We've all experienced it at some point. Some days, exhaustion can feel like a way of life. Sometimes new parents have it the hardest. Middle of the night feedings disrupting your sleep, which interrupts a regular exercise routine, which compounds with an unpredictable diet. But for new parents and non-parents alike there are things we can all learn from the techniques of a baby's simple and natural way of living that will help us combat our own fatigue.
Here are 3 simple things you can do to easily beat fatigue:
1. Keep a Regular Schedule
Now of course I'm not suggesting you nap throughout the day like a baby, but with a consistent nightly sleeping schedule, your body's natural circadian rhythm is easily maintained. The circadian rhythm is a term that describes the natural sleep/wake/eating schedule that we all have and are supposed to follow. It's a complex system that is regulated by your exposure to light (or lack thereof) as well as a number of hormones, including melatonin and cortisol. These two hormones have a direct effect on core body temperature and blood sugar regulation, respectively.
The circadian rhythm is much like the sun which predictably rises and sets each day. Your body mimics this predictability to live effectively and efficiently. However, with our brilliant intellect and ingenuity, we've invented ways to live outside of this natural cycle. We have lights during darkness and food at our disposal any time of the day or night. Unfortunately, these wonderful conveniences make it easier to stray from a regular eating and sleeping pattern. Then, as a result of poor sleep and fluctuations to normal blood sugar levels the circadian rhythm is disrupted and fatigue begins to set in. Get at least 7-9 hours of sleep and do your best to go to bed at the same time every night. With this consistency, your body is able to maintain a normal circadian rhythm that will ultimately help you combat fatigue during waking hours.
2. The Most Important Meal
New babies can enjoy nature's perfect baby food: breast milk. Cleverly designed to contain the proper amounts of fats, carbohydrates and proteins in a great package which makes it available for easy feedings, breast milk provides all the nutrition babies need for at least the first six months of life. There is ample literature to suggest that feeding babies every 3-4 hours allows them to be more relaxed and easy going because they consciously know that food will be coming, plus their digestive systems will not be overtaxed with too frequent or too spread out of feedings.
Finding this proper nutritional balance for children and adults is also critical for good health. As with babies, you should eat smaller meals every 3-4 hours throughout the day to stabilize blood sugar and prevent tiredness.
And, when it comes to preventing fatigue during the day, breakfast truly is the most important meal. Our normal metabolic functions slow down throughout the night so we don't get hungry as we sleep. We wake each morning having not eaten anything for 8-12 hours, depending on what time we had dinner the night before. A healthy breakfast helps balance cortisol and therefore prevents you from a mid-morning energy crash from dropping blood sugar levels. A study published earlier this year demonstrated the cognitive benefit that test subjects had when they consumed at least a 450-calorie breakfast of both protein and fiber. Another group of scientists studied over 200 medical students and monitored their performance after skipping breakfast. Not surprisingly, those students who skipped breakfast had an overall increase in fatigue.
3. Belly Breathing
With the rhythmic movement of their little bellies and the innocent, gentle noises they make, there are few things in this world more peaceful than watching a baby sleep. Babies naturally take deep breaths that originate from their bellies, with both inhaling and exhaling taking on a slow and relaxed state. We average about 15,500 breaths a day and for every single one of them, we don't even have to think about it! It's a natural action. But unfortunately, as we move out of childhood and into adulthood, life gets busier and our breathing becomes more hurried and shallow, coming less from the muscles designed to facilitate breathing (i.e., the diaphragm) and causing an increase in accessory muscle tension. Because the lower third portion of your lungs has the most efficient oxygen exchange sites, this type of shallow breathing prevents you from getting all the necessary oxygen your body needs, causing fatigue.
It's important to get as much oxygen to those lower lungs as possible! A famous study done in the early 1980's demonstrated that adults who spent as little as 10 minutes a day focusing on their breathing had better energy and greater work performance. You can do that. Just take 10 minutes each day and focus on improving your belly breathing. Sit in a comfortable location, with your spine straight and shoulders back, breathe in deep through your nose for a count of seven seconds. Allow your belly to expand outwards as you inhale. Then hold your breath for a count of four seconds. Finally, exhale for a count of nine seconds, this time moving your belly inward. The exhale is a little longer than the inhale, which is done on purpose. When you move to the next inhale cycle, you'll notice some reflexive support from all the muscles that are necessary for proper belly breathing.
*Get 7-9 hours of sleep and go to bed at the same time each night
*Eat a healthy breakfast of protein and fiber
*Spend 10 minutes a day belly breathing
Follow these simple steps, and you'll be as happy as a baby and smiling at the world with plenty of energy!
Would you like to use this article? You may as long as you include the following information along with the article: Phil Wazny, NMD is a naturopathic physician at Integrative Health Care, a "Results Based Natural Medicine" Clinic in Scottsdale, AZ. He created several dynamic programs designed to help patients gain strength while reducing their rate of debilitating conditions like cancer and heart disease. His areas of specialty are permanent weight loss, natural pediatrics, allergy solutions, hormone balancing and pain relief with prolotherapy and PRP therapy. He can be reached at http://www.integrativehealthcare.com and 480-657-0003.
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