Posts Tagged ‘stress’

I know many people who are feeling tired most of the time. They sleep enough hours but still feel tired and can’t concentrate well during the day. According to this article (gated), lack of sleep is not the main problem. It’s the quality of sleep and the state of mind that matter.

It’s not the kind of tiredness caused by a simple lack of sleep — more a feeling of near-permanent exhaustion that makes the brain feel as if it is constantly misfiring. Yet we also feel wired and hyper alert because of the swirl of stress hormones, so we may not even realise how deeply tired we are.

“This sense of fatigue is a pretty universal epidemic, and I see it all the time in my clinical work,” says psychologist Dr Cecilia d’Felice. “But there is nothing physically wrong, and it’s not really about sleep — it’s about a state of mind.”

What specialists think is happening is that we are bombarding our brains with too much information for too long during the day — whether it’s answering emails at 10pm or thinking up a new witticism to Tweet — and not allowing our brains sufficient recovery time. “We’re afraid to stop and do nothing because we feel this constant need to be in ‘doing mode’,” says physiologist Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, who runs a clinic for the chronically tired at a London hospital. “But we underestimate just how much mental effort is involved for the brain in processing all this information.”

And this sense of fatigue is bad for innovative and productive work:

The wired state that many of us live in during the day is a “hyper-arousal” caused by tiredness, stress hormones and caffeine and it has terrible effects on our ability to concentrate properly, focus and remember things. This hyper-aroused state is fine for simple, repetitive tasks, explains sleep expert Professor Jim Horne at Loughborough University. But as the task gets more complicated, we are less able to cope. “Anything involving innovation, problem-solving and higher thinking is impaired, and if it carries on for months and months it can end in burnout.”

What to do? The article recommends giving your brain a break:

The most vital thing is to give your brain a break from the onslaught of information. “We should ask ourselves, is it really important to check our emails at 10pm? Many of us are developing unhealthy relationships with our phones…

“The trouble is, checking your phone is quite addictive. We produce dopamine every time we respond to an alert on our phones, which is a chemical that wakes us up and makes us feel energised…

“There’s no hard and fast research on how long you can spend on your phone, tablet or laptop in the evenings before you start causing damage,” says Ramlakhan, author of Tired But Wired (Souvenir Press, £12.99). “But from my 20 years of work in this area, I recommend my patients go for an ‘electronic sundown’ 60-90 minutes before bed…

True information-overload junkies may require something stronger to rest their minds, and research shows meditation and the current buzzword “mindfulness” — learning to live in the moment to quiet the mind — can help…

What’s happening in the brain when we switch off – either by meditation or just letting our minds wander – is that the beta waves produced when we are alert are replaced by slower alpha waves (signifying a relaxed state) and then by much slower theta waves. “In a theta state – that daydreamy, glazed over state – your working memory begins to shut down,” says Ramlakhan. “You are essentially going ‘offline’ and consolidating, and your creativity increases. It’s a very important state to get into several times a day. Meditation is a conscious way of achieving it, but you could also get to it by walking or just ‘tuning out’. Walking has natural rhythm and is a meditation in itself.”

That’s probably why I find my solitary time walking back from my Muay Thai lesson and weekend hiking so relaxing. Daydreaming, doodling, playing guitar or just listening to music (without multitasking) are other ways that help relax my mind.


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