Fatigue: Lose the Snooze Button
An overwhelming majority of my patients report NOT feeling refreshed in the morning when they wake up. I’m always a little pleasantly surprised when I ask and a patient says yes, they feel refreshed. Fatigue or feeling tired all the time is not normal. These may be a sign that there’s something wrong, so it should never be ignored.
If you are not waking up feeling refreshed, there are a number of possible explanations:
Not enough sleep
Studies show that optimal is 7-7.5 hours of restful sleep. If you wake frequently in the night or get up to go to the washroom, try having a bite or two of protein-rich food before you go to sleep. This stabilizes your blood sugar overnight. While you may be getting enough hours of sleep, if it is not deep, restful sleep, then it may not be of sufficient quality to prevent fatigue throughout the next day.
Ferritin is a blood test that we do to check your stored iron. Iron deficiencies can lead to fatigue and exhaustion. An optimal ferritin level is above 60 mcg/L. Some labs consider anything above 11 mcg/L to be normal. So, your doctor may have told you your iron (ferritin) was normal when it was a fair bit below ideal. Ferritin below 40 mcg/L can definitely lead to problems with low energy (and hair loss).
Your thyroid regulates your energy, body temperature, and metabolism. Sluggish thyroid function has a huge impact on energy. Blood work for thyroid is usually limited to testing TSH. This is a hormone that should stimulate your thyroid to work harder if it is underactive. So, a lower TSH means that the thyroid is working well. The normal range for TSH is 0.35-5.00 mU/L, which is like saying 35 to 500 is normal. The range is far too broad. Once TSH gets above 3.00 there are indications of an underactive thyroid. Some endocrinologists and fertility specialists medicate your thyroid if the level is above 2.50. As with ferritin, you may be told that your thyroid is “normal”. I treat a patient’s thyroid if the TSH exceeds 3.00. I try to restore normal thyroid function before it becomes any worse.
Hashimoto’s disease is a common cause of low thyroid function. Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune thyroid problem. Most doctors don’t test for it. TSH levels can be normal even when blood tests for Hashimoto’s are abnormal.
Underactive adrenal glands
If all else above has been ruled out, the chronic snooze button use is likely due to underactive adrenal glands. These are your stress glands. They sit on top of your kidneys and regulate a wide range of bodily functions. These include regulating blood pressure, blood sugar, the nervous system, libido, energy, drive, motivation, stress response, inflammation, hormone balance etc.
Signs of low adrenal function include:
- NOT feeling refreshed after at least 7 hours of sleep
- feeling dizzy or light-headed on standing up quickly
- low libido
- inflammatory conditions like allergies, asthma, eczema, arthritis, and inflammatory bowel disease etc.
Allergies can often leave people feeling exhausted a good deal of the time. Because their immune system is working double time, all the time.
Excessive stress, under-functioning thyroid or adrenals, vitamin or mineral deficiencies, and hormone imbalance all lead to signs of depression. Symptoms like difficulty getting out of bed or feeling motivated to do anything and a lack of joie de vivre.
Naturopathic medicine offers abundant safe, natural treatment options for all of the above conditions.
For help with this or any other health problem, book an appointment here or call the office for more information at 416-481-0222.
Authored by Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), ND
DISCLAIMER: The information provided here may not apply precisely to your individual situation. Diagnostic and therapeutic choices must always be tailored to the individual patient’s circumstances, and consultation with a licensed naturopathic physician should be undertaken before following any of the treatment strategies suggested in this website.