“I’m tired all the time.”
“I have no energy.”
“I’m too tired to go to the gym.”
“I need a nap.”
Walking around in a fog seems like standard operating procedure nowadays. No matter how common it is, though, feeling exhausted, low energy, or sleepy all the time is not normal. It’s always a sign that something else is going on.
Tiredness, Sleepiness, Fatigue: What’s the Difference?
What does it mean when someone says, “I’m tired all the time?” Are they falling asleep at their desk? Do they need to take an afternoon nap in order to function in the evening? Perhaps they feel too wiped out to exercise or even get off the couch?
Colloquially, we use the word “tired” to describe the subjective experiences of both sleepiness and fatigue. “Sleepiness” is the familiar experience of needing sleep due to sleep debt. We all know what this feels like.
Tracking certain things makes sense, if you go for that sort of thing. Tracking step count is hard without a device. No one’s going to count every step they take in their head. You’d quickly go mad doing that. Same with pulse rate and heart rate variability—you could count the number of beats for 30 seconds and double it to get BPM, but that gets unwieldy after awhile and HRV requires a special device. But tracking sleep? On the surface, sleep tracking seems futile and pointless. If there’s anything you should know intuitively without having to measure, it should be whether or not you got a good night’s sleep. You wake up and see how you feel.
Are you groggy? Irritable? Did you just crack an egg into the coffee maker, brush your teeth with light roast beans, kiss your dog good morning and let your spouse out to pee? You probably didn’t sleep very well.
Are you rested? Full of vim and vigor? Can you perform basic bodily functions without requiring a mug of coffee first thing? You probably slept fine.
When I did my first earnest attempt at a keto diet a few years ago, one of the benefits I quickly noticed was improved wakefulness and energy during the day. I chalked this up to sleeping better on keto.
It turns out that I might have been one of the lucky ones. While plenty of people report improved sleep, a fair number also complain of insomnia, sleep disruptions (waking frequently during the night), and generally poor sleep once they go keto.
Can a keto diet really impact sleep quality? What might be the mechanism behind a correlation? And how does one work around any potential effect?
One of the most common complaints people have as they age is poor quality sleep. They get less sleep than younger people, and, despite what you may have heard, their sleep requirements do not decline with age. A 70-year-old should still be getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night. The problem is that, for many different reasons, older people usually have issues getting the amount of sleep they need.
The popular approach is to accept poor sleep as an inevitable part of aging and find workarounds, ideally workarounds that require a lifelong prescription to a name-brand pharmaceutical. That’s not my way. I accept that the conventional approach may be warranted in certain cases, but it should be a last resort. A person should exhaust the diet, lifestyle, and exercise options before turning to the prescription pad.
I left the pro athlete world a long time ago. I no longer compete. I don’t train with the intensity and volume it’d take to win races. But I do pay attention to what’s going on in that world, and I still have a lot of friends who never left it. Developments there often foreshadow developments in the rest of the health world. And after things like keto, MCT oil/ketones, and collagen, the performance hack that’s blowing up among elite athletes is CBD oil. Almost everyone I talk to who puts in serious training and competing time (in a variety of sports and pursuits) is dabbling with CBD.
What are they using it for?
By now, the average person grasps just how important sleep is for our overall health. It seems like every month there’s a new popular science book extolling the virtues of sleep. Parents remember the zombified newborn days and can see (and hear), firsthand, what happens when a toddler doesn’t get enough sleep. And on a visceral level, we feel the need for slumber. Even if we’re unaware of or refuse to accept the health dangers of long-term sleep restriction, there’s no getting around the abject misery of a bad night’s sleep.
We all want better sleep. We all need better sleep. But how?
Sleeping pills are not the answer for most people.
(But please note: Don’t discontinue or alter a prescribed treatment or medication regimen without consulting your doctor…and, likewise, don’t begin a new regimen—like those below—without running it by your physician.)