Why Are You Always Tired?

If it’s not a lack of sleep, why? What to do when no amount of sleep is enough.

By Nicole Gleichmann

Do you spend the recommended seven or more hours each night snuggled in your bed, only to find yourself dragging through the day?

There are many causes of daytime fatigue. Some people will have a specific cause, like a vitamin deficiency or sleep disorder. Others experience a bit of a perfect storm, where multiple factors are to blame. Either way, understanding the how sleep works including the common causes of fatigue, and some of the best ways to combat it, may be just what you need to feel like yourself again.

Why You Might Be Tired

1. You Aren’t Getting the Sleep You Think You Are

Many people suffer from undiagnosed sleep disorders that make quality sleep difficult. For example, if you are a snorer, there is a chance that you have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Those with OSA do not get enough air into their lungs as they sleep. The result? Shallow, disturbed sleep and lots of snoring. Getting tested for sleep apnea is the first step towards boosting your daytime energy.

2. Substances Are Disrupting Your Sleep

Medications, caffeine, and alcohol are all common causes of disordered sleep. This can include trouble falling asleep in 30 minutes or less, waking up during the night, or a lack of restorative deep sleep.

Let’s jump into the first culprit: caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant, and as such, should not be consumed anywhere near bedtime. This is particularly troublesome for those who consume energy drinks thanks to their excessive levels of caffeine. An energy drink at noon may disrupt your sleep at midnight.

Next is alcohol. Some people use alcohol as a sleep aid. One or two glasses of wine, and bam, you’re out like a light. But there’s a catch. Even though alcohol can make falling asleep a breeze, it negatively impacts your quality of sleep throughout the night.

Lastly, many medications can reduce sleep quality or quantity. Cold meds, allergy meds, and depression meds are just three types of drugs that can interfere with sleep. Look over your medications’ side effects if you are having trouble sleeping.

3. You’re Stressed, Anxious, or Depressed

No one enjoys feeling stressed or anxious. Stress can make a day feel like it will never end, and when it does, make it exceptionally hard to wind down. But did you know that chronic stress can lead to fatigue? When your body is always in fight-or-flight mode, the result is physical fatigue and mental exhaustion. This is often the cause for those with anxiety conditions and those who struggle to manage their stress levels.

Depression, too, can lead to feeling exhausted. It is quite common for depression to lead to brain fog and an overall lack of energy.

4. You Have a Nutritional Deficiency

Diet, lifestyle, and certain medical conditions can lead to a deficiency in nutrients and related sleepiness. Two of the most common deficiencies that result in fatigue are vitamin D deficiency and iron deficiency. A simple blood test can tell you if you are deficient in either of these nutrients.

What Can You Do to Reenergize?

1. Exercise

The thought of exercise—especially when you’re already fatigued—can seem exhausting. However, a bout of light-to-medium exertion exercise may be just what you need to feel reenergized.

Exercise can increase how alert you feel. This is even the case for those with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), a condition characterized by low energy, endurance, and physical strength.

Exercise boosts energy via two primary mechanisms. The first is releasing feel-good hormones known as endorphins that can raise your energy and spirits. The second is through exercise’s benefits for sleep. When you exert yourself physically, you are more likely to get a good night’s sleep and wake up the next day feeling refreshed.

And with the other health-boosting benefits of physical activity, like weight loss and protection against heart disease, there are plenty of good reasons to get moving.

Find a physical activity that you enjoy and add it to your routine. Maybe you love to garden, do yoga, take your dog for a walk, or ride your bike. You don’t have to kill yourself to reap the fatigue-boosting benefits.

2. Meditate

When you’re tired during the day, the chances are that you turn to caffeine or a nap. But what if I told you that meditation might be just as helpful?

You might not think of sitting in one spot with a relaxed mind as a great way to increase your energy. However, research suggests that meditation can be even more beneficial for our mental performance and vigilance than sleep. What’s more, meditation can help to reduce stress, one possible contributor to your daytime sleepiness.

3. Eat a Healthy Diet

One of your best safeguards against excessive fatigue is to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. This includes plenty of whole plant foods with the optional addition of small quantities of meat and dairy. Getting plenty of healthy foods gives your body the building blocks that it needs to stay healthy. The right foods can reduce sugar crashes, fatigue caused by poor food choices, and more. And don’t forget to drink plenty of water each day.

4. See Your Doctor

When we discussed the reasons why you might be dragging through the day, you may have noticed that medical conditions appeared more than once.

If no number of lifestyle changes eliminate your fatigue, it might be time to call in the experts. Your doctor or a sleep specialist may be able to pin down an underlying medical cause for your lack of energy. This type of diagnosis can be the first step towards regaining an energetic, fulfilling life.

Final Thoughts

Low energy levels throughout the day can make living life less enjoyable. Lifestyle changes are a good first step to see if you can find the way back to energy yourself. But if you cannot fix your fatigue, see a medical expert to help you identify the source and solution for your fatigue.

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