Why are you so tired?
Feeling tired all the time is becoming one of our most common ailments, and it can be the most frustrating as well. Even if you live a fairly sensible lifestyle and don’t have any serious health problems, you may still find yourself weighed down with constant fatigue.
“A lot of people confuse fatigue with sleepiness—it’s not the same thing,” says Doug Cook, a registered dietitian and nutritionist at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. Sometimes a viral or bacterial trigger, or other serious illness is the culprit. But fortunately, most of the time there are simple causes that can easily be fixed. “A lot of it is just lifestyle related,” he says. “I think fatigue really is a symptom of the way society is: too busy, burning the candle at both ends. It’s has though what used to be confined to university students as become the norm for all stages of life.”
Here are some common reasons that you might be feeling a lack of a spring in your step and what you can do to feel more energized.
1. You don’t exercise
It may seem counter intuitive, but exercising produces all kinds of helpful biochemicals that ward off fatigue and help you feel upbeat the rest of the time. Think of it as positive feedback: the more energy you put in, the more you get out.
2. You keep poor sleep patterns
Sleepiness is not the same as fatigue (which is a general lack of energy), but one of the most common causes of feeling tired is simply not sleeping enough. In addition to too little shut-eye, keeping irregular sleeping patterns and even sleeping too much can also make you feel tired. To get back on the right track, try to get into a routine of sleeping at consistent times—while only getting as much sleep as you really need—and you’ll be surprised how much better you will feel.
3. You’re carrying extra weight
In addition to making your bones and body bear a greater burden of weight, obesity can result in sleep apnea, which is horribly disruptive to your sleep. Individuals who suffer from sleep apnea can experience pauses in their breathing dozens—or even hundreds—of times in a single night. Sleep apnea can also potentially result in heart problems. If you are concerned about sleep apnea, be sure to speak with your doctor.
4. You might be pregnant
One of the first changes to your body when you’re pregnant—and the most noticeable—is a sudden change to your sleeping habits and energy levels. Pregnancy has a serious impact on your body and feelings of fatigue during your first trimester are very common. If you normally stay up past midnight, then suddenly find yourself wanting to crash out at 9 pm, pregnancy could be a factor. Sleep can also be challenging for new moms, who suddenly have to adjust to the sleep schedule of their baby.
5. You drink too much coffee
If you rely on caffeine to get through your day, you can develop a dependence—so without it you can go into withdrawal, needing several cups of coffee or tea just to feel “normal.” And the worst point of withdrawal? Right in the morning. To make matters worse, caffeine can still course through your system when you’re sleeping if you’ve had any coffee or tea in the evening, which can interfere with normal REM sleep and leave you feeling even more tired. An easy solution is to cut back on the amount of caffeine you consume during the day and steer clear of caffeinated beverages within hours of your bedtime.
6. You don’t eat breakfast
There’s a reason that breakfast is called the most important meal of the day, and everyone has told you not to forget it—from your doctor to your mother, to probably every teacher you’ve ever had. And yet so many of us still skip it on a regular basis, or just cram down a few pieces of toast before heading out the door. Take the time to fit in breakfast every morning and it will help you avoid that mid-afternoon crash.
7. You suffer from iron deficiency
A diet low in iron is often to blame for feeling tired—a lack of red meat in the diet of vegetarians and vegans can result in iron deficiency, but it’s unfair and untrue to assume that people who cut out animal products from their diet automatically have low energy levels. People who eat meat can still suffer from low iron as well, especially if they skimp on wholesome—though sometimes unappealing—foods like spinach, organ meats, and eggs. Women in particular are prone to anemia because of menstruation, as heavy periods can easily lead to anemia in combination with a low-iron diet.
8. You may be depressed
Fatigue is a common side effect of depression, along with other well-known symptoms such as lack of appetite, weight gain or loss, anxiety and lack of interest in sex. If you are concerned that you may be experiencing depression, speak with your healthcare provider. You may also want to try incorporating mood-boosting foods into your diet.
9. It could signal the onset of diabetes
Diabetes is reaching epidemic levels. Extreme fatigue or lack of energy are symptoms of the condition. However, many people who develop type 2 diabetes will show no symptoms. Everyone over the age of 40 have their blood sugar levels tested at least every three years as a precautionary measure.
10. You’ve started a new medication
Fatigue is one of the most common side effects of pharmaceutical medications, with anti-hypertensives, narcotics, anxiolytics and antidepressants being the most common culprits. When you first begin a new medication, give your body some time to adjust. However, if drowsiness persists for several weeks and begins to interfere with your daily life, it’s time to see a doctor.
Boost your energy the healthy way
By and large, the best things you can do to stay healthy and energized are pretty simple: eat well, sleep regularly, don’t drink too much alcohol (hangovers aside, the by-products in alcohol can make you feel tired), and get some fresh air and exercise. “I often tell my patients that the fatigue may be their body’s way of telling them to slow down,” says family physician Rhonda Church, MD. “Many people experience fatigue because of overwhelming life stresses. Keep your stress in check: set limits, make time for yourself and the people you love.”
More Sleep Solutions
Did you know that the way you sleep can affect your weight, mood, energy, memory, and IQ? And that getting a good night of shuteye can even slow the signs of aging and protect against cancer and heart disease? Sleep to be Sexy, Smart and Slim is bursting with advice on how to get a better rest—without resorting to sleep aids. Learn how the foods you eat and medications you take can affect your sleep, and how taking a nap can actually reset your heart rate and blood pressure. With tips and tricks that are easy to integrate into your routine, you’ll be vibrant, sharp, and on your way to better health in a wink.