It’s time to stop accepting your fatigue as normal. “I was tired for 20 years straight,” says Dr. Holly Phillips, author of The Exhaustion Breakthrough. “At one point, I was drinking a pot of coffee a day.” And then she made a change.

These days, fatigue is chronic. In 2010 on WedMD’s annual Year in Health survey, women across the country named fatigue among their top five health concerns. The Center for Disease Control conducted a survey in 2013 and found that 16% of women ages 18 to 44 reported extreme fatigue. 

Dr. Holly Phillips, CBS Morning Show Correspondent and regular contributor to Vogue and Cosmo, embarked on an endeavor to uncover the mysteries of fatigue and beat it for good. After a lively talk to IVY members, she sat down with IVY Magazine to share ways for all of us to conquer fatigue.

Holly Phillips

Energy is a key issue in your book, and it’s something that affects everyone. What do most people not know about this topic? What are a couple hidden lifestyle habits we do every day that are draining our energy?

Fatigue is a top health complaint in my practice, especially among women.  So many of us have built full, busy incredible lives for ourselves, but secretly feel that the price we should have to pay for that is being so exhausted that we can’t enjoy the lives we lead.  

So in my book, The Exhaustion Breakthrough, I’ve included hundreds of common, but commonly overlooked, causes of fatigue from hidden medical conditions to lifestyle factors that we can change – to optimize our energy.

Here are just a couple:

Slight dehydration: Many people are walking around in a slight state of dehydration. Being even 1 percent lower than optimal on fluids can lead to fatigue, low mood, headaches, and trouble focusing. Fluid loss from your body can cause a drop in blood volume, which makes your heart have to work harder to push oxygen and nutrients through the bloodstream to your brain, skin and muscles.

The remedy: Carry a water bottle and refill it regularly throughout the day; try to consume eight 8-ounce cups of water per day. To make plain H2O more exciting, try adding lemon or orange wedges, or cucumber slices.

Poor posture: Slouching doesn’t just make you look tired, it makes you feel tired too. Poor posture places excess strain on your back, hips, and joints, which can make you feel lethargic and achy. Plus, if your spine, neck and head aren’t in proper alignment, your brain may not be getting as much oxygen as it should.

The remedy: Give yourself regular posture checks. Whether you’re moving, sitting or standing still, your head should be lined up over your body – not sticking out in front of it – and your ears should be directly over your shoulders.  Regularly correct any misalignments.

Holly Phillips

Do you think people sleep less well these days because of the omnipresence of technology?   

Research has shown that being constantly accessible by cell phone, e-mail, and the like increases stress, which is a top cause of fatigue. Also, the constant exposure to the light on these devices stimulates brain activity and suppresses the release of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. Moreover, working on a laptop of a heavy handheld device for long periods can cause neck stiffness, headache, and fatigue.  

The remedy: Take regular breaks from digital devices throughout the day and then turn them off at least an hour before bedtime.

What advice do you have for falling asleep if you’re tossing and turning in bed?

Get out of bed if you can’t sleep. Don’t lie awake counting sheep or staring at the clock; get up, go to another room, and read or do something relaxing or monotonous until the mood to snooze returns (but no TV or computers).  

Otherwise, you could start to associate your bed with not sleeping, which triggers stress instead of relaxation each night when you turn in.

How can we change our diet and make it more optimal for sleep? (What superfoods really are super?)

Steer clear of heavy meals in the evening. Having a large, rich or spicy meal too close to bedtime can interfere with sleep and give you a whopping case of indigestion that disrupts your slumber without you even knowing.  

It’s best to finish dinner a few hours before bedtime; if you get hungry later in the evening, have a light snack with of sleep-inducing foods that contain tryptophan (an amino acid the brain uses to make calming serotonin).  Good choices include whole grain crackers and cheese, cereal and a glass of milk, or a handful of almonds and a banana (bananas are also high in relaxing magnesium). Having a cup of caffeine-free chamomile tea can also put you in the mood to snooze.

Holly Phillips

There was an article in the Atlantic about sleeping with a partner in the bed. The article said most people actually sleep better alone, but the idea of waking up to a friendly face encourages others to feel more relaxed. What are your thoughts on sleeping alone versus sleeping alongside a friend or partner?

It’s not just the amount of sleep you get each night, but rather the quality and that sleep that most affects your energy levels. If your partner is tossing and turning, snoring or sets an alarm to wake up before you, you may not be completing the sleep cycles your body needs.

So if you are struggling with fatigue, I suggest sleeping alone for a week or two – no pets, kids or partners to disturb you. That will help you get a clear perspective on how much sleep disruptions may be affecting your energy.

What are your top 3 piece of advice to our readers?

Let go, love, and laugh out loud every day.

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