Long ago, in a village far, far away, “old age” was seen as an admirable achievement only a handful of people were privileged enough to ever reach.
You were held in high esteem if you made it to the ripe old age of 50.
Villagers built you a pedestal and bestowed you with exotic fruits, silk garments, and rare gemstones. They’d bow as they placed these items at your feet, just to hear your words of wisdom at having lived a half century.
Oh, the stories you’d tell!
They’d hang on to every word as you spoke about the invention of flying machines, news delivered on sheets of paper that did not require Wifi to access, and holding actual conversations with a person.
They’d also likely chalk it up to the demented ramblings of an old person and smile and quietly step away.
Honestly, though, I’d be bored within a week of all this adoration. I’d end up blogging in my teepee after the rest of the tribe went to sleep, complaining about no Starbucks or Sephora’s within a 50-mile radius and wishing for a gym that didn’t include gorillas.
But on the other hand, I could use the rest.
“Please leave the plate of rich chocolates and fruit on the table and let me go back to sleep,” I’d say, waving off my admirers as I tucked my satin pillow under my head.
Flash forward to reality… my alarm goes off at 4 a.m. and my “tribe” consists of three rescue cats who have expect me to worship them. I fill their coffers with food, clean their bathrooms and sweet talk them as you would a newborn. So they’re not wrong about the worship part.
My point got a little lost in this fantasy (if you think this is bad, imagine living inside my head every day)… which is:
I don’t have the energy I had in my younger years. And, judging from the emails I get, neither do many other women over 50. Some days if I rest my head on my desk I’d fall asleep instantly.
Needless to say, that’s less than productive.
Fatigue is a huge factor after 50 and for many possible reasons. The first step, of course, is to get a thorough physical if you can’t keep your eyes open and you’re not watching a political debate.
Extreme fatigue (I’m not talking about the occasional head-bobber after a tough workout or busy day) can be due to a thyroid issue, sleep apnea, anemia, depression, diabetes, and a whole host of other not-so-fun health scenarios.
So be sure to have your doctor rule out any obvious health issues. That’s step one.
Once you’re told you’re absolutely fine, it’s time to take a look at some other, sometimes surprising, causes of desk head…
1. Lack of sleep
This is the most obvious and one we often overlook.
Most of us do best with seven to eight hours of sleep a night. I typically get about 7-½ hours but do better with eight. My doctor thinks it’s behind my mid afternoon head-on-desk situation. It’s a myth that we need less sleep as we age, although we may get less due to night sweats and aches and pains. Keep a regular routine and abide by some of these other tips to catch more Zs.
2. Not enough exercise
It may sound counterintuitive, but activity breeds energy, research shows. Regular exercise enables your cardiovascular system to run more efficiently, delivering nutrients and oxygen to your muscles and tissues. Go for a brisk walk instead of flopping on the couch the next time you feel beat and see how much better you feel.
3. You’re down a quart
A lot of us walk around in a slightly dehydrated state. This costs us in a few ways, including energetically. Just a 2% fluid loss is enough to reduce your blood volume, (grossness warning!) making it thicker. As a result, your heart doesn’t work as efficiently, and it takes longer for nutrients to reach your cells. Voila! Energy crash. Strive for eight to 10 glasses of fluids a day.
4. You live on carbs
Carbs in general get a back rap, but the real culprits are the simple carbs you find in processed foods – white sugar and white flour. A regular intake of simple carbs takes your blood sugar on a roller coaster ride, and not in a good way. The constant rise and fall can cause fatigue on the downswing. Fix it by sticking with whole grains and including a lean protein along with every snack or meal.
5. You love a good nightcap
It sounds like a good idea, but alcohol before bedtime can easily backfire. Wine initially relaxes you so you may fall asleep faster, but a few hours later it creates a rebound effect. This happens when the alcohol is metabolized, creating a surge of adrenaline into your system, waking you up. Cut off all alcohol at least three to four hours before bedtime to sleep tight.
6. You’re blue
Blue light, that is. The light of your smartphone, iPad or computer throws off your body’s natural circadian rhythm by suppressing the sleep-regulating hormone melatonin. Try cutting off all communication with the outside world one to two hours before sleepy time. Or hold the device at least 14 inches from your face, experts suggest.
7. You sleep in on weekends
This won’t win me any popularity contests. Who doesn’t like to sleep until noon, right? If you have pets like I do, you probably can’t once their food alarm goes off. But sleeping in hours past your regular wake-up time causes a jet lag effect come Monday morning. You’re better off waking up close to your regular time and taking a nap in the afternoon, suggests sleep specialists.
YOUR TURN… How’s your energy level? Could one of these culprits be at work? Let me know in the comments section below. And please blast this out to your friends! I would be forever grateful.
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