Fatigue, Stress and Sleep Disturbance

Fatigue is one of the most crippling symptoms in today’s society. Fatigue is defined as a physical and/or mental exhaustion that can be triggered by stress, medication, overwork, or mental and physical illness.

Sleep deprivation

Chronic fatigue syndrome is a condition where the major symptom is prolonged and severe tiredness that can not be relieved by rest and lasts for at least six months. Its exact cause is unknown but many theories relate it to infections, genetic disorders, inflammation, prior illness and stress. Other symptoms include difficulty concentrating, memory lapses, headaches, joint pain and/or swelling, muscle aches or weakness and sore throat. The main signs include fever, lymph node enlargement and tenderness.

Sleep deprivation may be a symptom/result of stress and a major cause of fatigue. Sleep is essential for people’s health and well being. It is during sleep that the brain commits new information to the memory. Sleep disorders can be caused by many factors including a deficiency in melatonin production, high cortisol, jet lag, shift work and depression. Many other conditions have fatigue as one of their main symptoms including hormonal deficiencies, allergies, malnutrition, anaemia, thyroid disorders, autoimmune disorders, depression, diabetes, infection, sleep disorders, as well as being a side effect to some medications. One of the common causes of fatigue is stress. The release of the stress hormones is intended to occur over short periods of time. An example would be if an individual was faced with an unexpected dangerous situation, such as a car suddenly veering off course and driving straight toward them.

In today’s complicated life, stress hormones are released for long periods of time. Numerous stressors can be present in our lives such as work situations, relationship pressures or simply driving in traffic. Stress can also impact the immune system leading to a lowering of the natural defence mechanisms. People become more susceptible to infections and diseases while they are under stress. Stress can also cause anxiety, lack of motivation, sleep disturbances, muscle aches and pains as well as an upset stomach (Source: American Psychological Association's "Stress in America" report, 2010).

Chronic sleep deprivation may cause weight gain by affecting the way our bodies process and store carbohydrate and by altering levels of hormones that affect our appetite. It can also contribute to a greater tendency to fall asleep during day time. These lapses may cause falls and mistakes such as road accidents. Loss of sleep typically results in fatigue, impatience, lack of concentration, moodiness and can be linked to hypertension and inhibition of the immune system.

If you suffer from fatigue, stress, or sleep deprivation, then consider the following:

  • Diet: be sure to include fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts and spices in your diet. Avoid pro inflammatory food as saturated fats, refined carbohydrates, high calorie diets. If you are a vegetarian, make sure you supplement with Vitamin B12.
  • Exercise: regular relaxing exercises (e.g. walking, stretching, yoga, pilates, meditation or Tai Chi) should be part of your daily or weekly routine.
  • Drink: plenty of water and green tea, less alcohol and high sugar drinks.
  • Sleep hygiene: have a set time to go to bed, avoid any stimulants in the afternoon such as tea or coffee and make sure your bedroom is completely dark to help improve your sleeping patterns.
  • Supplements: Antioxidants such as vitamin C, fish oils, folic acid, vitamin D, E and B groups, and especially B12 for vegetarians. Minerals such as magnesium, zinc, iodine and selenium can be very helpful (see our Magnacare product). D-Ribose is a sugar that is utilised by the cells to increase their energy levels and has proven to be very helpful in fatigue (available at PCNZ).

Bioidentical Hormonal Supplementation

If the methods listed above do not address your fatigue and sleep deprivation, then you may want to consider bioidentical hormone supplementation. The following hormones can be depleted by ageing and stress:

  • DHEA: may help with increasing energy levels, alleviating joint aches and pains and low mood. DHEA may help improve estrogen and testosterone levels as it can cascade into these hormones. DHEA is a prescription only product.
  • DHEA 7-Keto: this is a metabolite of DHEA which is available without prescription. DHEA 7-Keto has similar effects to DHEA but does not cascade into other hormones. DHEA 7-Keto is available without prescription.
  • Melatonin: may help with sleep disorders caused by jet lag, shift work, Alzheimer’s disease, bipolar, depression, schizophrenia, epilepsy, ADHD and autism. Melatonin is a prescription only product.
  • Pregnenolone: may help alleviate effects of stress such as fatigue, memory issues, low mood, sense of well being as well as muscle and joint aches and pains. Pregnenolone is a prescription only product.
  • Progesterone: may help relieve anxiety, improve energy levels as well as improving sleep quality. Progesterone is a prescription only product.
  • Testosterone: may help with fatigue, loss of muscle strength, low libido (men and women), low mood and memory troubles. Testosterone is a prescription only product.