Do you hop into bed each night so tired BUT then your brain fires up and decided to analyse everything in your life at that very moment?
You’re not alone. This sensation, usually known as ‘tired but wired’, is something that most people will experience at some point, particularly when under stress. But this feeling is a sign that your body and health could use a little bit of TLC.
Why do you get that ‘tired but wired’ feeling?
In naturopathic terms, tired but wired is what we refer to as sympathetic dominance. The sympathetic nervous system is the part of your nervous system that is responsible for making you alert and putting you in a state of fight-or-flight. In sympathetic dominance, this is switched on even when it shouldn’t be.
It overrules the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for your rest and digest state. So, although your body and mind are exhausted, the nervous system is preventing you from a state of deep rest.
What can cause sympathetic dominance?
There are many factors that can contribute to the ‘tired but wired’ state. There are a few more common causes of dominance that I see with my clients:
Chronic and/or severe stress
For many people, stress a significant contributor to sympathetic dominance. The nervous system can’t tell the difference between stressing over your job or kids and stressing because you’re about to be attacked by a wild animal! So, it puts you into the same state of fight-or-flight, no matter what the cause of your stress is.
When you feel alert after a cup of coffee, there’s a good reason for it! Consuming caffeine stimulates the sympathetic nervous system giving you a buzz of energy.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing all the time. But if you’re consuming several cups a day, or you’re having it in the afternoon and evening, it can leave you feeling tired and wired at the end of the day.
My clients often tell me they only have 2 coffees a day and miss the part where they have 2-3 shots in each!
We are surrounded by technology that gives off blue light. But to the human brain, that technology isn’t just a screen that is used at various hours of the day. The blue light tells the brain that it is the middle of the day, because blue light is the type of light that is only given off by the sun in the natural world.
It interferes with the production of melatonin (our sleep hormone) needed for a restful and restorative sleep. This can make it difficult to stay asleep.
5 quick tips to relieve your tired-but-wired state
Want to give your nervous system time to unwind? Like many complex conditions, sympathetic dominance will need a specific treatment approach for you, and is best guided by a qualified practitioner.
But to get you started, here are a few strategies to calm the nervous system so you can get some rest.
Stop, drop and meditate
There is plenty of research to support mindfulness practices such as meditation for stress relief. Even a few minutes a day can help you to feel calmer and more centred.
Anyone can practice meditation – you don’t have to have a ‘quiet mind’ or any previous experience. You can get started with a simple app on your phone – check out Headspace, Calm and Smiling Mind as a few options.
Get outside for some fresh air
Sometimes, all you need to do is get out in the fresh air and sunshine. More research is showing that spending time in green spaces, or even ‘forest bathing’, is good for your mood, concentration and stress levels.
This doesn’t mean you need to drive out to the Dandenongs – even a stroll around your local park or reserve will help.
Being exposed to sunlight and daylight for just 30 minutes a day can help with the production of melatonin helping you sleep better at night.
Drink some water or herbal tea
Very few people drink the 2L+ that they need to stay hydrated on a daily basis. Water is essential for almost every process in the body, so chronic dehydration can stress the body.
This stress can lead to ongoing fatigue and lethargy, which is why many people reach for caffeine first thing. Whenever you’re feeling fatigued, drink a glass of water before you reach for another cup of coffee.
Not a fan of water, or prefer something warmer? Herbal tea is a good option. Try a calming blend that includes ingredients such as chamomile or passionflower.
Move your body (but not too late)
Exercise is a great way to relieve stress naturally. But if you have that tired and wired feeling, the timing is important. If you do any type of moderate to high intensity exercise within a few hours of bedtime, you might struggle to wind down and rest.
The fix? Keep your high-intensity exercise to the morning or early evening. If you do want to fix in some movement shortly before bed, opt for a walk around the block or some yoga stretches.
Find a way to unwind without the wine
Finally, you want to find a way to signal to your body that it’s time to rest. This might be a warm shower or bath, snuggling down with a good book, or even writing a few journal pages.
Keep in mind, it’s best to avoid drinking alcohol as a way to unwind at the end of the day. Although it might make you feel relaxed, it can affect your sleep quality, which will increase the physical stress on your body the following day.
Need that extra bit of support?
Book a FREE health chat with me and discover how you can give your energy an extra boost!