Please help me wake up!
June 3, 2013 6:44 PM   Subscribe

I feel like I have been constantly tired for the past 2 or so months. I am tired from the moment I wake up until I go to bed at night and often have trouble keeping my eyes open during the day. I also suffer terribly from headaches and general neck and shoulder stiffness which adds to the fatigued feeling. I have been to the doctor and everything appears to be normal including iron levels, and also I'm not depressed. I am feeling quite stressed in my life though, I don’t enjoy my work and I have an 8 year old daughter and a partner who travels a lot for work. I’m looking for a new job but these things take time and I haven’t seen anything that takes my fancy yet. Also it’s coming up the anniversary of the death of a loved one so I wonder if that’s having an effect. I know I need to get more exercise but I am not sure what I should/could be doing and I’m so exhausted its tiring just thinking about it. I eat relatively well and make/eat a lot of home cooked meals. I’m hoping for some ideas on how I can beat this tiredness and find some motivation and energy in my life. I’d also love to beat these awful headaches. Please help me wake up!
posted by Youremyworld to Health & Fitness (30 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
Exercise - even just walking...It's not about how hard it is or how much effort you expend, it's more important how long you keep it up...

Vitamin B complex...
posted by NoDef at 6:48 PM on June 3, 2013 [4 favorites]

Have you had a sleep study? You could have sleep apnea and not know it. It wipes you out during the day.
posted by cecic at 6:54 PM on June 3, 2013 [11 favorites]

It seems counterintuitive but I feel less tired when I cut out caffeine (or cut way down - decaf coffee still has some caffeine) because the quality of my sleep is better.

Also, have you looked into what might be causing the head/neck stiffness? Do you spend a lot of time at a desk/computer that's not set up ergonomically? Is your bed too soft/hard for you? Etc. Either way, hot baths and yoga/pilates/stretching might help get rid of some of the stiffness. I find that when I go to a yoga or pilates class, for some reason a lot of muscle tension dissipates the minute I lay still on the mat at the start of class.
posted by needs more cowbell at 6:58 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Nthing the sleep study. My CPAP does wonders for my mood and physical health.

And the headaches and stiffness can very easily be down to your sleep, BTW. My headaches are almost invariably caused by the same stuff they talk about in relationship counseling ("never fight when you're...") - hunger, anger, loneliness/isolation, and tiredness. Plus dehydration and allergies and slouching. :)
posted by SMPA at 7:06 PM on June 3, 2013

Were your vitamin D levels tested?

Make sure you are sleeping well. Nthing stretching/yoga/light exercise, at a time of day that will help you sleep better. Your daughter could do it with you.
posted by ecsh at 7:07 PM on June 3, 2013

If you have sleep apnea it starves you of oxygen and you wake with headaches. In any case, sleep disorders will have a serious effect on your energy.
Sleep well.
posted by artdrectr at 7:19 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Don't set your clock until you really need to get up, and then get right up - no snooze button. That half awake time is not good sleep, takes away from time you could be sleeping, and makes you tired all day.
posted by 445supermag at 7:23 PM on June 3, 2013

Vitamin D changed my life! I had many of your general complaints -- fatigue, stiffness, muscle pain, headaches. I started taking large amounts of D daily (the liquid form) and was fine within a few weeks. Ran out about a month ago, and started feeling crappy, and now I'm back on a daily dose and feel normal again. Most people are deficient in D: you should assume you are, unless your doctor has explicitly ruled it out.
posted by Susan PG at 7:39 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Are you drinking enough water? Mild dehydration can cause both the fatigue and the headaches.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:15 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Can you turn your head? I once visited the doctor thinking I had mono and he sent me to a physical therapist - my neck was so stiff it was making me feel unwell. Physical therapy was the solution for me, but you should get the other stuff people mentioned checked out too.
posted by blu_stocking at 8:35 PM on June 3, 2013

I have to agree that cutting out caffeine entirely is probably advisable, but I felt so much better after work when I changed my coffee habit from 2 cups in the morning to 1 cup in the morning and 1 cup in the afternoon. Even if caffeine isn't a factor for you, try making a few small changes in the parts of your normal routine that give you energy and see if you can spread the benefits throughout different parts of the day.
posted by juliplease at 8:45 PM on June 3, 2013

Practice good sleep hygiene. Setting a regular bedtime/wake up time and only using the bed for sleep and sex are key.

If you're stressed and experiencing a lot of stiffness and aches, why not treat yourself to a few massages? If you use Groupon (or any other deal site) or go to a massage school you can get an hour long massage for between $30-60.

The easiest way to get more exercise would be to walk more. Is there any part of your commute or daily travels where you could replace driving or taking public transportation with walking? Even 15 or 30 minutes of walking per day would help.
posted by fox problems at 8:59 PM on June 3, 2013

I'm in the same boat, plus I am irritable. I think walking outside may help, but I haven't tried it. The b complex made me shaky, not awake and invigorated. I am stressed, too.
posted by Jewel98 at 9:07 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Um, maybe you are not getting enough sleep?
posted by Dansaman at 10:28 PM on June 3, 2013

Do you have sinus issues ever? When I unknowingly had a dreadful chronic sinus infection in my upper sinuses, I didn't necessarily have a stuffy or runny nose, but I just...wiped out...all the time and had terrible headaches regularly. I also had at least a low-level headache and postnasal drip all the time, to which I'd become accustomed as "normal." After a multiple rounds of antibiotics and prednisone and a patient doc at a practice specializing n allergy/asthma/sinusitis, that beast was finally kicked.

I'll also second both taking a daily multivitamin in case you could use a little more than what you're getting from food, and increasing your fluid intake in case you're a little dehydrated.
posted by desuetude at 11:03 PM on June 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

Do you need glasses? Might be worth getting your eyes checked.
posted by kjs4 at 11:15 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've started using a phone sleep app that uses the motion sensor to ring the alarm when you're moving around, and thus half-awake, within a certain window (eg, 30 min).

This means you might wake up earlier than you'd prefer, but it's actually preferable to hitting snooze, going back to a deep sleep, then waking up in a haze. And I was a habitual snooze abuser.

It won't solve everything obviously, but starting those dreadful mornings on a better note is, well, a start.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 1:53 AM on June 4, 2013

Could be diabetes, I had this problem for a long time (excessive daytime tiredness) and it turned out my blood sugar was too high, I discovered experimentally that when glucose spikes high I get tired, like I'm-going-to-pass-out tired. Meds and diet changes really helped.
posted by thermonuclear.jive.turkey at 3:21 AM on June 4, 2013

I recently got a new pillow (the brand is sleep innovations, it's the memory-foam type with the "spine support" thing, ie two lumps going perpendicular to my body). I am amazed at how much more rested I feel after the same amount of time in bed. I also tend to carry tension in my neck/upper back, and this pillow seems to help with that.
posted by Bebo at 4:28 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Seasonal allergies are quite bad right now and can result in those feelings. Your doctor shouldn't have missed that entirely though. Any allergy symptoms especially as correlated to time spent out in the pollen?
posted by RoadScholar at 5:50 AM on June 4, 2013

Seconding seasonal allergies and ergonomics. For the former, Claritin, Flonase, a neti pot or NeilMed sinus rinse, showering and washing/rinsing your hair before bed (to get rid of any clinging pollen) and putting an air purifier in your bedroom will help.

Ergonomics - if you are at a keyboard/computer all day, you want to be sure that your setup is right for your body and you are not putting strain on your neck due to your posture or whatever.

Yoga and/or Pilates can help with strength and flexibility (and I find it's a wonderful corrective for all those sitting-at-the-keyboard hours).

Finally - yes, sleep test! I had sleeping and fatigue issues - turned out I had severe sleep apnea. My CPAP has changed my life for the better. Apnea is not just for fat, middle-aged men, either - if you are young, thin, and/or female or any combination of these, you may have to push hard for a sleep test, but treating any existing apnea will give you a new lease on life.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 6:31 AM on June 4, 2013

posted by BenPens at 8:17 AM on June 4, 2013

Best answer: Everyone has a lot of really great suggestions, but I'll add one more: is your jaw sore when you wake up? Are your teeth sensitive? Because your symptoms sound, to me, like me when I'm having a very bad TMJ attack. Sometimes my teeth won't hurt all that much, but my neck and shoulder muscles will be absolutely locked up and sometimes I get referential pain all the way down my spine. Sleeping doesn't help me feel any better, because sleeping is when I clench my jaw (stress-related, for me, and it sounds like you might have quite a bit of stress happening) and trigger the TMJ! It will also make me wake up with headaches.

I'm not sure who diagnoses TMJ-- both my mother and grandmother have it so when I started getting symptoms I knew exactly what it was, so I've never been officially diagnosed, but you could try one of the DIY nightguards for bruxism that you can get at the grocery store and see if that helps your neck and shoulder stiffness.
posted by WidgetAlley at 8:24 AM on June 4, 2013

I added Vitamin D and B complex with some good effect.
Are you depressed? Depression can present as fatigue.
Pay close attention to your diet & nutrition. Reduce sugar and white flour, especially. Try making sure you get some protein early in the day, add some fiber, and get plenty of colorful vegetables.
Limit caffeine to 1 - 2 cups (many mugs are 2 cups or more) and no caffeine after noon.
Maybe add some meditation to help deal with stress, some stretching and some exercise. I know how hard it is to exercise when you're tired all the time; taking a class helps me.
posted by theora55 at 8:30 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Sleep Study, ASAP!

I can't believe the difference in Husbunny after he did one and got a CPAP. It's freaking AMAZING!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:07 AM on June 4, 2013

Nthing multivitamins and drinking more water. Exercise can also help pain. My B-Complex is amazing.
posted by discopolo at 10:30 AM on June 4, 2013

I just went through this a few months back. All of the advice above is good, and is worth following up on. In my case, I went to my GP and was told I was fine. I upped my vitamin D to 5000iu/day (GP had confirmed that it was "a little low"), greatly upped all my B vitamins, still didn't feel well. Back to GP, who said I had a slight ear infection and prescribed an antibiotic. Which didn't really work. Got a referral to an ENT, who confirmed I still had the ear infection, and gave me something stronger. Low and behold, after feeling crappy for 6 months I suddenly felt BETTER. So you may have some sort of underlying infection that isn't really making itself known beyond the fatigue. Hopefully your GP is not as crappy as mine.

And yes, by virtue of the fact that you mentioned the anniversary of a loved one's death coming up, it sounds like it is weighing on you. I'm in a grief support group and we hear this a lot. Sometimes it helps to plan a weekend away or a special event for a week or two after the anniversary, to have something to look forward to. But do allow yourself to feel your feelings and grieve a little in the meantime.
posted by vignettist at 2:37 PM on June 4, 2013

I was having the same type issue a few months ago - tired, aches, headaches, general malaise and lack of motivation to do anything. I went to the doctor who did a full battery of testing and everything came back fine, she was even stunned at my vitamin levels and asked what I ate as most of her patients did not have adequate nutrition whereas I passed with flying colors.

Then she asked me about my work (2 jobs), financial situation (ok, but treading water), and concerns in my personal life (uhh...stuff) and said that these days she sees it often, patients coming in saying they're tired all the time and can't focus at their work and are impatient with their kids, and don't enjoy things, etc. Of course, its because you're running out of battery.

She offered a referral to a psychiatrist in case I wanted to pursue seeing if I was clinically depressed, but actually just having a medical professional pretty much tell me that "You're tired because you're overworked and your life temporarily sucks" was enough to make me feel better and advocate for the things i need (more sleep, alone time, stretch time at desk job) to get me through that period.

I'm not a medical professional, but based on your question, you feel like crap because your life temporarily sucks. I acknowledge the weight on your existence right now. Advocate for things now that will pull you through, whatever they are for you (having someone else cook, sleep, time to meditate or read, time off work...)
posted by WeekendJen at 7:07 PM on June 4, 2013

After reading Weekend Jen's comment, I was reminded of something that I just read last night that I really took to heart.

Many things in our life only last a season. Just a few months or even weeks, really. I just went through a situation where I was suuuper busy with work, and my partner was on disability and could not help at home at. all. I was exhausted. But I knew that our busy time would end, and that my partner was healing and would be able to help again within a couple of months. Just knowing that there was a light at the end of the tunnel helped me stay focused and just take one day at a time. Sometimes it can helpful to remember that a new season is coming.
posted by vignettist at 8:01 AM on June 5, 2013

Response by poster: Thank you to everyone for your excellent responses.

All of the answers here have merit and I am sure that many factors come into play with the way I have been feeling. The responses from WeekendJen and vignettist are very helpful. I think I have to ride out the storm and I’m already feeling better after the anniversary of my husband’s death. Just getting through it has reduced my stress levels. I have also started taking vitamin D and will start doing some walking every day with my doggie.

I have marked WidgetAlley’s comment as the best because this is where the headaches, toothache (which I didn’t mention) and muscle soreness was coming from. A mouth guard from the chemist and some jaw stretching has cured the morning headaches in just a few days! Yay! Thanks WidgetAlley.

I hope all this info helps someone else with this problem in the future.
Much love XX
posted by Youremyworld at 5:56 PM on June 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

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