You probably thought it was totally normal. That everyone feels this tired all the time when they have work, kids, housework, partner and social life to juggle (I feel tired even typing all those things and I’ll bet it makes your head spin!). But it feels like no matter how many early nights you have, you just can’t seem to catch up and you’re waking up exhausted.
You’re not just tired. You’re grumpy too and you can’t concentrate properly at work. And any conversations with your husband beyond basic exchange of greeting, kids stuff and what’s for dinner feels impossible.
Did you know that there are more than one type of tiredness; physical and mental. They can manifest themselves in similar ways but they usually come about for different reasons and you deal with them differently (which we’ll go into in a minute).
Physical tiredness comes from a lack of sleep, when your body is telling you it needs more shut eye and you can feel achy and like you are completely exhausted. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you are sleep deprived but your body FEELS like it is.
Mental tiredness is when you feel totally overwhelmed by life, you can’t think straight or focus and you feel like you need to escape from the world.
Both these type of tiredness can be caused by hormone imbalances, nutrient deficiencies, stress or a poor diet, so let’s look at the most common reasons you feel so tired.
- Lack of sleep – of course I had to start with this one! If you’re struggling with sleep and waking up in the night then it’s important to make dealing with that a priority. Switching off gadgets an hour before bed, having a relaxing bath and listening to meditations can all help to calm your mind and promote good sleep patterns. How much we need varies from person to person (Margaret Thatcher famously managed on 5 hours a night but I’m not suggesting you do that!) but aim for 7-9 hours and listen to your body. If you wake up feeling refreshed, you’re probably getting enough.
- Stress – One of our stress hormones, cortisol, has a natural rhythm and rises and dips throughout the day. When working optimally it should be high in the morning to give you energy and low at night to promote sleep and calm your mind. When its out of whack, it can mean its low in the morning, so you feel tired when you wake up, and high at night when you want to go to sleep but you feel tired but wired. Reducing stress in your life and making time to relax and recharge can help to re-balance and therefore reduce fatigue. Hormones also work to a schedule and cortisol is regulated at midnight so it’s important to be asleep then.
- Sluggish thyroid – Your thyroid gland controls your metabolic rate and your temperature. When you have a sluggish thyroid your metabolism slows down and temperature drops, both of which cause fatigue and low energy. It’s like your body can’t get going. Sound familiar? It’s really common for women heading towards to the perimenopause to have an underactive thyroid so make sure you have yours check out if you’re waking up tired every morning, struggling with brain fog and feel cold all the time, as they are all signs yours isn’t working optimally.
- Too much sugar – So many of us fall into the trap of propping themselves up on sugary foods and drinks (along with lots of strong coffee). But it actually has the opposite effect. It does give you short bursts of energy but as soon as you’ve burned it off it makes you feel tired, grumpy and needing another boost. When you eat sugar it increases your blood sugar levels and then your insulin kicks in to bring them down, making you feel lethargic and like you need another boost. So try to eat foods that are rich in protein, healthy fats and complex carbs which release energy slowly into your bloodstream and therefore keep your energy and focus more consistent throughout the day.
- Nutrient Deficiencies – One of the main reasons we feel chronically tired can be that we are low in certain vitamins and minerals. Our diets can be quite bland and lacking in these essential nutrients meaning levels don’t get topped up and they drop down and cause constant fatigue.
- B vitamins found in beans, pulses, meat, eggs, fish and wholegrains help our bodies to produce energy as well as supporting our adrenals which produce our stress hormones
- Low Iron levels can lead to a decrease in our red blood cells that carry oxygen round the body, causing low energy levels. Eat plenty of green leafy vegetables as well as limited amounts of red meat to help boost levels. Spirulina also has high iron levels and is a great boost as our bodies absorb it well, try added to a smoothie.
- Magnesium (one of the most common deficiencies in the western world) can lead to insomnia, fatigue and unusual levels of tiredness. A balanced diet of lean protein, healthy fats, with plenty of green vegetables can help to increase levels.
If you’re not sure where to start with making changes to your diet and lifestyle to improve symptoms of the perimenopause than click here to download my Hormone Balancing Recipe Guide, which is a great starting point and includes recipes and foods that both you and your family can enjoy.