I’m so tired I can’t get to sleep… then I finally sleep and I can’t wake up all day! What is going on?
Are you wired … or are you tired? It’s all part of the Adrenal Fatigue cycle.
What is adrenal fatigue?
It’s when your adrenal glands become fatigued, tired, exhausted, and even dysfunctional. This is largely due to the high stress and busy lifestyles which we are unable to ‘switch off’ from and it’s affecting many people.
What are the Adrenal Glands?
The adrenals are two small glands that sit adjacent to and above the kidneys. They are part of the endocrine system and produce about 50 different hormones. One of the main jobs of the hormones is to create homeostasis, which means to maintain balance in the body.
The role of adrenaline in the fight or flight response.
Our body is not supposed to be energised all of the time, nor should it always be at rest. To stay healthy it needs to toggle between “fight or flight” and “rest and digest”. When the body is surging with adrenaline, blood flows from the essential organs (such as those needed for digestion) to the arms and the legs in order to let us run away or turn and fight. This is ok for short bursts as we don’t need to be resting and digesting 24/7. But what happens if we stay in this adrenal state for prolonged periods of time? Those basic organs start to become affected. Digestion cannot occur when we are in an adrenal state. It’s like trying to eat a burger while going for a run. You can’t digest it! You’ll get a stitch.
Many people suffering from adrenal fatigue start to suffer from the effects of poor digestion. Now we have another problem. If we’re not digesting our food, then we don’t get the nutrients and therefore the energy from it … even though it may be good food, so we start to rely on adrenaline. And when we have too much adrenaline coursing through our bodies, it becomes harder to relax. We become more anxious, impatient and “jumpy”; all giving the body more and more reasons to release adrenaline.
People start to notice that their energy comes in bursts. All day they experience energy highs and slumps and may start to introduce high energy drinks and snacks to maintain this high. Eventually this behaviour begins to affect our sleep. Either it’s impossible to get to sleep as the mind continues to stay wide awake, or, it becomes impossible to stay asleep for more than a few hours as the body continues its adrenal cycle. Needless to say, one does not feel refreshed in the morning. There has simply not been enough deep and restful sleep to restore the body. Another lost opportunity for energy production. And so the cycle begins again.
Digestion is compromised … adrenaline is released … rest is compromised … adrenaline is needed … digestion is compromised …
What are the symptoms?
You may be experiencing adrenal fatigue if you regularly notice one or more of the following:
- You feel tired for no reason.
- You struggle to get up in the morning even when you go to bed at a reasonable hour.
- You struggle to overcome illness or recover from stress.
- Mid-afternoon energy slumps
- You crave salty and sweet snacks (especially before bed).
- You feel more awake and energetic after 6pm than you do all day.
- You feel run down or easily overwhelmed
What can you do about it?
Where possible, reduce your stressful situations. Think about where overt stress exists; in the home, at work; toxic environments, toxic relationships. Too much to do and not enough support. These are things that we can actively look to change.
- Seek professional support. We may need help to change our perception and find our self-worth through deeper therapeutic practices, spirituality, meditation or self-affirmations.
- Take the time to rest and recover. Have fun!
- Eat a “health-full” diet, and slow down at meal times to allow the body to rest and digest.
- Take beneficial supplements to support adrenal function such as Vitamin C,
B Vitamins, Omega 3’s, Magnesium and specific adrenal support through herbs and therapeutic supplementation.
And finally, be kind to yourself and your body, or where will you live?.
Written by Lynette Hill, BNatMed, a Naturopath (utilising Hemaview), Homeopath, Of My Remedy, Integrated Natural Medicine Clinic www.myremedy.co.nz