Have you been feeling extra fatigue and tiredness lately? Well the exact reason why you’re experiencing fatigue could be a little complicated. Thankfully, we spoke to a few health experts that are willing to answer some common questions about sleep and ways to boost energy so that you no longer feel sluggish throughout the day!
Q: I recently cut back on coffee, but I need an extra boost to get through my days. Any recommendations?
A: For additional oomph, try adding one tablespoon of maca root powder like Navitas Naturals Raw Maca Powder (Buy at Vitacost.com, $16.99) to your morning smoothie, oatmeal, or yogurt daily. This Peruvian superfood is what homeopathic health experts call an adaptogen — a metabolic regulator that boosts the body’s ability to resist, respond to and recover from stress. It works by optimizing the body’s output of key hormones like cortisol, insulin and estrogen. Many of my clients say this gives them the burst of energy they need during hectic times — plus improves their mood and bolsters their sex drive.
It’s also worth noting that maca root can be especially beneficial for women going through perimenopause and menopause. That’s because it short-circuits the estrogen fluctuations that trigger symptoms such as mood swings, hot flashes and night sweats. In fact, in a study published in the International Journal of Biomedical Science, women who took maca root experienced an 84 percent reduction in menopausal symptoms compared with those taking a placebo. — Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, bestselling author of more than 30 books, including Radical Metabolism (Buy on Amazon, $12.99)
Q: I’d love to try a weighted blanket to ease my insomnia, but they’re a bit too pricey. I saw an ad for a weighted eye mask, which supposedly helps sleep too — and it costs much less. Will it help?
A: Wearing a sleep mask can definitely enhance slumber, since it blocks out light to optimize the body’s production of the sleep hormone melatonin. In fact, research reveals the strategy can speed sleep onset by 200 percent, while significantly improving refreshing sleep quality. And while I’m unaware of studies on weighted masks per se, similar weighted eye pillows have been used as relaxing, sleep-enhancing tools in restorative yoga for years. The gentle pressure they exert on nerves behind the eyes signals the vagus nerve to send messages to the brain, heart, abdomen and digestive tract that produce a deep sense of calm.
If you’d like to give a weighted mask a try, I suggest choosing one that’s designed to adapt to your facial contours and favorite sleeping position like Nodpod (Buy on Amazon, $38). — Cindy Geyer, MD, Medical Director at Canyon Ranch Wellness Resort in Lenox, MA, and a faculty member at the Center for Mind-Body Medicine in Washington, DC
Q: After months of waking up several times a night to use the bathroom, and feeling exhausted as a result, my doctor prescribed medication to help me sleep. But in one week, I wet the bed twice. Help!
A: Some 60 percent of women in their 40s and 50s suffer from nocturia, which occurs when the urge to urinate leads to multiple awakenings. To blame: hormonal changes during and after menopause, which weaken the muscles of the pelvic floor and urinary tract. And many sleep medications produce the backlash you’ve experienced: Their sedative effects keep you asleep, but they don’t stop the urges, so accidents result.
I’d advise stopping the medication (check with your doctor first) and treating the nocturia by cutting back on fluids within two hours of bed. Also smart: taking 300 to 350 mg. of magnesium twice a day like Life Extension Magnesium Citrate 160 mg. (Buy at LifeExtension.com, $9.50). It helps relax muscles to prevent bladder spasms that trigger accidents. If these measures don’t help in three weeks, see your doctor for other remedies. — Laura Corio, MD
Q: Lately I’ve been exhausted. When I mentioned it to my husband, he said I’ve been snoring more than usual. I read online that Himalayan salt lamps can help. Do they work?
A: As beautiful as they are, there is really no evidence that Himalayan salt lamps do much besides providing a calming glow to help set a sleepy-time mood. That said, salt can help you sidestep nighttime snoring in the form of a nightly nasal rinse. Running salty water through the nasal cavities gently washes pollen, dust and other irritants off the mucous membranes and soothes swollen nasal passages to prevent congestion and irritation that can cause snoring. To get the benefits, mix 1/2 teaspoon of kosher or sea salt into one cup of distilled (or boiled and cooled) water and use it to flush your sinuses with a neti pot (or simply by drawing it in through your nose and allowing it to flow out). If you find this stings a bit, you may want to add a pinch of baking soda.
If your snoring persists despite adding a nasal rinse before bed, please see your doctor, as sleep apnea is a serious condition that contributes to an increased risk of depression, high blood pressure and memory loss. — Cindy Geyer, MD
Q: I recently cut back on eating meat and adopted a more plant-based diet because I read it could help me lose weight. It’s working — I’m down 26 pounds. But I’m feeling more mentally foggy and anxious than usual. Is my diet to blame?
A: You may need more omega-3 fatty acids in your diet — especially if you’ve also noticed an increase in joint stiffness or drier skin. These healthy fats play a key role in optimizing brain function, dialing down inflammation and keeping skin cells lubricated. But it can be difficult to get enough from plant sources. That’s because the omega-3s in foods like walnuts and flaxseeds comes in a form (alpha-linolenic acid) that is converted into the active forms of omega-3s (DHA and EPA) at a rate of only five percent.
The easy fix: Enjoy two to three servings of fatty fish like salmon, sardines, or trout per week. These protein sources supply enough DHA and EPA to kick-start brain function and soften skin within two weeks. Even better, the omega-3s will speed up your slim-down: In one study, dieters who increased their fish intake lost 3.5 times more fat than those who skipped the seafood. — Nutrition experts Mira Calton, CN, and Jayson Calton, PhD, authors of Rebuild Your Bones: The 12-Week Osteoporosis Protocol (Buy on Amazon, $22.99)
Q: A few months ago I started taking three mg. of melatonin to help me sleep. It has worked great, but is it safe to take long-term?
A: It is safe, but I do suggest dialing back your dosage to see if a lower amount will still help you sleep. And avoid taking more than three mg., which may make you feel groggy in the morning.
Also, your body makes its own melatonin naturally, and there are ways to boost production to improve sleep. First, as the weather warms, try spending 10 minutes outside before bed — a strategy that improved sleep quality by 55 percent in a Cornell study. It works to lower cortisol levels, which is key since high cortisol can interfere with melatonin production.
I also suggest avoiding screens for 90 minutes before bed — the blue light they emit slows melatonin production. You could also try blue light–filtering glasses or download a free app like f.lux, which dims your screens as it gets closer to bedtime. — Heather Moday, MD, director of the Moday Center in Philadelphia. She is board-certified in allergy and immunology, as well as integrative and holistic medicine. You can follow her on Instagram (@theimmunitymd).
Q: I’m 46. Last month, I started taking progesterone cream to help ease my PMS symptoms, which have been worse than usual lately. It seems to be working, but I’ve been feeling so tired. Could the two be related?
A: They could be. Many perimenopausal women develop severe PMS symptoms like painful cramping, mood swings, breast tenderness and insomnia due to fluctuating hormone levels. And progesterone cream definitely helps. But it can cause mild side effects, particularly at the start of treatment. Here’s why: As you introduce progesterone back into the body after a period of deficiency, estrogen receptors tend to respond by becoming more active. This is a sign that the body is responding well to the progesterone, but it can lead to symptoms of estrogen dominance like dizziness, fatigue, and nausea. These side effects should disappear within two months.
But it’s also possible you’re using too much of the cream. Progesterone has anesthetic properties that soothe brain receptors to induce a feeling of calm, so taking too high of a dose often causes sluggishness. I suggest halving the amount of cream you use. If your dose was too high, you should feel better within three days. Or you can try a brand that delivers calibrated doses, like Emerita Pro-Gest Cream (Buy at Walmart, $26.98).
Finally, I recommend taking a break from progesterone cream for a few days each month to keep progesterone receptors from becoming desensitized to the hormone (requiring you to use more for the same results). To do: Use the cream from day seven to day 27 of your cycle and stop during your period, when progesterone levels are high. (Menopausal women can start any time and use the cream for 25 days, followed by a five day break before beginning again.) And keep in mind that most women lower the dose after a few months, when hormone levels have become balanced. But if these changes don’t ease your fatigue, ask your doctor to test your hormone levels to determine additional treatment options. — Laura Corio, MD
This article originally appeared in our print magazine, Cure Your Tiredness.
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