1 – Sleep apnoea
Undiagnosed Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) affects over 1 million people in the UK and is a sleep disorder that occurs when your upper airways are partially or completely blocked. This blockage usually happens when your throat muscles relax too much, possibly due to obesity, hypothyroidism, allergies or sometimes simply genetics.
There will sometimes be a significant pause in your breathing, around 10 seconds, which forces you out of deep sleep and into light sleep so you can regulate your breathing. This can result in snoring, but it also makes you feel more tired during the day as your quality of sleep is affected, not to mention it often hinders your REM sleep, the phase of sleep during which you dream.
What can you do? If you share a bed with a partner, the chances are they’ve already picked up on some of your symptoms – all that snoring will be difficult to ignore! Not to mention, you may have woken up choking or gasping a few times. When it comes to treatment, it’s always best to speak to your doctor if you think you’re at risk but, since the disorder is linked to obesity, it might be worth considering your diet and getting more exercise into your daily routine. Smoking and alcohol can make the disorder worse so try to cut back on these as much as possible too!
2 – Low vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 often gets overlooked when it comes to nutritional deficiencies, with nutrients like vitamin D and iron often taking centre stage. However, as our nutritionist Emma explores in her blog ‘Struggling to stay awake? You could need more vitamin B12!’ it’s estimated that vitamin B12 deficiency affects 4 in 100 women between the ages of 40 and 59.
One of the main symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency is fatigue, accompanied by dizziness, mood swings and sore muscles. This is because vitamin B12 helps to support your nerve cells and the formation of red blood cells, maintaining your cognitive function and cardiovascular system.
Often vegans, vegetarians and those over 50 are particularly vulnerable to low levels of vitamin B12 as the nutrient is normally found in animal-derived products like meat and dairy and can be difficult to break down and absorb. Certain medications can also affect how you absorb vitamin B12 too, so it’s always worth checking with your doctor.
What can you do? If you are vegan or vegetarian it is still possible to increase your intake – silken tofu, for example, contains plenty of vitamin B12. You’ll also find that many vegan foods are fortified with the nutrient too. However, if you are struggling, you can try a supplement as well.
3 – Not enough protein
Another dietary requirement that is essential for your energy levels, protein is definitely top of mind for a lot of people these days, although some still see it as the domain of body-builders and keep-fit fanatics. In reality, all of us need protein, particularly as we age.
As our menopause expert Eileen points out in her A.Vogel Talks video, ‘How much protein do we really need during menopause?’ there will be phases in our life when our need for protein increases.
On average, for a healthy active adult, protein should supply between 15-25%1 of your daily calorific intake, although this doesn’t mean you should go and binge on processed meats.
What you can do: Instead, your intake of protein should come from a variety of sources, including lean meats and plant sources like pulses and beans. For more information, please check out Emma’s blog, ‘8 healthy sources of protein.’
4 – Hormonal imbalance
Your body relies on a delicate balance of hormones and any imbalance can trigger a variety of symptoms, including fatigue. For example, high levels of oestrogen and low levels of progesterone can make you feel tired and cause mood swings. However, other imbalances, such as low levels or cortisol or testosterone can also stimulate sleepiness.
What you can do: Unfortunately, for many menstruating women, oestrogen dominant symptoms are common around the time of your period. This is why we sometimes recommend Agnus castus as this herb can gently help to balance your hormones, reducing some of the symptoms of oestrogen dominance. If you suspect that something could be amiss with your hormones it’s always worth getting tested by your doctor and they should be able to advise on further treatment.
5 – Low blood pressure
If you ever think about your blood pressure, the chances are that you immediately worry that it may be too high. This is for a good reason – high blood pressure, or hypertension, is accompanied by a variety of unpleasant symptoms and can have serious repercussions for your health and wellbeing, particularly when it comes to your cardiovascular system.
However, on the opposite end of the spectrum, low blood pressure can also cause its share of problems. Low blood pressure doesn’t get flagged as often as high blood pressure, which is the main concern of most doctors, but it can cause symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, poor concentration and fatigue as your brain may be getting an inadequate blood supply.
What you can do: When it comes to low blood pressure, lifestyle changes can make a big difference. Dehydration, for example, is a trigger for low blood pressure so increasing your fluid intake is a must. The medication you are on can also affect your blood pressure levels so if you’re on anti-depressants or beta-blockers, it might be worth consulting your doctor. However, if you’re symptoms are particularly severe, you should always speak to your doctor or GP for further advice on treatment.
6 – Too much time indoors
We’re finally coming out of winter but, with the weather still remaining cold and often damp, your desire to get outdoors is probably minimal. Even if you enjoy exercising, there’s no reason to go jogging in the snow when your local gym has a perfectly functional treadmill that allows you to run your weekly 5K.
However, while you might be able to get your daily quota of exercise indoors, getting outdoors can have a number of benefits for your mood and energy levels. Firstly, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that you need at least some exposure to sunlight in order to synthesis vitamin D. Vitamin D is essential for your immune system and absorption of calcium and low level of vitamin D are believed to be linked to SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder.
It’s also thought that spending some time outside can help to boost both your mental and physical energy, according to a series of studies conducted by the University of Hamburg and others.2
What you can do: Sunlight can be a rarity here in the UK which is why I recommend making the most of it when it occurs. Step outside during your break, walk part of your route home - anything that gets you out of the house or office.
7 – Nightcap
We all know that alcohol can be disastrous for our sleep patterns, but most of you probably feel pretty safe with a glass of wine in the evening, right? Well, unfortunately, this kind of nightcap can affect your sleep.
Initially, alcohol can act as a stimulant as it can help you to get to sleep and increase the amount of deep sleep you experience in the first phase of sleep.
However, this effect doesn’t last and later on in the night you will spend less time in deep sleep and more time in REM sleep.3 This means you will wake up feeling tired and groggy, no matter how much sleep you’ve had. You may also wake up in the night to empty your bladder and experience mild levels of dehydration the following day as alcohol can encourage your body to lose fluids.
What can you do? Instead of relying on alcohol to get to sleep, it might be worth trying a gentle herbal remedy like our Dormeasan Sleep tincture. Infused with extracts of Valerian and Hops, Dormeasan helps to relax your nervous system, allowing you to unwind into a deep sleep without the groggy side-effects of traditional sleep medicines.
8 – Going to bed hungry
You’ve probably heard that eating large meals before bed can negatively impact your sleep and, while that can be true, going to bed on an empty stomach might not be the best idea either.
If you go to bed with your stomach rumbling these pangs can keep you mentally alert, preventing you from entering deep sleep. It also makes the temptation to binge on unhealthy snacks the next day all the more appealing, especially as poor sleep is often linked to cravings for sugary, carb-rich foods. Unfortunately, sleep deprivation has also been associated with slower metabolism which can make you more predisposed to weight gain.
What can you do? While it’s not always recommended to eat a huge meal before bedtime, if you do find yourself feeling peckish later on in the evening, I’d recommend trying a healthy snack. We offer some information about foods that can help you to fall asleep here, but if you want more information about the type of bedtime snacks you should be avoiding, including a few surprising additions, please check out my blog, ‘6 surprising foods to avoid before bedtime.’