New patients consistently describe fatigue as one of their primary concerns during their office visit. On www.dictionary.com fatigue is defined as “weariness from mental or physical exertion.” Certainly our busy lifestyles are a contributing factor to this chronic state. What I think this basic definition lacks is an inclusion of the sleep factors that often contribute to our sense of fatigue. If I could modify the definition it would say “fatigue is a weariness from mental or physical exertion, coupled with chronic exhaustion from a lack of restorative sleep.” I want to share a few of the basic recommendations I make for patients to help restore normal sleep rhythms.
Sleep a consistent amount
Research has shown that an adult human needs between 7 and 8 hours of sleep per night. Individuals that get less than 7 or more than 8 hours consistently have an increased mortality rate from all causes. Often the patients I work with are getting much less than 7 hours during their typical work week and then will sleep longer than 8 hours on the weekend trying to make up for missed sleep. This is an extremely ineffective way to establish good energy. My typical recommendation (often an unpopular one) is to set a consistent wake up time and stick to it 7 days a week. It is acceptable to vary the time by an hour, but no more. For example, if work requires you to wake at 6:30 am, then you should sleep no later than 7:30 am on the weekend. We are creatures of habit and we are creatures of rhythm. Our body craves consistency regarding our sleep and we must address it with our wake up time. As we become consistent with our wake up time, the body will naturally regulate our evening routines to help us get that ideal 7 to 8 hours per night.
More Sleep = More Energy to be productive
Often patients will be reluctant to give up their late night hours. During the week many parents use the time after the kids go to bed to address household chores. I present that it isn’t a lack of time that is prohibiting these things getting done early in the day. Instead it is a lack of energy and hence a poor management of time. When energy is good, we feel like we have all the time in the world. Prioritizing our sleep schedule is a safe and stimulant free way to recapture our lost energy. Sleep is vital because this is the primary time when our body heals.
Naps can help too
I do want to share that this approach allows an early afternoon nap on the weekends. I let patients know that if your weekend activities have you staying out later than normal on Friday and Saturday, please take an early afternoon nap after waking at your set time. Naps are a regular part of many cultures and can help make up for the missed sleep as long as they are happening in the early afternoon. Too often in America individuals nap after work or school in the evening and that can make it difficult to get to bed at your normal time. One other thought about naps, too long can be trouble. Ideally we want to sleep and then wake up about 30 minutes into the nap. If we go much longer we run the risk of falling into a very deep sleep and then when we wake up we feel even more tired and groggy than we did before. When napping, be sure to set an alarm to wake you up at 30 minutes. So consider an early afternoon, 30 minute, weekend nap if you are not getting 7 to 8 hours on a Friday or Saturday night.
I can only begin to emphasize how important sleep is for your overall health. If your sleep is lacking in quality or quantity it will affect your personal and professional life. You simply won’t have the energy to live the life you can imagine. ~Dr. Swanz
Dr. Swanz was awarded the prestigious Daphne Blayden award for his commitment to Naturopathic Medicine, Academic Excellence, Compassion, Perseverance, a Loving Sense of Humor and a Positive, Supportive Outlook by his colleagues and staff at SCNM.
He is a Board Certified Naturopathic Physician with advanced training in classical homeopathy and nutrition. Dr. Swanz is a Fellow of the Homeopathic Association of the Naturopathic Physicians. He currently supports individuals on the journey to health through his Vital Force Naturopathy practice, integrating the best of his conventional and holistic medical training. Dr. Swanz specializes in homeopathy, pediatrics and family medicine. He is passionate about healing and is driven by the desire to see all people be the most healthy individual they can be.
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