Hello folks! Seasoned health coach and Primal Health Coach Institute Curriculum Director, Erin Power is back to answer all your questions about sleep, from why you’re waking up in the middle of the night to the best natural ways to improve your sleep cycle. Got more questions? Post them over in our Mark’s Daily Apple Facebook group or down in the comments below.
“I’ve been going to bed at 10 p.m. and waking up at 6 a.m. for a few weeks. For some reason, I’ve started waking at 3:15 a.m. and can’t go back to sleep. Any ideas on what’s causing it?”
Almost half of all adults struggle with insomnia to some degree, so, if it’s any consolation, you’re in good company. That being said, it’s not ideal to feel like you’re dragging yourself around all day, coping with sugar-laden snacks or venti-sized cups of coffee.
One of two nights of suboptimal sleep are manageable. But when it’s a nightly occurrence? It’s time to dig a little deeper.
Feeling tired all the time? You’re not alone. Turns out 60% of folks say they’re more exhausted now than they were in their pre-pandemic days. And sleep is only part of the equation. We live in a high-achieving, chronically fatigued culture. One of the reasons being that we’re constantly bombarded by the message that productivity is the ultimate goal in life. We’re socially rewarded for crushing it whenever and wherever possible: More reps at the gym… More calories torched… More emails sent… More to-dos to do… You get the picture. The Downside of Keeping Up Even if you love what you do, the pressures to keep up with the modern world can leave you feeling mentally, emotionally, and physically drained. As a health coach, I see this all the time. My clients come to me foggy and fatigued, falling asleep in front of the TV, snapping at their kids, and chronically over caffeinating. And the conventional recommendation to “get more sleep” just hasn’t cut it. Signs you might be running on empty: Lack of concentration Being easily agitated Confusion Cravings Coping with food or alcohol Anxiety or depression Overwhelm According to physician, researcher, and author, Saundra Dalton-Smith, there’s a big difference between sleep and rest. She says, “If you’re waking up and still exhausted, the issue probably isn’t sleep.” And there are seven areas of rest we’re collectively not getting enough of: Physical rest. This isn’t about getting to bed earlier; it’s about resting your body in a way that’s rejuvenating. Think yoga, stretching, deep breathing exercises, even napping. Mental rest. Your mind needs a break too, especially if you tend to chew on past conversations, plan for future what-ifs, or have trouble turning your brain off at night. Sensory rest. Computers, phones, group texts, notifications, notifications, alarms. It’s no surprise our senses (and our central nervous systems) are overtaxed. Creative rest. If you struggle during brainstorm sessions or couldn’t come up with a new idea to save your life, you’re probably overdue for a creative time out. Emotional rest. Keeping things bottled up, people-pleasing, or not being real about how you’re feeling can lead to emotional overload. Social rest. Some friends lift you up and some drag you down. Be aware of which relationships are fulfilling and which are exhausting. Spiritual rest. Feeling disconnected, lonely, or lacking purpose? Spiritual rest or connection might be what you’re lacking. The True Power of Rest As a society, we have a real problem with not being in “go mode” all the time. And I don’t just mean taking more days off work, although studies show that Americans have an average of nine unused vacation days per year. And on the days they do take off, workers admit to obsessively checking and responding to emails. As a high achiever myself, I know how hard it is to shut things down . I am physically uncomfortable in the presence of low productivity or what I perceived in myself as laziness. But researchers agree … Continue reading “Overworked and Under Rested: The Real Reason You’re So Tired”
Hey folks! Erin is here for another round of Ask a Health Coach. If you’re sleep-compromised, stressed out about carbs, or you’re a chronic snooze button pusher, today’s post is for you. Keep your questions coming in the Mark’s Daily Apple Facebook Group or share them down in the comments section. Alicia asked: “I’ve been trying to get up early to exercise, but I always end up hitting the snooze button and falling back asleep. Got any tricks to get myself up on time?” I love that you’re setting goals for yourself. It proves that you don’t have to wait until New Year’s or (another) Monday to make a change in your life. But I get it. Any routine that’s different from your normal one can be a challenge to start, let alone stick with. The good news is, this is kinda my specialty. I love teaching my clients to nurture their own personal accountability. When you’re responsible for your own actions — and the outcomes of those actions, it puts you in the driver’s seat. You’re in control when it comes to what you’re doing and not doing. It also sends a positive message to yourself that you’re worth it and that this change is important enough for you to make it a priority. On the flip side, when you just toss a plan out there, cross your fingers, and hope for the best with a lukewarm attitude (and zero consequences), you’re pretty much setting yourself up to fail. The first rule of accountability? Getting clear on your goals and the reasons why you want to achieve those goals. For your situation, I’d start by asking: What time am I waking up? What kind of exercise will I be doing? What type of equipment or gear will I need? Where will I be doing it? How long will I be exercising? Why does this matter to me? What will happen if I don’t break my snooze button habit? Why is all of this important? Because there’s a big difference between people who set goals and those who actually succeed at them. There’s a great piece of research that shows that having a concrete plan makes you three times more likely to achieve your goals. In the study, 248 participants who wanted to build better exercise habits were divided into three groups. One group was asked to track their workouts, one group received motivational information about exercising, and the third group was asked to formulate a plan for when and where they would work out. More specifically, they were asked to complete the following sentence: During the next week, I will partake in at least 20 minutes of vigorous exercise on (day) at (time) in (place). For you, that might look like: I will partake in at least 20 minutes of vigorous exercise on weekdays at 5:15am in my bedroom. Or dial it in even more by saying: I will partake in 20 minutes of weightlifting on weekdays at 5:15am … Continue reading “Ask a Health Coach: Sleep, Stress, and the Snooze Button”
The liver is incredible. Most people think of it as a filter, but filters are physical barriers that accumulate junk and have to be cleaned. The liver isn’t a filter. It’s a chemical processing plant. Rather than sit there, passively receiving, filtering out, and storing undesirable compounds, the liver encounters toxic chemicals and attempts to metabolize them into less-toxic metabolites that we can handle.
It oxidizes the toxins, preparing them for further modification
It converts the toxins to a less-toxic, water-soluble version that’s easier to excrete
It excretes the toxins through feces or urine
Bam. It’s an elegant process, provided everything is working well back there. And it’s not the only process it controls.
Whenever I write about sleep, I hear from a chorus of people who struggle to sleep through the night. Anecdotally, it seems a far more common complaint than difficulty falling asleep in the first place.
These complaints are one of three types:
People who have trouble falling asleep
People who sleep fitfully, waking multiple times throughout the night
Those who reliably wake once, around the same time most nights
Understandably, this is a hugely vexing problem. Poor quality sleep is a serious health concern. Not to mention, sleeping badly feels simply awful. When the alarm goes off after a night of tossing and turning, the next day is sure to be a slog. String several days like that together, and it’s hard to function at all.
“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.