How to Combat Fatigue Without Drugs or Stimulants

It seems that everyone is tired these days. Not just plain tired, but exhausted to the point to not being able to function at all tired. This is what Barbara told me when she came to see me for her stuffy nose problem. She was in her late 40s, had gained about 15 pounds over the past year, and she’s beginning to snore.

Your first thought may be that I’m thinking obstructive sleep apnea, but you’re wrong. If you came to see me for this problem, the most important things to consider are your diet, exercise levels, sleep duration, lifestyle factors, and recent life stress issues. That may seem a little out of my area of expertise as an ENT surgeon, but as a physician, my duty and responsibility is to first address your health in total, in the context of your environment and surroundings. 

Here are 7 things to try to combat fatigue before considering medications, stimulants:

1. Are you eating late? This is a common problem that can aggravate reflux, but this habit can severely aggravate sleep-breathing problems If you’re already susceptible to a sleep-breathing disorder (everyone), even brief pauses in breathing can vacuum up your normal stomach juices into your throat. This causes frequent arousals and fragmented sleep. Try to avoid eating anything within 3-4 hours of bedtime. The same applies to alcohol.

2. Is your nose stuffy? Having a stuffy noses is like sucking in through a flimsy straw: As  you pinch the tip (nose), the middle part (palate or tongue) begins to collapse. This is why it’s important to breathe optimally through your nose. You can start with frequent nasal saline irrigation, with or without breathe right strips.

3. Was there any recent weight gain? Even 3 to 5 pounds of weight gain can aggravate more reflux and obstructed breathing, leading to a vicious cycle of frequent arousals. Going on an exercise plan to lose weight can help.

4. Was there any recent change in your sleep position? If you were a natural side or stomach sleeper, but you recently had to change to your back because of an injury or even surgery, it’s likely that your sleep quality is now much worse on your back. Back sleep is most prone to your tongue or soft palate falling back, and 

5. Orofacial myology. Exercises for your tongue, lips, mouth and throat can help to strengthen your muscles and re-educate proper position, leading to proper function. It’s estimated that regular exercises alone can lower apnea severity by about 50%. Check out my interview with Joy Moeller about this important field.

6. Deep breathing relaxation exercises. You can find these activities through yoga, tai chi, or various other forms of proper breathing, including Buteyko breathing. Slowing down your breathing can help to calm your nervous system. 

7. Check for a vitamin D deficiency. Most modern, Western adults are deficient in this vitamin. Actually, it’s a hormone that affects every part of your body including your brain, heart, muscles, digestive system, bones, and kidneys. Although the lower limit of normal is 20, some doctors are recommending levels between 60 to 80.

Once you’ve considered all the above situations and you’re still not any better, check for obstructive sleep apnea or upper airway resistance syndrome. It’s estimated that up to 1/3 of all adults may have at least mild levels of obstructive sleep apnea. A large number of people will have upper airway resistance syndrome. Many of these people with get diagnosed with a vitamin deficiency, hormone imbalance, or anxiety/depression. Obstructed breathing which can lead to frequent arousals and lack of quality deep sleep can definitely make you tired, irritable, cranky, and exhausted. 

Have you tried any of the above options and if so, how well did it work?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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