14 Energy Drainers -- and Fixes
Reasons 7-14You're Itchy
It's easy to ignore your itchy nose or nasal congestion. But left untreated, the annoying symptoms can cause fatigue, says Aimee Altschul, MD, a clinical allergist and immunologist in private practice at ENT and Allergy Associates and a clinical instructor at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. "Congestion, runny nose, and other symptoms can prevent you from falling asleep or staying asleep." she says. Ease sniffles with remedies like the allergy drug Claritin, a once-a-day, nonsedating antihistamine that became available over-the-counter last December, or prescription-only daily-dose sprays such as Nasonex or Flonase. If conventional drugs don't work, visit an allergist who can help you detect what you're allergic to and how to treat it, says Dr. Altschul.You've Got a Major Sweet Tooth
Simple sugars, found in soda, candy, cakes, and ice cream, may give you a quick boost of energy -- but not a lasting one. These foods trigger a large output of insulin, which lowers blood sugar and leaves you feeling sluggish, according to Maxton. Eat fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, which keep blood sugar levels steady.You're Under Pressure
Stress causes your body to release cortisol, the "fight or flight" hormone. When released, it increases the fat and sugar in your bloodstream that your brain and muscles use for a quick burst of energy. After the anxiety has passed, your body returns to its normal state. When you're under chronic stress, however, the hormone is released continuously, says Jim Lane, PhD, an associate research professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University. Long-term exposure to elevated cortisol level leads to fatigue and a weakened immune system, he says. To reduce the physical impact of stress, focus on your breathing when tension starts to rise. Make sure your belly expands and your breath is coming from the lower abdomen. Inhale and exhale slowly. Deep breathing increases the oxygen in your bloodstream, which slows your heart rate, lowers your blood pressure and relaxes your muscles, thereby countering the fight-or-flight response.You Drink Coffee or Soda
Caffeine can magnify your body's response to stress. A study in Psychosomatic Medicine found that ingesting the caffeine equivalent of two to three 8-ounce cups of coffee significantly increases stress-hormone levels and blood pressure (just one cup may raise your blood pressure for the entire day). These effects might still be present at bedtime, preventing you from getting a sound sleep. Lane suggests drinking caffeinated beverages as early in the day as possible. "It can take 10 to 12 hours to eliminate it from your system, so have caffeine before noon," he says.You Snore
Sleep apnea, a condition caused by soft tissues in your throat that obstruct your airway, can wake you several times during the night. You may be unable to stay in REM sleep, which slows body functions, relaxes muscles, and allows you to enter the lowest state of consciousness. Symptoms include snoring, morning headaches, memory problems, and irritability, according to Christin Engelhardt, executive director of the American Sleep Apnea Association. She suggests sleeping on your side or stomach. If this doesn't help, or if these positions are uncomfortable, talk to your doctor or a sleep specialist about conducting a sleep disorders test.You're Iron Deficient
Nearly eight million adolescent girls and women of childbearing age in the United States suffer from iron deficiency. This can cause anemia, a condition that develops when normal stores of the mineral are depleted. Signs that you may be deficient include extreme fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, confusion or loss of concentration, dizziness or fainting, pale skin, rapid heartbeat, and feeling cold, sad, or depressed. If you might be anemic -- particularly if you're prone to heavy periods or are a vegetarian -- get a blood test. Dr. Lipsky does not recommend iron supplements for healthy adult women unless they're clinically deficient or pregnant.You're Lonely
People who feel isolated may have a harder time getting a good night's sleep, according to a study in Psychological Science. Researchers found that individuals who described themselves as lonely woke more frequently during the night than those who felt socially fulfilled. Experts aren't sure why the connection exists; still, "social interaction is one of the best ways to improve your mood and your sense of well-being," says Robert Thayer, PhD, a professor of psychology at California State University at Long Beach. If you think loneliness may be the cause of your fatigue, Thayer recommends sharing your feelings with a friend, family member, or counselor. Even a quick phone call can help you feel more connected to the people you love.You're Depressed
Energy loss and chronic fatigue are common symptoms of depression, a condition that may be characterized by poor sleep, hormonal changes, or tension, says Dr. Lipsky. Other signs include feelings of extreme sadness, anxiety, or guilt, poor concentration, loss of appetite or overeating, an inability to sleep or to stop sleeping, and suicidal thoughts. If you've been experiencing symptoms and have been unable to sleep soundly for two weeks or more, visit your doctor. For more information, visit the National Institute of Mental Health Web site at nimh.nih.gov.
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