Tag Archives: fatigue

Crash in the afternoon but wide awake at 3 or 4 a.m.?

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Are you often wide awake around 3 or 4 a.m., your mind racing with anxiety, but then collapsing into a near coma in the late afternoon? This maddening cycle of waking up and falling asleep at inconvenient hours is often relieved by managing low blood sugar.

Why you’re wide awake at 3 or 4 a.m.

Although sleep is a time for the body to rest, your brain is still busy working on repair and regeneration, transforming the day’s impressions into lasting memories, and keeping you entertained with dreams.

The brain demands more fuel than any other organ, about 20 percent of the body’s total supply. These needs don’t abate during sleep, when your body is fasting.

In the absence of food, the body keeps the brain going by gradually raising the adrenal hormone cortisol, which triggers the production of glucose to feed the brain through the night.

At least in theory.

Chronic low blood sugar breaks this system down because it skews cortisol rhythms and release. When your brain starts to run low on fuel during the night, cortisol may lag in triggering glucose release.

The brain cannot wait until breakfast and perceives this lack of fuel supply as an emergency. As a result, the body releases more urgent “fight-or-flight” adrenal hormones, which raise blood sugar back to safe levels.

Unfortunately, these adrenals hormones are also designed to help you either flee from danger or fight it. This does not bode well for a sound night’s sleep and explains why if you wake up at 3 or 4 a.m., it’s usually with a mind racing with worry.

Meanwhile, 12 hours later when you could really use the energy to finish a work project or deal with after-school duties, you crash and can barely function thanks to blood sugar and cortisol levels bottoming out. Reaching for that shot of caffeine may pull you through, but in the long run it’s only compounding the problem.

How to fall asleep if you wake up at 3 a.m.

If you wake up at 3 or 4 a.m. with a racing mind, eating a little something may feed your brain and calm your mind so you can fall back asleep. But do not eat something sugary, which will spike blood sugar and perpetuate the cycle. Instead, eat some protein and fat.

Examples include nut butter, a little bit of meat, boiled egg, or a coconut snack. Have these prepared ahead of time and even next to your bed so you don’t have to go into the kitchen and turn on bright lights. You will not feel hungry because adrenal hormones are appetite suppressants, but you don’t need to eat much.

How to avoid the afternoon crash

To avoid the afternoon crash without caffeine you need to stabilize blood sugar as a way of life. Eat frequently enough to avoid sending blood sugar into a nose dive, and avoid foods that cause blood sugar to spike and crash: Sugar, caffeine, energy drinks, too many carbohydrates, and starchy carbs.

How do you know if you have low blood sugar?

Low blood sugar symptoms include:

  • Sugar cravings
  • Irritability, lightheadedness, dizziness, or brain fog if meals are missed
  • Lack of appetite or nausea in the morning (this is caused by stress hormones)
  • The need for caffeine for energy
  • Eating to relieve fatigue

A variety of nutritional compounds can further support your blood sugar handling and stress hormone functions so you sleep better. Ask us for advice.

Daylight Saving Time can be hard when you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism

DST health impacts

Do you curse every spring when we have to move the clocks forward for Daylight Saving Time (DST)? Does it take you weeks to recover? You’re not alone. Studies show DST is hard on our health and dangerous to boot, making it an outdated relic that adds stress to an already over-stressed society. When you’re managing an autoimmune disease such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism DST can make things even harder.

DST doesn’t just make people tired in the morning. Studies show the number of car accidents increases after DST, likely due to tired drivers. A Swedish study also found that the risk of heart attacks goes up the first few days after DST, and that risk drops after setting the time back to Standard Time. An Australian study showed an increase in suicides the first few weeks after DST goes into effect.

Some people aren’t ruffled by the change in time, others recover in a few days, and then there are those for whom DST means a few weeks of feeling out of whack while their body adjusts. In fact, one study showed our bodies never fully adjust to DST until we switch back to Standard Time. Night owls are affected the worst, taking as long as three weeks to recover. Research has shown on their days off, people revert to sleeping and waking according to what’s seasonally appropriate, not what DST dictates.

We are designed to gradually adjust to the changes in light as the seasons change. Forcing this change overnight once a year flies in the face of our internal clocks, which are tuned into nature.

This is because light dictates how much of the sleep hormone melatonin we make. The more light we are exposed to the less melatonin we make so that we are awake longer.

The sudden disruption to our internal clocks with the time change and loss of sleep causes a loss in production, concentration, and memory, as well as fatigue and sleepiness during the day. When you are working to improve your Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, the change in time can set you back in your healing journey.

DST bad for business as well as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism

DST isn’t just hard on health for those who have Hashimoto’s. Enacted during World War I to decrease energy costs, DST has now been shown to actually increase energy demands, due largely to more air conditioner use and more driving time to daylight activities. Also, contrary to popular belief, it does not benefit farmers; they actually oppose it. Dairy farmers in particular say cows do not easily adapt to the change in schedule. Orthodox religions don’t like their sunrise and sunset prayer tinkered with. However, the golf, barbecue, and retail industries love it.

Broader research has shown DST costs the economy anywhere from $400 million to $2 billion due to loss of productivity, workplace injury, and “cyber loafing.”

How to cope with Daylight Saving Time

If DST is wrecking you and flaring your Hashimoto’s symptoms those first few weeks, you can do a few things to help ease the transition (in addition to signing an online petition to end DST):

Lay low until you adjust. Honor the disruption to your natural rhythms and take it easy by avoiding taking on extra activities or added stressors until you feel back to normal. Also, avoid dangerous activities.

Add in extra time to rest and nap. The biggest cost of DST is sleep loss, especially if you are a night owl. It is difficult to go to bed and wake up an hour earlier. Make time for a nap or at least some time to lie down and rest during the day those first few weeks.

Block blue light at night to help you adjust. Wearing orange glasses in the evening a couple of hours before bed will also help increase the production of sleep hormones so you can fall asleep. Exposure to sunlight during the day will also help regulate sleep hormones. You can use a light box in the mornings to help you wake up.

Ask my office for advice on helping you sleep better and managing your Hashimoto’s.

Lazy and unmotivated? It could be Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism or other health issues

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Are you lazy and unmotivated? Do you have plenty to do, yet spend all your time watching TV or goofing around online, and then beat yourself up for it? Your lack of motivation could signal chronic health issues more so than regrettable character flaws. Although we all need some degree of discipline, life’s daily duties shouldn’t feel like insurmountable chores. Good health means you have the energy, motivation, and desire to not only manage daily life, but also make in time for hobbies, sports, socializing, and special projects.

In functional medicine, laziness and lack of motivation are seen as symptoms of larger health issues that, when addressed and corrected, can make the couch feel like a prison and life outside a playground of adventures waiting to be experienced.

Health issues that can make you lazy and unmotivated

Below are issues that may be sapping your energy, motivation, and desire to more fully live your life.

Blood sugar blues. If you skip breakfast and other meals, subsist on coffee and energy drinks, or if the majority of your meals are based around rice, noodles, pastries, cereal, sugar, and other processed carbohydrates, you are probably riding a roller coaster of blood sugar highs and lows.  Eventually this causes fatigue, brain chemistry imbalances, depression, poor stress-handling, and other fallouts that will send you to the sofa.

Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks and destroys the thyroid gland. It is the leading cause of hypothyroidism and causes symptoms that include depression, fatigue, weight gain, lethargy, and low motivation. If you have lost your get-up-and-go, have your thyroid screened using functional medicine lab ranges.

Brain chemistry imbalance. Brain chemicals called neurotransmitters relay messages between neurons and play a large role in how we feel and function. When the neurotransmitter dopamine is low it can cause poor motivation and low self-esteem. Serotonin, GABA, and acetylcholine are other neurotransmitters that affect mood, energy, and motivation. Hormonal imbalances, hypothyroidism, high or low blood sugar, and chronic stress are factors that can skew neurotransmitters.

Brain fog. Brain fog is a symptom of brain inflammation. It simply means your brain is firing slowly, causing that heavy, thick, tired feeling in your brain. Things that can cause brain fog include chronic inflammation, an autoimmune reaction in the brain (when the immune system attacks the brain), food sensitivities, hypothyroidism, leaky gut, and hormonal imbalances.

Gluten intolerance. Gluten intolerance has become more common and really drains the energy out of some people. It also causes inflammation, depression, fatigue, and other symptoms that make the couch awfully inviting. Other foods that may cause these reactions include dairy, eggs, soy, corn, and other grains.

Leaky gut. Leaky gut means the lining of the small intestine has become inflamed and overly porous, allowing undigested food particles, bacteria, fungus, and other pathogens into the bloodstream, where they don’t belong. This triggers inflammation in the body and brain. The result can be fatigue, lethargy, lack of motivation, and other couch potato characteristics.

These are just a few examples of how a subtle but chronic health issue can drain you of your drive. Of course, it’s hard to make drastic lifestyle changes when you have no energy or motivation, but start with something small and gradually add in new changes. Ask my office for help on restoring the energy and vitality you were meant to enjoy in life.