Or as the dance instructor from Flashdance said in her French accent, “Mohre Enairjhee!” Fatigue is one of my most common patient complaints, and among my running/triathlon friends, naps and our boringly early weekend bedtimes are common topics of discussion. Every now and then it hits me too, even though I’m pretty high-energy most of the time. It was funny when I was awarded a Certificate of Achievement for Extreme Caution and Bravado in the Art of Chillaxing by the staff of the Small Hope Bay Dive Lodge.
See, I can sit still!
There are a lot of diseases (and, unfortunately, medications used to treat diseases) that cause fatigue, but attention to lifestyle factors like diet and sleep patterns is most important. Two of my female running friends and fellow bloggers recently wrote about these things:
Christina’s series on vitamin and mineral supplements is well worth following. She started with calcium, which is key for women at all ages.
Kris’s most recent post, “The Devil is in the Details,” talks about paying attention to some of those little things that make a big difference. And I really want to try those bedding products she talks about!
Both of these women are pretty amazing. Christina is a registered dietitician in the Navy, currently stationed in Italy; Kris has 3 adorable little kids, a husband in the Navy, and a brilliant running career. Talk about high-energy women! I feel like a total slug by comparison.
But, back to fixing fatigue. An important blood test is serum ferritin. Most of the time, we’ll just check hemoglobin and leave it at that. But a lot of women have an okay hemoglobin but low ferritin, and medical research shows a very significant correlation between low ferritin and fatigue. One study in Switzerland showed a marked problem with low ferritin among well-educated women working in health care; you’d think we’d know better. The fix is simple, take an iron pill. Asking your doctor to check your ferritin isn’t a bad idea, either.
And sleep. There’s a lot of good advice out there on sleep hygiene: bedtime routine, cool bedroom, mild to moderate exercise outdoors at twilight, no TV or computer in the hour before bedtime, no Nooks or iPads or texting in bed (an old-school book and reading light are okay), light bedtime snack, no caffeine after a certain time of day, white noise in the bedroom. But multiple studies have shown that people have to practice these things, and benefit most from practicing specific behaviors. There are a lot of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy products available on the Internet, and they do work.
Now I’m off to enjoy this lovely near-fall morning! My own energy level is highest around the spring and fall equinoxes, so I’m going to make the most of it!