Feeling tired when you first wake up in the morning can be frustrating. Sometimes it can occur when you just didn’t get a good night’s rest. But sometimes feeling continuous fatigue can have underlying causes.
The best course of action is to consult a health-care provider if fatigue lasts more than a few weeks. Barring any organic reason for your tiredness, the National Institute of Health National Institutes on Aging’s website (www.nia.nih.gov) has some simple changes in lifestyle that can help reduce fatigue and get you back to your old self.
Things to try to feel less tired:
• Keep a fatigue diary so you can pinpoint certain times of the day or situations that make you feel more or less tired. This will be a good record to take to your healthcare provider who then may be able to pinpoint the reason for your tiredness.
• Exercise regularly. Moderate exercise may improve your appetite, energy, and outlook. Some people find that exercises combining balance and breathing (for example tai chi and yoga) improves energy.
• Avoid long naps that can leave you feeling groggy. This is an important tip. I know of many seniors who nap in the afternoon then complain of sleepless nights. If you must nap, keep it short.
• Another sleep stealer is anxiety. We are living in uncertain times; for seniors, fears about such things as the future, their health and who will care for them as they age, can take a toll.
• Other causes of restless nights can be depression; grief from loss of family, friends, or home of many years; stress from financial problems; and feeling like they no longer have control over their lives.
NIH advises that sometimes fatigue is caused by personal habits, which can be easily changed or modified; for example, staying up past the point of being tired. It’s easy to do, especially when involved in a project or good movie on TV, but ignoring the first signs of being sleepy can backfire.
Experts swear by routine: going to bed and rising at the same time daily.
Trying to relax or warm up with a cup of tea or hot chocolate is a great idea, except both have caffeine that, when consumed late in the day, can prevent that drowsy feeling from setting in. Try drinking herbal tea instead or other non-caffeinated beverages. And then there is alcohol, which may seem to make you tired but in reality does not provide restful sleep.
If you are battling fatigue think about how you spend your days. It may be hard to believe but boredom can make you tired. Strange but true. I have often heard a family member of mine in her mid-80s say, “I don’t know why I am so tired; I haven’t done a thing all day.” This can be common among recent retirees who had been actively working. When they leave their jobs, they are often a little unsure about what to do all day. “Keeping busy” is very different from “being busy.” After the newness of retirement wears off and suddenly the days are stretched out with nothing to fill them, volunteering can fit the bill.
Sleep is an important part of good health and fatigue can drain your quality of life. If staring at the ceiling or listening to the clock tick away the hours goes from “occasionally” to “the norm,” call your healthcare provider. Losing sleep is not a natural part of aging.
Carol Higgins Taylor is director of communications at Eastern Area Agency on Aging. For information on EAAA, call 941-2865, toll-free 800-432-7812, or visit www.eaaa.org.