Running on empty for no obvious reason? Try these simple tweaks to your everyday routine to reboot before hitting up your healthcare provider.
☝️ Disclaimer. This article is for those who feel tired because of their lifestyle and/or eating habits. If a healthy diet, good sleep and exercise do not help you cope with fatigue, it is time to talk to a doctor.
Our species has made incredible discoveries and technological advances, but we are now individually accountable for managing the health consequences of modern life. In this instance, the first rule of #FightClub is to accept that change is hard, so be compassionate with yourself, because here’s what you stand to gain:
- Better sleep
- Improved mood
- Satisfactory digestion
- Enhanced brain function
- Disease prevention
For those who want the fixes without the inside story, here’s the low-down on what’s eating away at your energy levels, brain health and wellbeing in the modern world.
Back to basics: mojo killers 101
The human body hasn’t evolved as fast as technology. Like your grandparents, it's at odds with the modern world. Working and living are a lot less physically taxing than before, and these changes can affect the brain’s ability to generate new neurons.
This process is called neurogenesis. Although it was discovered back in the 1960's, this field has only recently been getting airtime and research funding. Inhibiting this essential process is associated with a lot of bad things, like depression and Alzheimer's.
High-fat, high sugar diets and a combination of both can affect neurogenesis. This biological operation happens in the brain’s centre for memory, emotions and spatial awareness. Poor sleep (and lack of it) may also negatively impact this essential process.
24-hour living, especially shift work, is detrimental to human health. Not in the least because it affects how the body metabolises sugar and fats. Working at night is associated with insulin resistance, a metabolic condition that is known to proceed the onset of diabetes type II.
Even if you are not on the night shift, coffee and alcohol both affect the brain’s sleep chemical adenosine, delaying and disrupting your slumber. These beverages have also been pinpointed as inhibiting the creation of new neurons. Not to mention that, at night time, booze has the improbable ability of pitting actual brainwaves against each other that mess with your shut-eye.
And if that weren't enough, the body has a circadian rhythm, a 24-hour master clock that abides by information from the eyes. It sets off the cascade of events that puts you to sleep for the body to heal and prepare for a new day. Light is the main input that influences your circadian rhythm.
In particular, LED light from electronic devices like smartphones and flat screens can really confuse your body’s natural clock. The blue light they emit has been shown to delay and shift your circadian rhythm by several hours compared to other colours on the light spectrum.
1. Do more sport
In fact, medical science is looking to muscles for clues to combating preventable illnesses that are influenced by the Western lifestyle like diabetes type II. It was recently revealed that muscles respond to exercise by secreting substances with health benefits when stressed (in a good way) by activities like sports.
Physical exercise also has the power to relieve symptoms of depression and increase feelings of wellbeing. This is, in part, because exercise causes a post-workout dump of endorphins, the body's natural feel-good neurotransmitters.
2. More fibre, less sugar
Fruit, vegetables, pulses, nuts, seeds and whole grains are all excellent options. Try new things, mix and match. Challenge yourself to buy one ingredient every week that you don't recognise. Just don't forget to google it before you start cooking.
If you are new to this whole fibre shindig, try adding a portion of simply prepared veg to your meals, and eat it first, before anything else touches your lips. From there, work your way up to at least 30g of fibre per day to enjoy its disease-prevention benefits. Just ease in gently or you might get a bout of the botty burps. Don’t worry though, this should blow itself out after 1–2 weeks.
3. Find your circadian rhythm
So try to keep your schedule steady. Remember that your body goes through a lot of wear-and-tear during the day, so it needs the night to heal. Avoid eating and drinking anything but water (or herbal tea) 3–4 hours before bed. Your gut needs a solid nudge to switch from digestion to repair, sugar and caffeine will confuse it. Every day, even on weekends, eat your meals at the same time, get a little exercise and spend at least 1 hour outdoors.
4. Virgin cocktails and coffee
And while we are on the topic of bad news, the NHS has reviewed their alcohol consumption guidelines to an upper limit of 14 units per week. That's about 1.5 bottles of wine (a large glass contains 250ml) or 7 pints of mild lager (3.6%) at 2 units a pop.
Research indicates that even moderate intake of this stimulant may also suppress neurogenesis. If you absolutely can’t do without caffeine, take one for the team and have a decaf, for the flavour without the consequences. Or a coffee substitute like chicory, because it contains inulin, a dietary fibre that is good for your gut microbiome.
5. Train your brain for bed
Make your bedroom a haven of peace. Get depleted blue spectrum light bulbs for your reading lamp so it won't trigger the daytime switch. Avoid TV viewing and electronic devices too. This will train your brain to recognise the bedroom as a place of sleep and rest.
Pretend it's the eighties and enjoy some tech-free time before bed. Pick up a book. After all you’ve been talking about reading more for ages. Give it a few days and it’ll put you right to sleep!
Listen to your genes
Our teams have spent years researching and compiling evidence in the field of lifestyle and preventive medicine. In fact, that's pretty much our mission in life: to help people take control of their health before illness is ever a problem!
If you've taken the Atlas Biomed DNA Test, here are links to just some of the lifestyle traits waiting for you in the Personal Account. And there's a link to your Health Questionnaire if you've been procrastinating, because it's important for our precision health risk calculations.
|Caffeine metabolism||Alcohol intolerance|
|Alzheimer's disease||Diabetes type II|
|Health risks||Health survey|
- Waking up to the benefits of sleep RSPH
- Adenosine Sheds Light on the Relationship between Alcohol and Sleep
- Blue light has a dark side
- Circadian rhythms fact sheet
- Sleep Drives Metabolite Clearance from the Adult Brain
- Reduced non–rapid eye movement sleep is associated with tau pathology in early Alzheimer’s disease
- Muscles, exercise and obesity: skeletal muscle as a secretory organ
- The Potential Role of Contraction-Induced Myokines in the Regulation of Metabolic Function for the Prevention and Treatment of Type 2 Diabetes
- NHS Eat Well: How to get more fibre into your diet
- NHS Common Health Questions: How long does alcohol stay in your blood