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Sleep vs Fatigue

A simple way of preventing fatigue is to conserve energy, because let’s face it, when fatigue does kick in, it’s crippling! So, if you know that you've got a busy day or week lined up, how can you combat that crippling energy crisis?



Rest on a Good Day



One of the best bits of advice we’ve been given about living with a brain injury is to “Rest on a good day”.Now, that may sound counter-intuitive to you but bear with us whilst we explain.


Firstly, we want to be clear on what we mean by rest. We don’t literally mean getting in bed and going to sleep. We mean switching off and doing an activity that doesn’t require a lot of thought or effort. This could be watching mindless TV, going for an easy stroll or whatever you would normally do to relax.



The Knock-On Effect



When you suffer from fatigue, you need to start consciously thinking about how you can conserve energy, not just for today but for tomorrow and the day after. If you are feeling particularly good and decide to work longer or add an extra activity into your day, how do you feel the day afterwards? We assume you are probably feeling shattered! So instead of fitting in more on your good days, enjoy the rest, and hopefully you will start to have more good than bad days.



Sleep Hygiene



Talking of rest, let’s discuss sleep hygiene. First things first, we are not asking you to put deodorant on before bed! We are talking about how much regular sleep you get. That’s going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day.


If you are work a regular shift, you will have conditioned your body to go to sleep and wake up at the same time for 5 days a week. However, when it gets to your day off and you choose to have a late night or a lie in, your body clock is thrown out and can take two or three days to reset. Therefore, if you want to reduce your fatigue and start the week feeling fresh, you need to try to maintain a regular sleep pattern of around 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night, so your body clock remains the same. Easy enough? …



Counting Sheep



For many of us, even when we suffer from fatigue, we struggle to get to sleep. Our minds are racing and the more we try to relax, the more thoughts pop into our heads. So here are some simple tips that are worth trying to help you sleep at night:


Relax your mind for 2 hours before bed. Try to alleviate activities that stimulate the brain for around 2 hours before you plan to go to sleep. For example, eating and drinking late, playing games, or watching a crime drama. Everyone’s brain gets stimulated differently so change up your routine to see what works best for you.


“Personally, I don't watch any scary movies before going to bed because I know that it will play on my mind. Some people would say they don't watch any TV but I find that watching a mindless TV show or playing a mindless game on my phone will actually help me to go to sleep. However, if I start scrolling on Facebook and I engage in a conversation about something that is quite stimulating or maybe confrontational, then I'm going to be awake.” - Mark


Learn how to meditate. We cannot emphasise enough, the importance of meditation on fatigue. Not only when you are struggling to sleep but also during the day or first thing in the morning. Learning how to meditate will teach you how to clear your mind, allowing you to quickly switch off and conserve energy.


Take deep breaths. Similar to meditation, taking long, deep breaths in and out, is another great way to calm your mind and fall asleep. This requires no learning or change of routine, just simply concentrate on slowing your breathing and your mind will automatically react.



Acceptance and Awareness



Like most things in life, the first step to overcoming fatigue is to accept it. Acceptance of an unwanted change is hard and not something we were able to do straight away. At first, we tried to fight fatigue and carry on as normal, but as you can imagine, this just made things worse. By accepting that this is now part of your day, your week, your life, is a way of saying, okay, great, this is where I am. This is what I'm going to do to make my life better now, because I understand it.


Once you have accepted it yourself, you need to help your family and friends accept it. With anyone that plays a regular role in your life, you need to make them aware about the differences between feeling tired and being fatigued. When the time comes around, you may not always feel up to the plans you had made and that is okay. Nobody wants to let anyone down, but you have to accept that you need to put your health and wellbeing first. Fatigue IS a valid excuse to cancel a plan. And the sooner your family and friends accept that, the sooner you can stop worrying and live life on your own terms. 



Don’t Struggle Alone



Unfortunately, the topic of fatigue is never-ending. We have given you some simple tips here based on the experiences we have had but we are still working hard on it so, if this doesn’t work for you then please seek additional help. Reach out to healthcare professionals, join our Facebook support group, and find a community that understands your journey.


Be patient with yourself. You've already come so far, and your journey of resilience and determination continues to inspire. Each day is a new opportunity to learn more about your strengths, abilities and what makes you feels fatigued. 


And always remember, to rest on a good day…