Waking Up Rested: How to Overcome Fatigue, Insomnia and Poor Sleep


Coffee, energy drinks, caffeine tablets by day. Melatonin, sleep aids, warm milk, or chamomile tea by night. It’s an endless cycle. It’s exhausting... literally. And it affects your health mentally, emotionally, and physically. You’re not sleeping and it’s not due to anything you can pinpoint. When pep talks and caffeine no longer work and you can’t remember the last time you slept through the night or woke up feeling refreshed, it may be time to seek real solutions.

Fatigue, sleeplessness, and insomnia are often lumped together and talked about as if they were the same thing when in reality they are 3 distinct medical conditions caused by legitimate health issues - issues that should be addressed sooner rather than later. People who experience a chronic lack of sleep eventually find themselves miserable, depressed, and unhealthy. Sleep is foundational to a healthy functioning life.

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Diagnosis Can be Difficult

The first challenge is understanding what they are and how they are different, as each one can be connected to different triggers and requires different solutions. 

1. Fatigue

Fatigue is exhaustion and can be normal after a vigorous day of work or exercise. But when it occurs after a “good” night's sleep, it is not normal. You wake up feeling tired, and this is the result of sleep disruption interfering with the REM sleep cycle needed for restorative sleep.

2. Insomnia - Can't Fall Asleep

Insomnia is the inability to fall asleep. People suffering from insomnia have trouble getting to sleep. Their minds race and their body doesn’t relax. They may eventually fall asleep, but it’s usually late at night or early in the morning, robbing them of a full restorative 8-10 hours of sleep.

3. Can't Stay Asleep

Sleeplessness is the inability to stay asleep. The medical term for this is "sleep maintenance insomnia." You may fall asleep just fine, but wake up in the middle of the night and are unable to get back to sleep.

Regardless of which symptom plagues your night sleep cycle, they are all disruptive to healthy living. Unfortunately, daytime exhaustion is too often labeled as laziness and can quickly develop into a negative self-image. We respond by berating ourselves and attempting to push through with caffeine as a crutch. We may even blame it on age or worse, accept it as normal for any number of justifications. 

To find a solution to your lack of sleep, consider the following questions: 

  • What medications are you using?
  • Have you had any past or do you have any current infections?
  • Are there any events in your life that have triggered your current condition, such as surgery, recovering from a major illness, etc.?
  • What are your lifestyle habits, including diet, caffeine and drug use, alcohol consumption, sleep patterns, and your work environment?
    Note: Caffeine and alcohol consumption are the most common causes of disrupted sleep. Caffeine, depending on the amount consumed, stays in your system for up to 24 hours. 
    Alcohol consumed in the evening as a relaxant will wear off in the middle of the night causing a  stimulant response in the brain that wakes you up.
  • Is it possible you may have a vein condition? Venous insufficiency, or vein disease, is a frequent source of sleep problems and is often not on the radar for most healthcare providers.

While a night or two of poor sleep, for whatever reason, is manageable... ongoing or chronic sleep problems can lead to a wide variety of health concerns: irritability, an inability to concentrate, a craving for high-calorie foods or carbs, poor performance at work, or missing work altogether. Left untreated for extended periods of time, these medical conditions can evolve into obesity, substance abuse, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, depression, and more. 

It’s important to understand what's going on, why it’s happening, and what the options for treatment are. While it’s not a clinical diagnosis, this sleep quality quiz may be helpful in determining the degree to which your symptoms are affecting you and whether or not it’s time to seek the input of your healthcare provider.


Potential Solutions

Tell your provider about how your sleep issue affects your quality of life and ask what needs to be done to improve it. Give your provider an indicator of how fatigue and sleep quality have affected you, such as falling asleep at work or having no energy for hobbies. 

These are five things you can control that can improve sleep and fatigue:

1. Avoid heavy meals in the evenings.

The signal for the body to sleep is a natural fall in core body temperature in the evening, and similarly, the signal in the morning to wake is a rise in core body temperature. Food raises core body temperature, and this is especially so with protein. The so-called specific dynamic action of protein interferes with the natural sleep cycle. My recommendation, then, is to avoid heavy meals after about 7:30-8:00 pm, especially meals that are high in protein. 

2. Avoid late-night snacks and consider a 14-16 hour daily fast.

Food in the evening will increase core body temperature and also provide a sensory stimulus to your brain making it more challenging to sleep. There is a nervous system in the gut called the enteric nervous system which is activated with digestion and has a connection to the central nervous system increasing stimulation of the central nervous system and brain. 

Intermittent fasting is the practice of not eating after your last meal, usually by about 7:00 pm, and not eating again until about lunchtime the next day. You can have coffee and tea. An easy way to track your daily fasting routine is with a free app on your smartphone called Zero. It does have a paid option, but I find the free version to work perfectly fine. It tracks your eating routine and offers information to learn more about the right foods to eat to stay healthy. 

Here is the link to Zero on Google Play

Here is the link to Zero on Apple

3. Avoid excess alcohol in the evening.

Alcohol is a depressant but will have a paradoxical but very predictable rebound stimulation of the nervous system hours later as its effect fades away resulting in disrupted sleep and spontaneous waking.

4. Don’t exercise too close to bedtime.

Avoid strenuous exercise at least an hour before sleep time, and adjust if you feel it is interfering with sleep. Exercise increases core body temperature which prevents the natural sleep cycle from occurring.

5. Exercise each day during the day or early evening.

Vigorous exercise will exhaust your body and make it easier to fall asleep. One of the keys to restorative sleep is a dynamic active exercise. Target 30 minutes or more a day and make sure you are sweating and slightly out of breath to get the most significant benefit

6. Consider a trial period with no caffeine to see if it has an effect on your sleep. 

Give your body a break from caffeine for 2-3 days and test to see if your sleep improves. If it does, try switching to decaffeinated coffee and tea. 

Sleep. Your body NEEDS it.

Sleep is a crucial time for your body to rejuvenate and prepare for the demands you’ll place on it while awake. In order to live the best life possible, quality sleep cannot be compromised. If nighttime is something you dread, download our eBook "Waking Up Rested" and begin your journey of learning how to get things back on track.


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