No Amount of Sleep is Enough

Is acute fatigue cramping your productivity?

By Kevin RR Williams

HEALTH At an inopportune time, an irresistible urge to sleep overtakes you. Perhaps it's right after lunch or in the early evening while watching your favorite program. Is the coffee pot the answer?

Figuring you have been working hard lately, you decide to retire early and catch up on much needed rest. Instead of your usual 6 to 8 hours sleep, you slumber for 10 to 12 hours. But something unexpected happens when you awaken. You remain fatigued. With disorientation and very little energy it's difficult to even walk to around the house. Perhaps you stumble from the bed to the sofa, only to doze off again. After a full night's rest, all you want to do is continue sleeping.

Why So Sleepy?

Obviously something is wrong and you should be wary of seeking an online diagnosis. Keep in mind that fatigue is a symptom, not a disease. It may suggest anything from acute or chronic fatigue to sleep apnea, dysautonomia or diabetes. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is indicated by fatigue lasting 6 months or more, often accompanied by depression. [1] Sleep apnea is generally seen with obesity and narcolepsy. Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS) is a cortisol imbalance with fatigue as a symptom. [2] If the fatigue is a recent phenomenon, it might be considered acute.

Sleep Pay Back

You may be suffering from "sleep debt" as a result of depravation. If your body requires 8 hours sleep to function optimally, sleeping 6 hours for five days in a row creates a debt of 10 hours. The sleep pay back doesn't quite work the same as covering a bounced check. Figuratively speaking, you can't just transfer the corresponding funds; installment payments are best.

Professionals might recommend sleeping a bit longer for several nights to gradually pay back the "debt." Dr. Lawrence J. Epstein, regional medical director of the Harvard-affiliated Sleep Health Centers, offers this advice: "If you missed 10 hours of sleep over the course of a week, add three to four extra sleep hours on the weekend and an extra hour or two per night the following week until you have repaid the debt fully. If you’ve shorted yourself on sleep for decades, plan a vacation with a light schedule and few obligations. Once you’ve determined how much sleep you really need, factor it into your daily schedule." [3]

Adequate Nutrition

Another reason for remaining tired is improper nutrition. Many people combat fatigue with caffeinated beverages like coffee or cola. Caffeine is a sedative with only temporary stimulant benefits. Some energy drinks include caffeine and vitamins that create a ever-dependent boomerang effect. Caffeine is at best a temporary solution and at worst, a catalyst for perpetual fatigue.

Blog: Coffee Compromised Equilibrium

Particularly if you are a vegan or vegetarian, recount in your head how much protein you've consumed over the past few days. Poor eating habits for non-meat eaters can masquerade as a healthy diet. A week of salads, brown rice and minestrone soup might seem like the envy of dieters. But where's the protein? During my first stint as a vegetarian, I told my doctor that I was striving to eat protein three times per week. She retorted that I should be eating protein three times per day!

Blog: How Much Is Enough Protein?

Protein is essential for energy. Proteins in our body are constantly being built and disposed of. After we eat, proteins are broken down by digestion into amino acids. Amino acids are then absorbed and used to make other proteins in the body. Adequate protein and energy intake, on a daily basis, ensures the cycle continues. [4]

B12 is readily available from many animal food sources, including eggs and cheese. Vegans who exclude all animal products from their diets and vegetarians who consume considerably less than omnivores can run through their vitamin B12 reserve in about 2 years. As you may have guessed, one of the side effects of B12 depletion is fatigue. [5]

Blog: Is Your Body Craving B12?

An easy-to-try remedy that could return noticeable results within a matter of hours is to take a vitamin B complex vitamin while drinking a protein shake. A multivitamin that includes vitamin E and magnesium is also advised.

Plant-based (soy) protein powders are available. If you don't have powdered protein, you can blend silken tofu in a smoothie. Of course meat eaters have more protein options. Drink enough water to force a bowel movement, which can flush out lingering toxins. If appropriate, rest for an hour or two until the nutrients are absorbed into your system. Eat a well-balanced meal and get a good night's sleep.

Sometimes there are overlapping causes. For example, there could be a sleep debt plus malnutrition. In this case, you may continue to exhibit moderate fatigue following the vitamins and protein. Lack of exercise, allergies and more serious health conditions have fatigue as a symptom. You can literally take positive steps by walking around the block if your health permits.

If extra rest, a brisk walk nor nutrition gets you feeling more alert within 48 hours, it is wise to schedule an appointment with your doctor. Regardless of the outcome of the evaluation, good nutrition and proper rest, in general, contribute to making everyone feel A Bit More Healthy.

Tags: b-12, disoriented, natural remedies, sleep debt, stupor

References
  1. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). emedicinehealth.com ^
  2. Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome: Common Symptoms. naturopathconnect.com ^
  3. Repaying your sleep debt. health.harvard.edu ^
  4. Proteins are essential to life! eufic.org ^
  5. Vitamin B12 Deficiency. webmd.com ^
  6. Photograph by Offstocker licensed from iStock Photo.