With the increasing trend in Western life to cram more and more into each day, we are craving for more energy and more balance in our lives whilst, at the same time, also maintaining our productivity. However the major epidemic is that the majority of us simply do not have the time or the energy to do the things that we really want to do.
Today’s time-strapped lifestyle has turned most of our lives into a day-to-day struggle for survival before we crawl into bed exhausted at the end of the day. Fatigue is not only creating strains at home but the workplace is definitely feeling the pinch…
According to a recent study by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM), fatigue is costing the workplace in the United States $136 billion dollars in health-related lost productivity. 39 % of the 29 000 US workers interviewed said that they had experienced “low levels of energy, poor sleep or a feeling of fatigue”.
The biggest cause of productivity losses from fatigue was not from having days absent but $114 billion dollars was lost in productivity due to reduced performance while at work. This mainly came from poor concentration requiring more time to complete normal tasks.
Along with the common cold and body aches and pains, a lack of energy is one of the most common health complaints in Western society, yet it is a condition that very few of us seek professional help about it because a lack of energy, by itself, is not fatal. What we fail to understand is that the lifestyle factors that cause the vast majority of cases of fatigue, if continued, can go on and contribute to the development of the most common life-threatening conditions such as heart disease, obesity and diabetes.
Fatigue is one of the health signs that you should all take immediate notice of. It is the first indicator that your body is starting to struggle to work properly. Recurrent fatigue occurs when your body is spending more and more energy on trying to repair the damage you inflict on yourself so less energy is available for you to use.
Unfortunately, when we do try to address our lack of energy by ourselves, we tend not to address the direct causes of the fatigue such as managing emotional stress, trying to fit too much in, lack of exercise, lack of rest and various other aspects of the modern, on-the-go lifestyle. Instead we opt for the over-consumption and abuse and reliance of certain foods and drinks that give us a short-term energy boost. Fast food outlets and supermarket aisles are literally bursting with processed, sugar-laden fast foods that are high in fat which at best should be consumed as an occasional treat. The soaring obesity and diabetes epidemic in the Western world highlights the sheer magnitude of the abuse and dependence that we have placed on these fatty and sugary fast foods… and now we can see the real cost of it as a society
So what can be done to improve your energy levels throughout the day so you have enough energy for work, home and most importantly you have some energy left over for you?
Before trying to dissect someone’s lifestyle and come up with some complicated formula I found that 90% of health and energy issues could be fixed by simply doing the basics. And there is no more basic cause for fatigue than addressing the quality of your sleep. You would be amazed by the number of people complaining of fatigue simply because they aren’t getting enough high quality sleep.
I know that most health experts and academics recommend that you get a minimum of eight hours sleep each night. To me the experts are dreaming if they think that any man or woman with children and a full time job and other commitments are going to consistently get eight hours of sleep each night. What you need to do first is to improve the quality of your sleep.
The three most common sleeping problems I hear of are:
- Having trouble getting to sleep due to their mind racing.
- Having trouble getting to sleep due trouble winding down.
- Having trouble getting back to sleep after waking up in the middle of the night.
So what are some solutions to a better sleep?
Sleeping Challenge No.1 – Your mind is racing
During a particularly challenging time in my business I would be awake for hours regurgitating ideas and problems in my head. One morning at about 1.30 am after about two weeks of next to no sleep, I got up out of bed and went down to my home office and started to write. Half out of frustration, my pen feverishly scorched over the paper as I tried to write down every thought and idea that was running through my head.
Six pages and one hour later I was finished. I was grateful that my brain had stopped running at a million miles an hour. After a few deep breaths, a heavy blanket of sleepiness soon curled around me and I promptly retired to bed. I was surprised about how fresh I was when awoke four and a half hours later. During breakfast I reviewed the notes that I had scribbled earlier that morning.
What I had written was the basis of the best 12month marketing and business development plan that I had ever done. No wonder my brain wouldn’t let me sleep. If I hadn’t kept going over it in my head I may have forgotten it.
Now if I find myself lying awake at night staring at the ceiling with things running through my head, I quickly grab a pen and paper and jot my thoughts down on paper. Safe in the knowledge that your thoughts are safely documented your brain then happily switches to sleep mode.
Sleeping Challenge No.2 – trouble winding down
Melanie’s major trouble was winding down and after her evening meal. After asking her a few questions it came as no surprise.
Melanie loved watching crime shows on TV in her bedroom and especially documentaries that reported on actual crimes. If there were no such show on TV she would nestle down in bed with a suspenseful thriller in her hand.
“By repeatedly feeding yourself a diet of suspense, in a place that is meant for rest and relaxation and at a time when you are meant to rest, you have trained your mind to go into a state of suspense. It would be impossible for you to sleep well in these circumstances.
“But how can I train myself to relax in the evening when I also have to clean up around the house?”
“Firstly leave books and TVs out of the bedroom. You want to create your bedroom as a place for sex and rest.”
“The last 30 minutes of your day is just as important as your first 30 minutes. If you spend that time winding yourself down during the evening it will help improve the quality and effectiveness of your sleep. During this wind down time you can play calming music as you prepare for the following day. You can finish the cleaning up and begin to prepare for tomorrow’s meals and plan your next day.”
The other way to help get you relaxed and sleepy is to turn the lights out. When you go to bed to sleep, ensure that your room is completely dark. Darkness stimulates the production of a sleep-inducing chemical by the pineal gland called melatonin. Even low levels of light inhibit the production of this sleepy melatonin so make sure to turn off all the lights in your bedroom, including glowing displays from clocks and other electrical appliances.
Sleeping Challenge No.3 – Trouble getting back to sleep after waking
It might be your child that has woken you or you have had to go to the toilet. Often your natural reaction is to turn the lights on. For your sleeps sake try to keep the lights turned off.
Whereas darkness may be nature’s sleeping pill, light is better than a double espresso in terms of giving you an immediate wake up. Light of any form immediately shuts off the production of the drowsy melatonin, letting your body know it is time to get up and get going.
Try some of these tips for improving the quality of your sleep. The quality of your family life and the quality and productivity of your work will rise greatly.