5 Hidden Reasons You’re Always Tired
The stresses of balancing work and family might not be what’s sapping your energy. Don’t overlook these sneaky sleep thieves.
Between grading papers, preparing lesson plans and taking care of family responsibilities, many of today’s educators are under-slept and over-stressed. So it’s easy to understand why you might hide under the covers when your alarm goes off instead of jumping out of bed.
According to Charles Bae, M.D., staff physician at the Cleveland Clinic Sleep Disorders Center, feeling tired is often a sign of minor problems that are easy to solve—too much stress, too much caffeine, too little sleep! Trouble is, fatigue can also signal something more troublesome than simple self-neglect. Moreover, overtired teachers not only harm their own health and wellbeing, they also compromise their ability to educate.
Here, five reasons you might be dragging—and what you can do to regain your strength:
1. You’re anemic. Anemia occurs when your body doesn’t have enough red blood cells to shuttle oxygen to your organs and tissues, and it’s a condition that affects more than three million Americans. The most common cause of anemia—iron deficiency—is easy to fix. Load up on iron-rich foods, including lean meat, shellfish and iron-fortified cereals, or pop a daily iron supplement. But don’t do anything without your doctor’s input, cautions Amy Hendel, Physician Assistant, lifestyle expert and author of “The 4 Habits of Healthy Families.” Getting too much iron can wear you down as well.
2. You’ve got an infection. If you’re feeling tired, your body may be using your energy stores to fight off an infection. Urinary tract and yeast infections are common culprits. “When you have an infection, your body responds by mounting a battle involving your immune system,” says Hendel—and that can lead to fatigue. The solution: visit your doctor. Prescription antibiotics or antifungals can wipe out the infection and whip you back into shape, stat.
3. You’re taking meds with sedating side effects. Medications, even “non-drowsy” formulations, can make you feel rundown. Top offenders: blood pressure meds, antihistamines and psychiatric drugs. “Review your list of prescriptions with your doctor or pharmacist,” suggests Dr. Bae. “If you’re experiencing side effects like fatigue or sleepiness, there may be another medication you can try.”
4. Your hormones are out of whack. Whether you’re struggling with low or high thyroid levels, going through menopause, or expecting a baby, hormone imbalance can zap your energy. Thyroid conditions are especially common, affecting up to 20 million Americans (one in eight women). Too little thyroid hormone and you’re tired all the time. Too much, and you might too wired to sleep. Hormone imbalance during menopause is another common culprit. “Progesterone helps stimulate breathing during sleep,” says Bae. “When those hormones drop during menopause, you lose that stimulus to breathe, and that can lead to snoring and disrupt sleep. Your doctor can help you identify the right dose and formulation of hormone replacement therapies to restore your energy. The caveat: If you’re pregnant, you may have to wait until your newborn sleeps through the night to get adequate shuteye.
5. You have a sleep disorder. Even if you’re snoozing 8 hours a night, the quality of your sleep may be compromised. People who have sleep apnea, for example, stop breathing periodically throughout the night. Each interruption momentarily disrupts sleep, so you feel exhausted during the day. The good news: Treatments for sleep disorders may help you sleep more soundly and boost brain power to boot. A recent investigation of people with sleep apnea indicated that treatment not only improved cognitive scores, but also increased gray matter volume in the memory centers of the brain.
Lack of sleep can lead to myriad health issues from weight gain to diabetes. “The latest research suggests it can even impact the effectiveness of your flu vaccine,” says Bae. If you’re losing sleep each night or spending your days in a fog, get checked out. You may have an underlying health issue.
How much sleep do you really need?
According to Bae, most people don’t know how much sleep they really need. Instead, they rely on nebulous recommendations of 7-8 hours each night—and then try to get by on five or six. The trick, he says, is to figure out how much sleep you need to function at your best—and educators are in an ideal position to reassess their sleep needs. “During winter break, or over the summer, go to bed when you’re tired and wake up naturally, without an alarm,” he suggests. “You’ll see how much sleep you need and then you can work to ensure you get that much sleep each night when school resumes.”
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