The Biology of Being Exhausted

Napping

Growing up, my mother used to say, “We’re a napping family”. As a little kid, I accepted that and layed down to take my naps. My mom and I napped almost every day of my childhood until I went to first grade. It turns out she knew what many great parents know or eventually figure out: crabby kids and unhappy stressed out moms show up for dinner, instead of the loving people they really are when well rested. What she discovered for our family is that exhaustion is a function of the adrenal reserves in need of “refueling”.

Most of us experience adrenal exhaustion on a daily basis. In fact, if the title of this article drew you in: you probably have it as well. Today, it is common for many Americans to:

  • Grab a cup of coffee for energy to start the day and consume caffeinated drinks or sugary snacks to try to sustain their energy throughout the day.
  • Go to bed late, wake up early, and push through fatigue instead of laying down to rest.
  • Choose food based on convenience versus nutritional value.
  • Be on the run while eating, paying little attention to eating without stress and chewing food well.

Dr. John Tinterra, a doctor who specialized in adrenal function, surmised in 1969 that 66% of the public could be classified as having severe adrenal exhaustion. That was before the internet, mobile phones, online gaming, lack of physical education in school and the need for us to be on top of information exponentially increased. This applies to both children and adults. Let’s face it, we are a society of fast food eaters, (white, starchy, sugary, salty, and creamy), putting more onto the calendar than is humanly possible, and not stopping to refresh or reset our heart and minds (even for 10 minutes!). These things throw the biology of the body out of balance, affecting our sympathetic nervous system and adrenal function.

Adrenal Stress – What are some of the signs? 

  • Energy crashes at different points in the day
  • Low self esteem due to low energy output
  • Feeling anxious
  • Craving sugar or salt
  • Dilated pupils
  • Poor appetite in the morning
  • Decreased tolerance to cold
  • Sensitivity to lights and loud noises
  • Apathy
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Low blood sugar episodes
  • Low levels of gastric hydrochloric acid
  • Sluggish bowels
  • Histamine imbalance
  • Unreasonable fears, due to low energy and possibly high copper toxicity

The adrenal glands are rounded disc-shaped glands about 3-4 inches across. One sits on top of each kidney, located on either side of your lower back, just above where your ribs end. They secrete a number of hormones that prepare our bodies to respond to stress, and they are essential for life.

Change Your Biology

Many of us have become adept at overriding the signals that the adrenals give us when they need replenishing with rest, good food, or quenching a thirst. To begin to unravel adrenal exhaustion you may want to consider restoring and fortifying your adrenals by adding any of the following into your week:

  1. Loving Energy, a supreme adrenal tonic based on an ancient formulation created by Taoist monks. These monks would keep a pot of this tea going all day in the kitchen. Several times a day, when they took a break from their prayers and studies, they would drink a cup full. Enjoy the full and thirst quenching flavors of schizandra berries, licorice, spirit reishi mushroom and eleuthero ginseng.
  2. Liver Life®, a superior liver formula, supports healthy regulation of stress hormones by the liver.
  3. A 20-minute power nap, the optimal amount of time most supported by research. Set an alarm; turn off the “beeps” of electronic notifications. Add 5–10 minutes to allow time for relaxation for the actual nap. Choose a relaxation ritual for yourself to signal your mind it’s okay to fall asleep. Do not go over 30-40 minutes as this may create deep sleep and cause what’s called sleep inertia.
  4. Decrease caffeine products, slowly but surely. You will have a huge amount of energy after 7 days decreasing and ultimately eliminating caffeine and replacing it with herbs or food that replenish the adrenal energy.
  5. Increase intake of adrenal or yin forming food and herbs: Water, salty flavored foods (miso soup, sea salt, salted raw sauerkraut or kimchi) kidney shaped food (black beans, kidney beans – most beans), blue and black food (blueberries, blackberries, mulberries), seafood (fish, shrimp, seaweeds), seeds (flax, pumpkin, sunflower, black sesame), nuts (walnuts, chestnuts), animal products (pork, duck, lamb, eggs, and cheese), bone-marrow broths and soups, grains (barley, millet), vegetables (asparagus, deep green leafy vegetables, celery, and cucumber), tonics (chlorella and kelp), moistening herbs (nettles, oatstraw, marshmallow, slippery elm, comfrey, aloe vera gel, rehmannia root, coix).

I’m reminded of a little girl crying and her brother asks with annoyance, “Did you have your nap today?” Irritated, the little girl replies, “No!”  We are all susceptible to over extending ourselves. These 5 easy steps will make a huge difference with how you perceive what is going on in your world.  Happy napping!

Tips: A Quick Start to Power Napping

  1. Play your favorite power nap soundtrack.
  2. Find a comfortable position.
  3. Slowly relax each part of your body.
  4. Clear your mind.
  5. Slow down your breathing; breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.