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How to Prevent Neck Pain from Sleeping (And Quick Fixes to Help You)

How to Prevent Neck Pain from Sleeping (And Quick Fixes to Help You)

“Ouch! What is happening inside my cervical spine to cause me such pain!?”

These may not be the words that run through your mind as you wake and wince in pain.

However, it may be one or more of the nerves in your cervical spine that is alerting you that something is not as it should be. Whether your neck pain from sleeping has become consistent or is just a fluke, we can help you get your day back on track – and help you prevent neck pain in the future.

So, you know you must get out of bed and deal with the pain that overtakes your free thinking. How can you proceed with taking care of the kids, work, and the requirements of life if you simply cannot turn your neck properly?

In a moment, we will provide you with a few tips to help prevent neck pain while sleeping. You can pick a few options to help your create lasting habits for sleeping without neck pain.

First, let’s talk about what you can do to help alleviate your neck pain once it has begun. That can make all the difference in how your day goes!

Read along with us!

Get Your Day Back on Track in Spite of Neck Pain

So you woke up and immediately realized that pain has settled in between your shoulders and head. Now what? Unfinished tasks fill your mind as you work through which directions you can move without wincing.

Try these quick fixes to get your day back on track – today.

1. Review your exit strategy from the bed

As your brain alerts you that a new day is approaching, your body may still be in sleep mode. You do not want to add to your neck pain simply by straining to get out of bed.

Do this instead: Turn onto your side facing the edge of your bed. Rest your elbow that is closest to the edge of the bed onto the bed. Place your palms together in front of you, and push them together as you push yourself into a sitting position.

You should be pushing into your elbow that is near the edge of the bed as you push your palms together. This will help you to remove neck muscles from the equation as you get out of bed.

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2. Take a hot shower

Let the warm water cascade across your neck muscles helping to loosen, awaken, and calm them.[1] Choose your favorite essential oil and place a few drops in a warm bath or next to you on a cloth in the shower.

Drops of oil need to be placed on something absorbent so they do not simply wash down the drain with the water.

3. Notice which movements hurt and which ones do not

Use this information to help make sleeping choices as shown in the information below regarding preventing pain. Be sure to avoid jerky movements until your pain has gone away.

4. Plan the first portion of your day in a way that allows your body to ‘warm up’ a bit prior to lots of movement.

Yes, this may mean that you need to adjust your intended schedule. However, it may also help you keep pain from increasing as the day progresses.[2]

5. Rule out sinus trouble and other breathing problems

Work to treat any related conditions that may have contributed to an awkward sleeping position.

If you are not able to breathe well as you sleep, you are much more likely to end up in an awkward position as your body tries to compensate.

For the more immediate, you are more likely to retain tension if you are not able breathe efficiently throughout the day.

6. Complete a few gentle neck stretches

Slowly stretching neck muscles can help to alleviate undue stress and remind the vertebrae that it is okay to move.

Four helpful neck stretches include the side-to-side strengtheners, side tilts, chin tucks, and shoulder circles.[3]

Take your time allowing your muscles to loosen slowly. Do not try to force your neck in any direction.

7. Choose a warm compress to place on your neck

These are some nice warm compresses you can try:

  • Epsom salts mixed with warm water
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Tap water (but not too hot to the touch)
  • Peppermint, wintergreen, or your favorite essential oil on a warm cloth

8. Get a chiropractic massage

This type of focused massage helps to identify and treat conditions that may have developed in the vertebrae causing pain.[4]

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Chiropractic massage is a practical way to alleviate immediate pain while having a chance to learn more about any possible pain conditions. Unhappy nerves, muscles, and joints can be given specialized attention through chiropractic massage techniques.

9. Consider if an over-the-counter pain medicine will help get your day started

If you are having to think about this option with any regularity, make sure that you do not have an injury that needs chiropractic attention.

10. Relax

This may seem obvious. However, when pain starts, we sometimes tense up in hopes of avoiding further pain. In turn, we only cause muscles and joints to retain unnecessary stress. This can easily cause pain to increase.

So, kick back and breathe in some fresh air slowly and deliberately. Relax each portion of your body one portion at a time. This helps reintroduce a sense of calm into your neck and spine and helps reduce physical tension.

Still not confident you will be able to sleep comfortably tonight? Let’s look at some options to help you enjoy dreamland again!

Get Your Day Started Right the Night Before

Remember when we mentioned finding out which movements hurt and which ones do not? If your neck hurts shortly after – or as you are waking – reconsider how your body may have moved as you slept.

You may also experience pain through one or both shoulder blades or up through the back of your head. Your neck, shoulders, back, and legs should stay aligned as you sleep. If your head dips in a way that stretches one side of your body more than the other, this creates undue stress on your neuromuscular system.

Pain may not sound like a desired result of a (less than healthy) sleeping position. However, it can actually serve as your friend. A ‘crick in the neck’ can act as an alert that your body was not able to rest in a position that is safe for your muscles and nerves. If continued or repeated, more serious conditions can develop within your spine.

Check out these tips to prevent neck pain from sleeping.

1. Plan to alter your position safely

Have multiple comfortable positions ready to trade out when you wake up in the middle of the night. This simple concept can make a powerful difference.

We are seldom in a mood to reconfigure the bed at 2:00 pm. Why not just plan for this and be ready to switch gears more easily?

2. Choose your pillow wisely

You should be able to envision a line from head to toe that is reasonably straight.

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If you sleep on your side, you will likely need a bit more support from your pillow. If the top of your head dips below your spinal column, you need more pillow support to raise it level with your spine.

This guide will help you choose a suitable pillow for yourself:

10 Best Pillows To Choose For A Good Night Sleep

3. Ensure that your mattress or sleeping surface fits you

Your mattress or sleeping surface should fit your preferred sleeping position, body type, and the human spine. Your knees, hips, neck, and the top of your head should be reasonably level with each other throughout the night.[5] When it is time to shift positions, ensure that the top of your head does not dip causing your neck to arch in either direction.

Here’s the essential guide to pick your best mattress:

Your Essential Guide To Buying The Right Mattress

4. Check your overnight breathing habits

If you are attempting to sleep in an elevated position to improve breathing, ensure that your head cannot wobble around as you rest.

If you are using a CPAP machine[6] or other breathing apparatus as you sleep, ensure that its positioning is not causing you to arch your neck during the night.

5. Ask someone to help take note of how your sleep

Have a family member try to help you take note of how your body is positioned as you sleep. Maybe have your spouse make a habit of looking at you if they get up once in the night. (Chances are if you are not sleeping well, they may have noticed anyway.)

6. Speak with your chiropractor for personalized information regarding your physical make-up

Chiropractic adjustments work to identify, treat, and prevent pain conditions in the spinal column.

If you have injuries to the head, neck, shoulders, or upper back, you will need to take those into consideration. Your neck pain from sleeping may have developed as a result of compensating for separate underlying condition that can be treated.

7. Consider how you position yourself if you read in bed prior to going to sleep

Ensure that your eyes are able to look directly at your reading material without straining. If you must strain your eyes to see, it is likely that your neck will also become strained in the process.

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Putting your neck in a slightly awkward position just before sleeping does not give your body time to adjust properly. Your neck should stay aligned as you read and not become pressed forward by a headboard or other items behind your head.

8. Ensure any time that you spend digitally is enjoyed in a neck friendly position

Unfortunately, resting in bed while strolling through forgotten communications and news reports does not always lend well to neck health. Whether sitting or lying down, make sure that your neck is aligned with the remainder of your spine.

Be mindful that holding devices for the purpose of scrolling can also make you more susceptible to carpal tunnel syndrome and other wrist and hand pain problems.

9. Actually sleep in a neck-friendly position

You likely know that it is not a good idea to sleep with your neck arched to one side. Cognitively deciding to sleep with your neck properly supported throughout the night helps your brain to alert you if your position changes as you sleep.

Ensure that the sleep positions that you do choose allow you to actually stay that way or easily swap to another safe position when desired.

10. Rethink your alarm settings before you sleep

It may be desirable to set an alarm for a few minutes earlier to allow you to start your day with a sense of calm. If your alarm causes you to become startled as you wake, this jarring motion can increase pain that may have begun overnight.

If your pain has been present for some time, you may have more than just neck pain.

Your neck pain may have originated through an injury and become worse through your sleeping position. Be sure to inquire with your local chiropractor regarding long-term neck care options.

Getting On With Your Day Pain-Free

You may have started out in a neck-friendly sleeping position only to wake up contorted and uncomfortable. No matter how you acquired your neck pain while snoozed out, you can turn your questionable day of pain into something desirable.

Take these tips and quick fixes with you today as you seek to leave behind your neck pain and discomfort. Write yourself a note or two to remind you which sleeping tips you would like to try tonight to help prevent neck pain from increasing or returning overnight.

Pick a few neck pain prevention techniques each evening. Find out which ones have the most impact on your personal sleeping situation. Rest well with your new regime of sleep without neck pain!

More Resources about Neck Pain

Featured photo credit: Jesper Aggergaard via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Encyclopædia Britannica: Why Does Heat Relax Your Muscles?
[2] National Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Association: 10 Tips to Overcome Morning Stiffness
[3] Better Health: 5 Stretches to Ease Your Neck Pain
[4] Everyday Health: Chiropractic Care for Neck Pain
[5] University of Rochester Medical Center Health Encyclopedia: Good Sleeping Posture Helps Your Back
[6] National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: CPAP

More by this author

Dr. Brent Wells, D.C.

Chiropractic doctor currently leading over 10,000 Alaskans to more active, pain-free lifestyles โ€“ without addictive drugs or invasive surgeries.

7 Best Lower Back Stretches for Relieving Pain 12 Causes of Lower Right Back Pain (And How to Relieve It) 12 Best Back Strengthening Exercises to Relieve Lower Back Pain How to Sleep with Lower Back Pain Using These 13 Tips How to Prevent Neck Pain from Sleeping (And Quick Fixes to Help You)

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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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