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A Definitive Guide to Healthy Aging (For Older Adults)

A Definitive Guide to Healthy Aging (For Older Adults)

There’s living longer, and there’s living better. Healthy aging is about living better for longer.

The biggest challenge we face is not adding years to our life, it’s making those years count by being able to be fully active, independent and happy. We want to travel, dance, date, learn, laugh and have fun as we age. We want to be energetic and vibrant.

By reading this guide, you’ll learn the latest habits for healthy aging and well-being. Research has shown that there are specific strategies for your diet, sleep, exercise, relationships and preventative care that can dramatically improve your quality of life well into your Golden years – helping you avoid chronic disease, while living longer and healthier.

Why healthy aging matters

Old age can be fraught with challenges to your health. According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, more than 1 in 4 Americans live with multiple chronic health conditions like arthritis, asthma, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and chronic respiratory conditions.[1]

Each of these chronic conditions can interfere with your ability to remain independent and perform activities of daily living on your own. Not only that, chronic health conditions can cause significant financial strain as you might face additional out of pocket expenses for medical treatments, caregiving and higher prescription drug costs.

The good news is, there are positive steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of injury and disease. These steps will make your body stronger, your mind sharper and your immune system a protective fortress.

Healthy aging basics

Nutrition and diet

Choosing healthy foods is critical to your health and well-being, especially as you age! Your body goes through significant changes in your 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. Your diet arms your body with the energy and nutrients it needs as you age. These tips are scientifically proven to help you choose the right foods to improve your health at each stage of life.

Drink lots of liquids

As we age, we tend to drink less than we need to because we lose our sense of thirst,[2] get urinary tract infections and tend to be a little more incontinent. However, medications can make it more important than ever to stay well hydrated.

To help yourself get in the habit of drinking more throughout the day, take a sip of your drink between bites during mealtime, drink a glass of water when you take your pills and have a glass of water before and after you exercise, especially on hot days.

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Choose liquids low in sugar, sodium and fat. Good choices include water, skim milk, 100% juices (apple, cranberry, orange) and low-fat soups.

Know what to eat

Eat a variety of foods every day to get the nutrients you need. Eat a rainbow of bright colored foods[3] to get anti-inflamatory, cancer-fighting, immune-boosting nutrients into your system. Here’s what the nutrition rainbow of foods look like:

    Healthy meals include:

    • Lean protein (chicken, pork, lean meat, seafood, eggs, legumes)
    • Fruits and vegetables (think red, green, orange, blue, purple)
    • Whole grains (oatmeal, wild rice, whole heat toast)
    • Low-fat dairy (skim milks, low-fat cheese)

    Also try eating foods that are high in Vitamin D (essential as we age) and fiber and low in fat and sodium.

    Know how much to eat

    The Dietary Guidelines suggest people aged 50 and older choose from the following foods each day. This is a great starting point to help you get a sense for what and how much you ought to eat each day:[4]

    • Fruits—1½ to 2½ cups
    • Vegetables—2 to 3½ cups
    • Grains—5 to 10 ounces
    • Protein foods—5 to 7 ounces
    • Dairy foods—3 cups of fat-free or low-fat milk
    • Oils—5 to 8 teaspoons
    • Solid fats and added sugars (SoFAS) and sodium (salt)—keep the amount of SoFAS and sodium small.

    Here are some very useful visual aids from the National Institute of Health to help you get a sense of how big a portion is:

      Read labels

      Eating fresh is best, but if you do buy packaged, canned or bottled foods, read the labels. Avoid foods with high sugar, sodium or saturated fat levels:

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      • For sugar, try not to have more than 6-9 teaspoons of added sugar a day (25-36 grams).
      • For sodium, people over 50 should limit themselves to no more than 1,500 mg per day.
      • For fat, target somewhere between 18 and 25 grams of saturated fats per day – no more than 10% of your daily calories should come from saturated fats.

      Sleep and age

      According to the National Sleep Foundation, older adults, aged 50-65 need between 7-9 hours of sleep per night and those aged over 65 need between 7-8 hours of sleep per night.[5]

      However, a full night’s sleep becomes increasingly challenging for many older adults. We tend to fall asleep less deeply and wake up more throughout the night resulting in chronic sleep deprivation.

      Often times, medical conditions such as sleep apnea, arthirtis, acid reflux, congestive heart failure and depression are the cause. Other times, conditions like restless leg syndrome or periodic leg movements make staying asleep difficult. The good news is, treating the underlying medical condition often leads to significantly improved sleep.

      Poor sleep can have profound negative effects on your physical and mental well-being. There is a significant amount of research that has conclusively linked lack of sleep to poorer memory, disease and shortened life spans.[6] Here’s a list of just a few of the consequences:

      • Obesity
      • Diabetes
      • Heart Disease & Hypertension
      • Mood Disorders
      • Immune Disfunction
      • Shortened Life Expectancy

      Although a good sleep may seem difficult, if not impossible to find, there are actually many things we can do to drastically increase the odds of a good night’s sleep:

      1. Avoid caffeine, nicotine, alcohol and other stimulants that get in the way of sleep.
      2. Have a light supper or snack before bedtime – avoid heavy meals late in the day.
      3. Don’t drink too much before bed. Drink just enough to avoid waking up to go pee in the middle of the night.
      4. Don’t nap too late in the day. If you miss your day time nap, don’t nap at all. Take your naps earlier in the day, maybe before 3PM. Napping too late will keep you up later, causing a vicious cycle of a poor nights sleep, resulting in a need for a nap.
      5. Exercise early in the day as opposed to after dinner. Exercising early will actually help you sleep. However, doing so late will stimulate your body and keep you up.
      6. Keep a consistent sleep schedule. Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day will make it easier for your body to establish a sleep rythm. It’s even more important that you wake up at the same time each morning – it will force your body to sleep at night.
      7. Don’t check your watch, clock or phone if you wake-up at night. If you can’t resist, remove them from your night table.
      8. Create a sleep friendly environment in your bedroom. Keep it dark, quiet and cool. Get a comfortable mattress, pillow, sheets, blanket, black out blinds, eye mask, ear plugs or white noise if necessary.
      9. Create a consistent and conducive pre-sleep routine: Take a bath, have an herbal tea and consider getting into bed with a book 30-60 minutes before you want to fall asleep; avoid screens, especially phones and iPads 30 minutes before bed.

      Exercise

      It’s no secret that daily exercise, combined with a healthy diet, is like a tonic for the body. It is the Holy Grail.

      Exercise helps seniors stay active, independent and mobile longer, while helping stave off disease. But even more importantly, seniors with good fitness levels show better decision making, critical thinking and planning skills than their peers, while keeping cognitive decline, memory loss and dementia at bay.[7]

      You don’t have to turn yourself into an Olympian to get the benefits of exercise either. As we covered in our previous article on exercise for seniors, a recent study from Harvard University suggested seniors get the following amount of exercise:

      • At least 150 minutes of walking or other aerobic exercise per week
      • Strength training 2-3 times per week, but never 2 days in a row
      • Stretch and balance exercises every day

      Check out what exercises are best for seniors here: Exercise for Seniors: How to Improve Strength and Balance (And Stay Fit)

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      Daily habits

      There’s a lot of advice out there regarding what’s good and bad for you, and it changes every year. One day wine is good for you, the next it’s bad. One day eggs are bad for you, the next day they’re a superfood.

      So I’ve put together a list of 5 habits that have a wide consensus when it comes to their benefit for you. These habits will make a big difference in your life. Here you go:

      • Move daily: The more you move the better. Walk, swim, play tennis, it doesn’t matter as long as you get moving and do it daily. Research shows that sustained physical activity improves your odds of healthy aging by seven times![8]
      • Do something to make yourself smile – a lot: People who smile live longer and are typically happier and healthier than those who smile less.[9] Forcing a smile won’t magically add years to your life, but doing things that make you smile will.
      • Turn off the TV: Every hour of TV watching reduces life expectancy by 22 minutes! So if you sit in front of the TV for six hours a day, you’ll live 5 years less according to a study by the University of Queensland.[10] Fill your time getting together with friends, cooking, gardening, walking, painting, writing and reading etc.
      • Spend time with friends and family: Having a strong social network with family, friends and colleagues makes you healthier and extends your life according to studies from Brigham Young University.[11] In fact, according to a study from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, a wide social network is as important as exercise and diet in maintaining our health.
      • Be mindful and meditate: It may sound like hocus pocus to you, but mindfulness and meditation are going mainstream. Even researchers at Harvard are touting the benefits of meditation for seniors.[12] Only 15 minutes a day can improve your mind, health and mood while reducing stress, pain and depression.

      Preventive care

      It’s always better to stay one step ahead, especially when it comes to your health. If you’re willing to take your car into the shop for a tune up every year, there’s no excuse not to do the same for yourself.

      As a senior, the frequency with which you should visit your doctors, get vaccinations and screen for any issues to ensure you prevent and nip any problems in the bud can make a significant difference to your health.

      Here’s a list of preventive care measures recommended by the U.S. Health Department (please discuss with your doctor):[13]

      • Abdominal aortic aneurysm one-time screening for men of specified ages who have ever smoked
      • Aspirin use to prevent cardiovascular disease for men and women of certain ages (Talk with your doctor about taking aspirin every day)
      • Blood pressure screening for all adults
      • Breast cancer screening every 2 years between ages 55-74
      • Cholesterol screening for adults of certain ages or at higher risk
      • Colorectal cancer screening annually to at least age 65
      • Diabetes (type 2) screening for adults with high blood pressure
      • Diet counseling for adults at higher risk for chronic disease
      • Hepatitis C screening for adults at increased risk and one-time screening for everyone born between 1945 and 1965
      • HIV screening for everyone ages 15 to 65, and other ages at increased risk
      • Immunization vaccines for adults (doses, recommended ages, and recommended populations vary):
        – Hepatitis A
        – Hepatitis B
        – Herpes Zoster (Shingles)
        – Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
        – Influenza (Flu)
        – Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR)
        – Meningococcal
        – Pneumococcal
        – Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis
        – Varicella (Chickenpox)
      • Lung cancer screening for adults ages 55 to 80 who are at high risk because they are heavy smokers or have quit in the past 15 years
      • Obesity screening and counseling for all adults
      • Get tested for Chlamydia and Gonorrhea
      • Syphilis screening for all adults at higher risk
      • Tobacco use screening for all adults and cessation interventions for tobacco users

      I also recommend you get an annual wellness check-up, an eye exam every year for adults over 60 years of age and a teeth cleaning once a year if your teeth are in good condition.

      Visiting your doctor once a year is not only essential to spot check your health and take the appropriate tests, it’s also a good opportunity to discuss and review medications with your doctor – a key determinant of your health.

      Social relationships (And sex)

      Staying socially engaged helps seniors in everything from staying in shape to staying mentally fit and extending your lifespan.

      According to the National Institute on Aging, research indicates that:[14]

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      • Deep social relationships are associated with positive health bio-markers;
      • Social well-being is associated with lower inflammation that causes Alzheimers, osteoporosis, arthritis and cardiovadcular disease;
      • Social isolation is a strong risk factor for morbidity and mortality, especially among older adults;
      • Loneliness is correlated to high blood pressure;
      • Loneliness is a risk factor for depression.

      So create and maintain positive relationships with family, friends and colleagues. If you feel isolated, try volunteering, joining a gym with fitness classes, playing cards, going for coffees with friends and doing dinners with family.

      But if you really want to add some spice to your life and improve your health, you should have more sex! Yes, it’s doctors’ orders and here’s why:

      • Sex improves your sleep. Orgasms increase the hormone oxytocin and decrease cortisol, reducing stress and anxiety.[15]
      • Sex keeps you looking younger. According to a study by Scotland’s Royal Edinburgh Hospital, older couples who have sex at least 3 times a week look up to 7 years younger than their peers.[16]
      • Sex makes you happy. We know happy is important to our overall health. According to one study , couples having sex once a week were 44 percent happier than those who had no sex in the past year.[17]

      Long-term care

      As seniors lose the ability to perform activities of daily living on their own (bathing, cooking, dressing, toileting, cleaning, driving, etc.), it becomes essential to find long-term care solutions while helping them live as independently and safely as possible.

      It’s important you start planning, saving and sharing your preferences with your family members before you need the care. These decisions are often expensive, complex and will have a significant impact on you and your loved ones as you age.

      Long-term care comes in many forms. The National Institute of Aging describes them as follows:[18]

      • Home health careHome health care is usually related to medical services provided in a home setting. These services might include physical, occupational or speech therapy.
      • Homemaker servicesHomemaker services usually describe care involving assistance with activities of daily living like bathing, toileting and food preparation.
      • Friendly visitor / Companion services: Companion services are offered by private agencies or volunteers who pay visits to seniors who are frail or living alone.
      • Transportation services: Transportation services help seniors get to and from medical appointments, senior centers, the shopping mall and more. With reduced mobility, transportation is essential to help seniors manage their lives and stay involved and connected within their communities.
      • Emergency response systems: This is especially useful for seniors living alone or at risk of falling, medical alert systems allow users to press a help button on their wrist or around their neck in the event of an emergency.
      • Adult day care: Adult day care is a daytime center that offers activities for seniors throughout the day, offering a social environment, meals and activities without the expense of boarding.
      • Residential facilities: Residential care facilities or boarding homes offer residents private or shared rooms, personal care, medication dispensing and meals. Staff are available at all times. However, there is limited help with activities of daily living and no medical care provided.
      • Assisted living communities: Assisted living communities are for seniors who also need assistance with activities of daily living like bathing, dressing, toileting and cooking. There are typically organized activities and common areas to encourage sociability as well.
      • Nursing homes: Nursing homes offer patients skilled nursing assistance, medical treatment, 24 hour care and physical therapy in addition to meals and assistance with activities of daily living.

      Healthy aging begins with you

      Aging healthily doesn’t happen by chance. Sure there’s the luck of the genetic draw but barring luck, there’s a lot we can do to improve our chances of living well into our golden years with health, happiness, vigor and purpose.

      Following the approach set out in this guide will help you establish the diet, sleep, exercise, social and preventative care habits that will not only help you live longer, but better!

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] United States Department of Health and Human Services: Multiple Chronic Conditions: A Strategic Framework
      [2] National Institute on Aging: Getting Enough Fluids
      [3] The Cancer Project.org: The Nutrition Rainbow
      [4] USDA: Dietary Guidelines
      [5] National sleep foundation: Recommended new sleep times
      [6] Healthy Sleep: Sleep and Disease Risk
      [7] TIME: How Exercise May Help Protect Your Brain From Cognitive Decline and Dementia
      [8] Psychology Today: What Daily Habit Can Boost “Healthy Aging” Odds Sevenfold?
      [9] Ron Gutman: The hidden power of smiling
      [10] The Telegraph: Every hour of TV watching shortens life by 22 minutes
      [11] BYU News: Stayin’ alive: That’s what friends are for
      [12] Harvard Medical School: Now and Zen: How mindfulness can change your brain and improve your health
      [13] USA Health Care Department: Preventive care benefits for adults
      [14] National Institute on Aging: Research Suggests a Positive Correlation between Social Interaction and Health
      [15] NCBI: Influence of sex on sleep regulatory mechanisms.
      [16] Scotland’s Royal Edinburgh Hospital: Sex is the secret to looking younger, claims researcher
      [17] University of Colorado Boulder: In sex, happiness hinges on keeping up with the Joneses
      [18] National Institute of Aging: What Is Long-Term Care?

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      Marc Felgar

      Marc Felgar is an aging, health & senior care expert focused on improving the lives of mature adults.

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      Last Updated on March 30, 2020

      Why You’re Feeling Tired All the Time (And What to Do About It)

      Why You’re Feeling Tired All the Time (And What to Do About It)

      Feeling tired all the time?

      Have you ever caught yourself nodding off when you’re watching TV, listening to someone drone on during a meeting or even driving a car?

      I know I have, especially when I worked 70 hours per week as a High-Tech Executive.

      Feeling tired all the time may be more widespread than you think. In fact, two-fifths of Americans are tired most of the week.[1]

      If you’re tired of feeling tired, then I’ve got some great news for you. New research is helping us gain critical insights into the underlying causes of feeling tired all the time.

      In this article, we’ll discuss the latest reasons why you’re feeling tired all the time and practical steps you can take to finally get to the bottom of your fatigue and feel rested.

      What Happens When You’re Too Tired

      If you sleep just two hours less than the normal eight hours, you could be as impaired as someone who has consumed up to three beers.[2] And you’ve probably experienced the impact yourself.

      Here are some common examples of what happens when you’re feeling tired:[3]

      • You may have trouble focusing because memory and learning functions may be impaired within your brain.
      • You may experience mood swings and an inability to differentiate between what’s important and what’s not because your brain’s neurotransmitters are misfiring.
      • You may get dark circles under your eyes and/or your skin make look dull and lackluster in the short term and over time your skin may get wrinkles and show signs of aging because your body didn’t have time to remove toxins during sleep.
      • You may find it more difficult to exercise or to perform any type of athletic activity.
      • Your immune system may weaken causing you to pick up infections more easily.
      • You may overeat because not getting enough sleep activates the body’s endocannabinoids even when you’re not hungry.
      • Your metabolism slows down so what you eat is more likely to be stored as belly fat.

      Are you saying that feeling tired can make me overweight?

      Unfortunately, yes!

      Feeling tired all the time can cause you to put on the pounds especially around your waist. But it is a classic chicken and egg situation, too.

      Heavier people are more likely to feel fatigued during the day than lighter ones. And that’s even true for overweight people who don’t have sleep apnea (source: National Institutes of Health).

      Speaking of sleep apnea, you may be wondering if that or something else is causing you to feel tired all the time.

      Why Are you Feeling Tired All the Time?

      Leading experts are starting to recognize that there are three primary reasons people feel tired on a regular basis: sleep deprivation, fatigue and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).

      Here’s a quick overview of each root cause of feeling tired all of the time:

      1. Tiredness occurs from sleep deprivation when you don’t get high-quality sleep consistently. It typically can be solved by changing your routine and getting enough deep restorative sleep.
      2. Fatigue occurs from prolonged sleeplessness which could be triggered by numerous issues such as mental health issues, long-term illness, fibromyalgia, obesity, sleep apnea or stress. It typically can be improved by changing your lifestyle and using sleep aids or treatments, if recommended by your physician.
      3. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a medical condition also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis that occurs from persistent exhaustion that doesn’t go away with sleep.

      The exact cause of CFS is not known, but it may be due to problems with the immune system, a bacterial infection, a hormone imbalance or emotional trauma.

      It typically involves working with a doctor to rule out other illnesses before diagnosing and treating CFS.[4]

      Always consult a physician to get a personal diagnosis about why you are feeling tired, especially if it is a severe condition.

      Feeling Tired vs Being Fatigued

      If lack of quality sleep doesn’t seem to be the root cause for you, then it’s time to explore fatigue as the reason you are frequently feeling tired.

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      Until recently, tiredness and fatigue were thought to be interchangeable. Leading experts now realize that tiredness and fatigue are different.

      Tiredness is primarily about lack of sleep.

      But fatigue is a perceived feeling of being tired that is much more likely to occur in people who have depression, anxiety or emotional stress and/or are overweight and physically inactive (source: Science Direct).

      Symptoms of fatigue include:

      • Difficulty concentrating
      • Low stamina
      • Difficulty sleeping
      • Anxiety
      • Low motivation

      These symptoms may sound similar to those of tiredness but they usually last longer and are more intense.

      Unfortunately, there is no definitive reason why fatigue occurs because it can be a symptom of an emotional or physical illness. But there are still a number of steps you can take to reduce difficult symptoms by making a few simple lifestyle changes.

      How Much Sleep Is Enough?

      The number one reason you may feel tired is because of sleep deprivation which means you are not getting enough high-quality sleep.

      Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of high-quality, uninterrupted sleep per night. If you’re sleep deprived, the amount of sleep you need increases.

      So, quantity and quality do matter when it comes to sleep.

      The key to quality sleep is being able to get long, uninterrupted sleep cycles throughout the night. It typically takes 90 minutes for you to reach a state of deep REM sleep where your body’s healing crew goes to work.

      Ideally, you want to get at least 3 to 4 deep REM sleep cycles in per night. That’s why it’s so important to stay asleep for 7 or more hours.

      Research also shows that people who think they can get by on less sleep don’t perform as well as people who get at least seven hours of sleep a night[5] So, you should definitely plan on getting seven hours of deep restorative sleep every night.

      If you are not getting 7 hours of high-quality sleep regularly, then sleep deprivation is most likely reason you feel tired all the time.

      And that is good news because sleep deprivation is much simpler and easier to address than the other root causes.

      It’s also a good idea to rule out sleep deprivation as the reason why you are tired before moving on to the other possibilities such as fatigue or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which may require a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

      4 Simple Changes to Reduce Fatigue

      Personally, I’m a big believer in upgrading your lifestyle to uplift your life. I overcame chronic stress and exhaustion by making these four changes to my lifestyle:

      1. Eating healthy, home-cooked meals versus microwaving processed foods or eating out
      2. Exercising regularly
      3. Using stressbusters
      4. Creating a bedtime routine to sleep better

      So, I know it is possible to change your lifestyle even when you’re working crazy hours and have lots of family responsibilities.

      After I made the 4 simple changes in my lifestyle, I no longer felt exhausted all of the time.

      In addition, I lost two inches off my waist and looked and felt better than ever.

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      I was so excited that I wanted to help others replace stress and exhaustion with rest and well-being, too. That’s why I became a Certified Holistic Wellness Coach through the Dr. Sears Wellness Institute.

      Interestingly enough, I discovered that Dr. Sears recommends a somewhat similar L.E.A.N. lifestyle:

      • L is for Lifestyle and means living healthy including getting enough sleep.
      • E is for Exercise and means getting at least 20 minutes of exercise a day ideally for six days a week.
      • A is for Attitude and means thinking positive and reducing stress whenever possible.
      • N is for Nutrition and means emphasizing a right-fat diet, not a low-fat diet.

      The L.E.A.N. lifestyle is a scientifically-proven way to reduce fatigue, get to the optimal weight and to achieve overall wellness.[6]

      And yes, there does seem to be an important correlation between being lean and feeling rested.

      But overall based on my personal experience and Dr. Sear’s scientific proof, the key to not feeling tired all of the time does seem to be 4 simple changes to your lifestyle.

      L — Living Healthy

      Getting enough high-quality sleep every day is the surefire way to help you feel less fatigued, more rested and better overall.

      So, whether you’re sleep deprived or potentially suffering from fatigue or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, you probably want to find a way to sleep better.

      In fact, if you aren’t getting enough sleep, your body isn’t getting the time it needs to repair itself; meaning that if you are suffering from an illness, it’s far more likely to linger.

      As unlikely as it sounds, though, fatigue can sometimes make it difficult to sleep. That’s why I’d recommend taking a look at your bedtime routine before you go to bed and optimize it based on sleep best practices.

      Here are 3 quick and easy tips for creating a pro-sleep bedtime routine:

      1. Unplug

      Many of us try to unwind by watching TV or doing something on an iPhone or tablet. But tech can affect your melatonin production due to the blue light that they emit, fooling your body into thinking it’s still daytime.

      So turn off all tech one hour before bed and create a tech-free zone in your bedroom.

      2. Unwind

      Do something to relax.

      Use the time before bed to do something you find relaxing such as reading a book, listening to soothing music, meditating or taking an Epsom salt bath.

      3. Get Comfortable

      Ensure your bed is comfortable and your room is set up for sleep.

      Make sure you room is cool. 60-68 degrees is the ideal temperature for most people to sleep.

      Also, it’s ideal if your bedroom is dark and there is no noise.

      Finally, make sure everything is handled (e.g., laying out tomorrow’s clothes) before you get into your nice, comfy bed.

      If your mind is still active, write a to-do list to help you fall asleep faster.[7]

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      Above all, be gentle with yourself and count your blessings, some sheep or whatever helps.

      This article also offers practical tips to build a bedtime routine: How to Build a Good Bedtime Routine That Makes Your Morning Easier

      E — Exercise

      Many people know that exercise is good for them, but just can’t figure out how to fit it into their busy schedules.

      That’s what happened in my case.

      But when my chronic stress and exhaustion turned into systemic inflammation (which can lead to major diseases like Alzheimer’s), I realized it was time to change my lifestyle.

      As part of my lifestyle upgrade, I knew I needed to move more.

      My friends who exercise all gave me the same advice: find an exercise you like to do and find a specific time in your schedule when you can consistently do it.

      That made sense to me.

      So, I decided to swim.

      I used to love to swim when I was young, but I hadn’t done it for years. The best time for me to do it was immediately after work, since I could easily get an open swim lane at my local fitness club then.

      Also, swimming became a nice reason for me to leave work on time. And I got to enjoy a nice workout before eating dinner.

      Swimming is a good way to get your cardio or endurance training. But, walking, running and dancing are nice alternatives.

      So find an exercise you love and stick to it. Ideally, get a combination of endurance training, strength training and flexibility training in during your daily 20-minute workout.

      If you haven’t exercised in a while and have a lot of stress in your life, you may want to give yoga a try because you will increase your flexibility and lower your stress.

      A — Attitude

      Stress may be a major reason why you aren’t feeling well all of the time. At least that was the case with me.

      When I worked 70 hours per week as a High-Tech Executive, I felt chronically stressed and exhausted. But there was one thing that always worked to help me feel calmer and less fatigued.

      Do you want to know what that master stress-busting technique was?

      Breathing.

      But not just any old breathing. It was a special form of deep Yogic breathing called the “Long-Exhale Breathing” or “4-7-8 breathing” or “Pranayama” in Sanskrit).

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      Here’s how you do “Long-Exhale Breathing”:

      1. Sit in a comfortable position with your spine straight and your hand on your tummy (so you know you are breathing deeply from your diaphragm and not shallowly from your chest)
      2. Breathe in deeply and slowly from your diaphragm with your mouth closed while you count to 4 (ideally until your stomach feels full of air)
      3. Hold your breath while you count to 7 mentally and enjoy the stillness
      4. Breathe out through your mouth with a “ha” sound while you count to 8 (or until your stomach has no more air in it)
      5. Pause after you finish your exhale while you notice the sense of wholeness and relaxation from completing one conscious, deep, long exhale breath
      6. Repeat 3 times ensuring your exhale is longer than your inhale so you relax your nervous system

      This type of “long-exhale breathing” is scientifically proven to reduce stress.

      When your exhale is twice as long as your inhale, it soothes your parasympathetic nervous system, which regulates the relaxation response.[8]

      Plus, this is a great technique for helping you get to sleep, too.

      N — Nutrition

      Diet is vital for beating fatigue – after all, food is your main source of energy.

      If your diet is poor, then it implies you’re not getting the nutrients you need to sustain healthy energy levels.

      Eating a diet for fatigue doesn’t need to be complicated, time-consuming though.

      For most people, it’s just a case of swapping a few unhealthy foods for a few healthier ones, like switching from low-fiber, processed foods to whole, high-fiber foods.

      Unless your current diet is solely made up of fast food and ready meals, adjusting to a fatigue-fighting diet shouldn’t be too much of a shock to the system.

      Here’re 9 simple diet swaps you can make today:

      1. Replace your morning coffee with Matcha green tea and drink only herbal tea within six hours of bedtime.
      2. Add a healthy fat or protein to your any carb you eat, especially if you eat before bed. Please note that carb-only snacks lead to blood-sugar crashes that can make you eat more and they can keep you from sleeping.
      3. Fill up with fiber especially green leafy vegetables. Strive to get at least 25g per day with at least 5 servings (a serving is the size of your fist) of green vegetables.
      4. Replace refined, processed, low-fiber pastas and grains with zucchini noodles and whole grains such as buckwheat, quinoa, sorghum, oats, amaranth, millet, teff, brown rice and corn.
      5. Swap natural sweeteners for refined sugars and try to ensure you don’t get more than 25g of sugar a day if you are a woman and 30g of sugar a day if you are a man.
      6. Replace ice cream with low-sugar alternatives such as So Delicious Dairy-Free Vanilla Bean Coconut Ice Cream.
      7. Swap omega-6, partially-hydrogenated oils such as corn, palm, sunflower, safflower, cotton, canola and soybean oil for omega-3 oils such as flax, olive and nut oils.
      8. Replace high-sugar yoghurts with low-sugar, dairy-free yoghurts such as Kite Hill Plain Yoghurt with 1g sugar or Lifeway Farmer Cheese with 0g sugar.
      9. Swap your sugar-laden soda for sparkling water with a splash of low-sugar juice

      Also, ensure your diet is giving you enough of the daily essential vitamins and minerals. Most of us don’t get enough Vitamin D, Vitamin B-12, Calcium, Iron and Magnesium. If you are low on any of the above vitamins and minerals, you may experience fatigue and low energy.

      That’s why it’s always worth having your doctor check your levels. If you find any of them are low, then try to eat foods rich in them.

      Alternatively, you might consider a high-quality multi-vitamin or specific supplement.

      The Bottom Line

      If you are tired of feeling tired, then there is tremendous hope.

      If you are tired because you are not getting enough high-quality sleep, then the best remedy is a bedtime routine based on sleep best practices.

      If you are tired because you have stress and fatigue, then the best remedy are four simple lifestyle changes including:

      • Enough High-Quality Sleep with Bedtime Routine
      • Regular Exercise You Love
      • Stress Reduction with Long-Exhale Breathing
      • Fatigue-Reducing Diet

      Overall, adopting a healthier lifestyle Is the ideal remedy for feeling more rested and energized.

      More Tips to Help You Rest Better

      Featured photo credit: Cris Saur via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] YouGov: Two-fifths of Americans are tired most of the week
      [2] National Safety Council: Is Your Company Confronting Workplace Fatigue?
      [3] The New York Times: Why Are We So Freaking Tired?
      [4] Mayo Clinic: Chronic fatigue syndrome
      [5] Mayo Clinic: Lack of sleep: Can it make you sick?
      [6] Ask Dr. Sears: The L.E.A.N. Lifestyle
      [7] American Psychological Association: Getting a Good Night’s Sleep
      [8] Yoga International: Learning to Exhale: 2-to-1 Breathing

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