Photo Above, on a canoe trip down the Russian River, we found peace and quiet

I went to a great class this last week, “Understanding Fatigue: Focus on Stress, Habits and the Brain,” by William Sieber, PhD. I wanted to share some key points that I learned.  If you want to know more about anything, please contact me and I will do my best.

Common conditions with “fatigue” as a symptom:

  • Allergic rhinitis
  • Anemia
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Food allergies/intolerance
  • Heart and lung disease
  • Rheumatoid arthritis, Fibromyalgia, persistent pain syndromes, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)
  • Sleep apnea
  • Type I or II Diabetes
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Medication: analgesics, psychotropics, anti-hypertensives, anti-histamines

Interesting to note:

  • On a cellular level, mitochondria are our energy sources, producing ATP.  It has been shown that when we expend more energy (ie exercise, activity), our bodies produce more mitochondria. “Body in motion, stays in motion.”
  • Cortisol levels surge in the AM to give us that spark to waken up.  In those with CFS, there are lower levels of cortisol in the AM.
  • Melatonin spikes at night when we are heading into sleep and drops in the AM. It is affected by light, so in the AM, open those shades and let the light in to assist with the levels of melatonin.
  • It turns out that a better marker for detecting thyroid disease is not that which the  doctor usually looks at (TSH), but something called the High Reverse T3 levels. This is a better marker because it has been shown that it is not the levels of TSH that make a difference but the way that T3 and T4 are delivered on a cellular level.  So often times, you go to the doctor and your thyroid hormone levels are within normal limits and they send you home.  You could be going home undiagnosed.
  • Anti-anxiety medications (Xanax and Ativan) decrease the transport of T3 into your cells. Read into this…that these medications may spark unrest in your thyroid.
  • It turns out that sleep efficiency is a better judge of your sleep than just how long you are in bed.  Sleep efficiency is a percentage: Total time sleeping divided by Total time in bed. You want at least 90%.
  • Drinking alcohol prior to bed is a strong predictor of sleep apnea.  It also increases your waking time, and thus lowers your sleep efficiency.
  • The strongest factor in the stress-cardiovascular disease link is not just having a Type-A personality or high stress, but having a consistent attitude of Cynical Hostility. Add depression to the list and you increase the risk even more.
  • In studies where they clinically induced stress, both groups had increased blood pressure. Those with higher levels of cynical hostility differed from those without, only by the fact that it took longer to recover to baseline physiological levels (35 minutes vs 5 minutes in those without the high hostility). Recovery time and resolution are key.
  • Studies have shown that stress hormones shut down activity of the prefrontal cortex and thus executive thinking and goal-directed behavior, impairing the hippocampus, amygdala and the prefrontal cortex.  This results in poor memory, sleep and mood.

So what do we do with all this?

  • Utilize those things which yoga and Ayurvedic practice/philosophy teach us: get good quality sleep; eat foods that stimulate healthy digestion and that are anti-inflammatory; practice daily mindfulness of breath, body and environment; be active in some way every day (walking to the refrigerator does not count); and find ways to recognize gratitude in your life every day.
  • Added 12/5/13: Practice good “sleep hygiene.”  Stop watching TV or using computer or other devices about 1-2 hours prior to bed. Don’ eat or drink alcohol 1-2 hours prior to bed. Possibly perform alternate nostril breath prior to bed, especially Left-sided nostril breathing, click here for a link to the breath practice. Try to wake and go to bed at the same time each day.
  • You can also try a technique called “Gaze Stabilization” or “Eye Gazing.”  Click here for a handout. Extend your Right arm with fist closed and thumb pointing up, thumb facing you.  Locate a distant object and align your thumbnail with the object.  The object might be some thing or a goal you see for yourself in the future (perhaps an image of someone sleeping soundly in this case).  Focus on your thumbnail (1 minute), Shift focus on the object/image (1 minute), Shift back to the thumbnail. Continue shifting the focus after 1 minute until you reach 6 minutes total (or 3 times for each).  This will stimulate the optic nerve, which will stimulate the Pineal gland, which will stimulate melatonin release. Melatonin regulates the biorhythms in the body, including the sleep/wake cycle. It can help modulate the fright-flight system and thereby affect the immune system. And it may help with reducing anxiety and insomnia. (www.satyoga.com)

And, Learn to be Still.  The instructor offered an excerpt from Don Henley’s song as a way to think about managing our stressful thoughts and reactions.  I share those here.  And then I remember to Breathe.

“Learn to be Still”

It’s just another day in paradise
As you stumble to your bed
You’d give anything to silence
Those voices ringing in your head
You thought you could find happiness
Just over that green hill
You thought you would be satisfied
But you never will-
Learn to be still

There are so many contradictions
In all these messages we send
(We keep asking)
How do I get out of here
Where do I fit in?
Though the world is torn and shaken
Even if your heart is breakin’
It’s waiting for you to awaken
And someday you will-
Learn to be still
Learn to be still

–Don Henley/Eagles

Learn To Be Still Video

I welcome your feedback and if you find this information helpful, please share with your colleagues and your friends. Contact Tianna to see how she can help you with your sleep.

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