Energy Drainers--and Fixes!

By , SparkPeople Blogger
By Lynda Liu, Fitness Magazine

Ask any woman the one thing she wants more of, and energy will most likely top her list. While getting more sleep would seem to be the obvious solution (Americans average seven hours of sleep a night), daytime exhaustion has a host of other, often surprising, causes -- all of which are easily treated. "In many cases, low energy can be traced to a certain behavior and fixed in a few weeks," says Martin Lipsky, MD, a professor and chair of the department of family medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and Evanston Northwestern Healthcare. (If fatigue persists without explanation, however, talk to your doctor. It could be a sign of a more serious illness.)

Want to get your energy back? Here are 14 reasons why there's less pep in your step, plus the easy fixes that will get you up and running. Your vitality makeover starts right now!

You Don't Exercise
At least 30 minutes of a sweat-inducing workout during the day may help you sleep deeply, says Thomas E. Scammell, MD, an assistant professor of neurology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. His research suggests the increase in body temperature during exercise activates sleep-producing cells in the brain.

Fit in half an hour of cardiovascular exercise four days a week, says Wil Maxton, a certified personal trainer and nutrition specialist in Philadelphia. Even a daily 30-minute walk in the morning or after dinner can raise your body temperature enough to improve your energy level and help you fall asleep. To give your heart a good workout, walk briskly while still being able to maintain a conversation. Keep in mind, though, that exercise also raises your metabolism, which can heighten alertness and interfere with sleep, says Dr. Scammell. Work out early in the day when possible, and if you have to exercise in the evening, wait at least three hours before going to bed.

You're an Irregular Sleeper
If you're getting up at the crack of dawn during the workweek, then sleeping in on weekends, you're disrupting your body's natural sleep schedule (or circadian rhythm). The more your patterns vary from day to day, the more tired you'll become. Stay reasonably consistent in terms of when you go to bed and wake up to avoid throwing off your internal clock, says Dr. Scammell. Otherwise, you're at risk for sleep deprivation. Research shows that an irregular wake-up time impacts daytime sleepiness more than an erratic bedtime does.

You're Taking New Pills
If you're using a new medication and your energy level has lowered, talk to your doctor about switching drugs or dosages. Over-the-counter and prescription drugs like antihistamines, antidepressants, pain medications, and beta-blockers can tire you even if drowsiness isn't a listed side effect, says Dr. Lipsky.

Your Bedroom Isn't Dark
You'll sleep best when your room is very dark, says Samir Bangalore, MD, a medicine intern at Evanston Hospital in Illinois. Make sure blinds and curtains block intense light like streetlamps. (Low-intensity illumination such as a night-light is not likely to keep you awake.) In a recent study from Northwestern University, Dr. Bangalore found that people who were awakened in the middle of the night by bright light (such as a bathroom light) and kept awake for several hours had a shift in circadian rhythm, in essence giving them jet lag. The longer the exposure, the more the body's natural clock was disturbed.

You're Dehydrated
Dehydration causes your body to conserve energy by decreasing blood circulation. This deprives your muscles of oxygenated blood and causes you to become fatigued, Dr. Lipsky says. Even mild dehydration can make you feel lethargic. Symptoms include constipation; rough, dry skin; dry tongue, lips and mucous membranes; dark, strong-smelling urine; thirst; weakness; and fatigue. Be sure to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day. Your urine should be pale yellow, says Dr. Lipsky. If it's not, keep drinking until the color changes. Replace lost fluids during a workout by having 4 to 6 ounces of water every 15 to 20 minutes, advises Kristine Clark, PhD, RD, director of sports nutrition at Pennsylvania State University. Weigh yourself before and after you exercise, and drink 16 ounces (two cups) for every pound lost, she says.

You Slouch
Poor posture creates fatigue by causing muscles, ligaments, and joints to work harder than they do when your body is aligned correctly, says Scott Bautch, of the American Chiropractic Association. Experts estimate that looking down at a 45-degree angle uses five times more energy than holding your head in an upright position. The added strain on muscles also decreases blood (and oxygen) flow to your brain by as much as 30 percent, making you feel tired. To check your posture, draw an imaginary line from the middle of your ear through the center of your shoulder and hip. Or have someone take a photo of you from the side -- bad posture is easy to spot. Correct your slouch by strengthening back muscles. Try two sets of 20 shoulder rolls forward and backward twice a week.

More Energy Zappers!

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Thank you for the information. Report
I also didn't realize that slouching would make you drowsy. It is so easy to slouch throughout the day, especially if your job consist of sitting in front of a computer all day (like my job :-/ ). I will try to be more conscious of this now! Report
Good info on posture. Just learned that good posture also promotes blood flow to the brain creating better memory and brain function. Report
Had no idea about slouching. Thanks for sharing. Report
Thank you, I am working on my posture, it's tough! Report
Thats good info , I am getting back to my daily excercise which I have not done in a long time, and I am going to look into getting some dark drapes for my bedroom windows. Report
Shoulder shrugging is so good for flushing new blood into an area that can benefit from it! Great suggestion. Thankx! Report
I never realized slouching would have this kind of effect!! Report
Aren't there more reasons? if so why did 'siestas' appear in so many cultures. Maybe the machine needs to rest too? Check and see how hot a car engine gets if there are no breaks along the trip. People who can't seem to stop are either, an ocd or a hyperthyroid. Report
This is very good information. I am going to try the suggestions and see if that helps. Report
I feel like I get plenty of exercise and fluid but my husband doesn't. He keeps waking me up! Report
Dehydration and sitting too long with poor posture definitely causes fatigue for me! Anytime I have to sit for an extended period of time, I try to remember to at least stand up and stretch every hour or so. Report
I get about 8-9 hours of sleep per night, though that never seems like enough. For those of you wanting "automatic drapes" to reveal the sun and wake you in the morning, I use a sunrise simulator to wake me up. That way, even on cloudy, gloomy winter days, I have the "sun" waking me. You can find them online, or in stores like Brookstone or Hammacher Schlemmer. My biggest energy drain is stress. I have four teenagers (one in college, one in high school, and two in middle school) and that is enough to stress me out regularly! Report
I sit on my butt too much. Lately I've been looking at heavy cleaning as a form of exercise. Before it was a drain that got in the way of my walking and other activities. Now I use both the walk and cleaning as a way of getting balance. Now if I could just get away from the TV more.
I sleep now for 8 hours with no problem, but I'm always up EARLY every morning. For years I didn't get to sleep all night because I had five kids, so I know what it is to be tired from no sleep. Report
I'm pretty bad about sleep - average 5 - 6 hours and sometimes 3 - 4. Report
I get 8 or 9 hours of sleep each night. The only thing that ever zaps my energy is when I am stressed. So, I do try not to get stressed very often. Report
I did not know about the slouching part. That is one thing I've tried to correct over the years, but still remind myself daily about sitting up straight, particularly at my desk at work. Great article! Report
I know posture is definitely one thing I need to work on correcting. Thanks for the info.! Report
Sleep --- who's got time to sleep? Report
great thanks so much Report
good info. thanks Report
I don't have a hard time getting good sleep, I just feel like I can't get enough of it and have a hard time waking up! I've never been a morning person. I just hate to get out of my comfy warm bed! Report
We are doing our best to clock the alarm clock light, phone light, etc. Do wish I could find blinds that would open automatically when it was time to get up! Report
Didn't know about the slouching thing. Will have to work on that! Report
I need automatic shades--ones that stay closed all night, but open just before dawn so the sunrise is my alarm clock--feels so much better than the clock radio alarm. Report
The slouching one is the one that surprised me. I REALLY need to work on that one! Report
I am constantly battling the sleep issue. I have done the SP Sleep Challenge which helped a lot, but due to my current job, I am constantly traveling across 4 time zones. Going west isn't as big a deal as coming back east is. But it has turned this lark into an owl, big time. Report
I knew most of these reasons, but it is always a nice reminder to re-read them. Report
Interesting there are several points I didn't realize such as dehydration being a cause. Mmmm, food for thought. Report
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