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January 16, 2017

Tired All the Time? A Guide to More Energy

by John Hastings

Have you been feeling tired lately? Just want to crawl into a cave and hibernate? It’s not uncommon to get less active in winter but you shouldn’t accept fatigue as the new normal, says Andrea Dory, MD, a family medicine doctor at Glen Cove Hospital. “When people feel tired all the time, there’s usually a reason -- and a solution,” she says.

If your pep has pooped out, here are five possible reasons – and some fixes that can help.

Problem: You’re dehydrated.

The air gets dry in winter, and that means people tend to lose fluids just as fast as during the heat of summer, says Dr. Dory. But a University of New Hampshire study found that people tend not to compensate for that fluid loss in winter. The researchers found that during exercise or while just sitting around, volunteers were about 40 percent less thirsty and drank less water than they did under warmer conditions. Even mild dehydration can lead to headaches and tiredness.

Solution: Take frequent water-cooler breaks or keep a water bottle with you and drink up.

Problem: You’re getting over a cold or the flu.

Even after the symptoms of a cold or the flu subside, the exhaustion can linger -- for a week or longer, Dr. Dory says. Unfortunately, most people don’t give themselves enough time to recover. “Even if people take time off from work, they end up doing chores around the house,” she says. “Every day, I’m telling my patients, ‘Rest, rest, rest!’”

Solution: Take at least a full day of lounging after you’ve recovered to allow your body to heal – and don’t be surprised if it takes even longer for your energy levels to bounce back.

Problem: You’re not exercising enough.

Once the cold weather hits, many people wind down without even realizing it. A Gallup poll reveals that the number of Americans who exercise regularly dips about 9 percent in the winter. Within a couple of weeks, says Dr. Dory, that decrease in activity can paradoxically leave you feeling more tired. “You don’t sleep as well when you don’t exercise,” she says. In addition, she says, research shows that exercise boosts your mood and energy levels.

Solution: Schedule regular trips to the gym, pop in an exercise tape and work out at home or head outdoors to try a new winter sport. Check out 4 Great Winter Activities for inspiration.

Problem: You’re low on vitamin D.

With the days short and the temperature brutal, it’s easy to go for long stretches without getting out in the sun. That can leave you short on vitamin D, AKA the sunshine vitamin. Your body requires sunlight to manufacture this nutrient, and if you don’t get enough, your energy levels can take a hit, explains Dr. Dory. Your doctor can check your levels with a simple blood test.

Solution: Get outside for a walk at lunchtime and on weekends. If your doctor suggests D supplements, be sure to follow through.

Problem: Your thyroid’s feeling snoozy.

Your thyroid gland produces hormones that help control your metabolism – and therefore your energy level. Hypothyroidism, in which the thyroid fails to produce enough of those hormones, gets more common with age, and is especially likely to occur in women. That can lead to weight gain, dry skin and fatigue, says Dr. Dory.

Solution: If your doctor thinks your thyroid is slowing down, a blood test is in order; treatment for hypothyroidism is easy and effective. January is Thyroid Awareness Month…if you think you may have a problem, this is a great time to ask your doctor!