While many people I work with come in with a chief complaint of fatigue, it is different for each person. You may remember the exact moment in life when you felt like a switch turned off and the fatigue began or maybe you can’t even remember a time when you had energy.
The truth of the matter is you, like so many people today, are probably living an autopilot lifestyle and your adrenal glands are having a hard time keeping with the pace. Your adrenal glands are overworked and you constantly have the gas pedal on, maybe even pushed all the way down to the floor.
In fact, your life may look something like this: you wake up in the morning, grab a caffeinated beverage, hopefully grab some food to eat sometime before lunch, get the kids and yourself out the door, work all day pushing through the fatigue, use sugar and stimulants to power through the afternoon slump, come home to take care of your family, make dinner, get ready for the next day, crash, take some sleep aids or alcoholic beverage to beat the wired feeling, get a non-restful night of sleep, and wake up to do it all again. Sound familiar?
You see, the reason this autopilot life is problematic is because your stress response and adrenal system respond to one stressor after another: kids, spouse, finances, boss, employee, etc, etc. You may not even be conscious of what is happening in your body physically under all these stressors, and you aren’t recovering between all the chores on your to-do list. Plus you don’t get a chance to do the things that support health in your adrenal glands. And most importantly, you aren’t allowing yourself to enjoy life.
Now maybe for you, things don’t look quite that repetitive. Maybe at this point in your life, you have learned that a good breakfast can get you a long way, or that taking a walk in the afternoon is much better than a second or third cup of coffee. However, you still experience fatigue or other symptoms that make you wonder whether your adrenal glands are functioning at their optimal level.
Insomnia from Stress
Sleep issues are one of the most common symptoms reported in our modern times. Their tons of pharmaceutical medications used for sleep disorders, including central nervous system depressants, melatonin receptor agonists, anxiolytics, hypnotics, antidepressants, benzodiazepines, and so forth. If you are not using medication to help you sleep, chances are you may be using other substances such as alcohol to help you calm down your nervous and adrenal systems in order to sleep. You see, living in a pick me up the world makes it extremely hard to get the body to naturally calm down. So what happens is that even though you are exhausted at the end of the day, your body can’t relax enough to fully sleep. This means your body is unable to fully repair and rejuvenate during sleep.
There are three main reasons you may have fatigue and/or sleep issues, and I guarantee it is a combination of all three:
You are not living the life of your dreams, or you have decided to just live “the autopilot life”
Your sleep-wake cycle is disrupted (circadian rhythm)
Your adrenal bank account is empty
In order to truly heal your adrenal glands and get rid of fatigue, you must support a healthy adrenal gland reserve by filling up your “adrenal bank account” with deposits every day, you must regulate your sleep-wake cycle, and you must start to live the life that you envision yourself living, not necessarily the one you are currently living. You have a reason and purpose for being here and uncovering what that is will help your body, mind and spirit heal. I am not saying just “say goodbye” to the life your living, but begin to ask yourself what it is that you’re supposed to do while you’re alive. In other words, think about what you would love to be doing all day every day that would make a positive impact on the world.
So what does it look like to treat all three of these?
Your adrenal glands thrive on a well-supported sleep-wake cycle. What you may not realize is that your energy level during the day is a direct reflection of your sleep state, and your ability to reach a restorative deep sleep is a reflection of your energy levels during the day. What happens is that many people end up having low cortisol during the day because of living a very busy lifestyle without making sure the adrenal bank account is filled up daily. This often results in an increase in cortisol at night. This may be an actual increase in cortisol overnight, or it may be a relative elevation of cortisol at night compared to daytime cortisol being so low. Whether you have sleep difficulties, because you are exhausted during the day or because your cortisol is elevated at night (or likely both), getting a good night sleep will be one of the primary tasks in restoring health to the adrenal glands.
How To Get The Right Kind Of Sleep
First, make sure you are getting a minimum of 7.5 hours of sleep a night, most nights of the week. For those of you who don’t think you need 7.5 hours, honestly ask yourself right now – Are You Tired? If the answer is yes, and I have a feeling it is, the first thing you can do is set yourself up for adequate sleep.
Next, go to bed roughly the same time every night – for best results try not to differ by more that 30 minutes each night. This sleep-wake cycle is a routine, and your adrenal glands and stress response love routine. So go ahead and give it to them!
Lastly, you also want to wake up around the same time each day. It is ok to sleep in a little on the weekends, but waking up at 5 am one morning and 9 am the next is just setting up your body for complete disaster. I mean it: blood sugar goes all over the place, cortisol and the stress response becomes heightened, weight loss become hard and anxiety and irritability can ensue.
While sleep is important, and getting a good night’s sleep with medications is better than a poor nights sleep without medications, eventually you’ll need to come off the medications in order to regulate your sleep-wake cycle and heal your adrenal glands. There are numerous other ways to regulate your sleep-wake cycle you will see in the future articles. But, as far as living a fulfilled life and filling up your adrenal bank account, just know that healing is a journey and it takes consistency and time. Take baby steps and keep yourself moving forward on your path of healing.