for your difficulties.
POOR DIETARY CHOICES
Energy levels appear to be directly related to the quality of foods that we routinely ingest.
Refined carbohydrates, processed foods, or bad fats (such as hydrogenated or trans fats) can starve our body because, while providing energy, this food is essentially “empty calories”. It does not provide the fuel the body needs to carry out its daily functions; and so, this type of diet can leave you feeling perpetually tired with zero energy.
Focus on a whole foods diet to supply your body with essential vitamins and minerals, and other nutritional building blocks. This means a diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, beans, legumes, lean animal protein, and healthy fats (such as from avocados, olive oil, or coconut oil).
Hypoglycemia is low blood sugar. Normally, the body maintains blood sugar levels within a specified range. However, certain factors can disrupt this highly coordinated mechanism, resulting in what many recognize as a “blood sugar crash”. This is characterized by feelings of irritability, feeling hungry an hour or so after eating, cravings for sweets or sugar, feeling tired, difficulty with memory or concentration, feeling shaky, or mid-morning or afternoon fatigue.
A diet that is high in refined carbohydrates can increase chances of having a hypoglycemic episode, as well as overconsumption of caffeine or alcohol, and eating a carbohydrate-heavy meal without adequate fiber, protein and fat to slow digestion.
To help balance blood sugars, focus on a whole foods diet (see above), and make sure you eat protein when you eat carbohydrates. Protein helps slow down the digestive process, which results in a more even release of sugar into the blood stream (instead of a quick surge which, inevitably, leads to a crash an hour or two later). Healthy fats also help slow release of glucose into the blood.
Water is the essence of life. Literally every single metabolic process in the body requires water in one way or another. Drinking water helps flush toxins and waste out of the body. Living in a dehydrated state can lead to a build-up of these harmful by-products, and this can lead to feeling sluggish, fatigued, and mentally exhausted.
Drinking water won’t cure fatigue but studies show that not drinking enough can certainly make it worse. Drink at least 2 liters per day. More, if you are physically active or sweat a lot.