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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

Why Am I So Tired? 10 Reasons You’re Tired and How to Fix It

Why Am I So Tired? 10 Reasons You’re Tired and How to Fix It

“Why am I so tired?” is a question that people ask themselves pretty frequently. Everyone gets tired at one point or another, particularly after something like an illness, a long night up with a sick child, or a busy week at work. However, when tiredness is persistent—when you feel tired as soon as you wake up in morning or when sleep doesn’t seem to help, no matter how much rest you get—it may often indicate a deeper, underlying problem.

While there are a lot of possible reasons for tiredness, here are some of the most common causes of fatigue.

1. Dehydration

If you’re asking “Why am I so tired?” and want to boost your energy levels, first check whether you are dehydrated. The human brain is 85% water, and it needs to maintain this level in order to perform its essential functions[1].

Signs of dehydration

    If you fail to drink enough water, the brain extracts fluids from your blood to compensate for the deficit[2]. As a result, the oxygen levels in your blood drop, reducing the amount of energizing oxygen available to your organs and tissues. Fatigue and sleepiness set in rapidly, leaving you more vulnerable to the 2 pm post-lunch crash that many of us experience.

    You cannot cure this crash with caffeine; the only long-term, effective solution is to drink hydrating fluids throughout the day.

    2. Lack of Exercise

    A workout will surely leave you feeling even more tired, right? Wrong! As counterintuitive as it may sound, physical activities have an energizing effect. Moving your body releases endorphins, increases your heart rate, and boosts your concentration.

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    Try to fit in at least 30 minutes of medium-intensity exercise every day. It’s easiest if you can make this part of your everyday routine, either as soon as you wake up or right after work.

    3. A Poor Diet

    The food you eat has a direct impact on sleep quality and the amount of rest you get every night. For maximum energy, stick to protein, slow-release carbohydrates, and a moderate amount of healthy (unsaturated) fats.

    The majority of your food should be plant-based, high in fiber, and low in sugar. These choices will prevent blood sugar fluctuations, which can leave you feeling exhausted.

    An easy way to make sure you stick to a good diet is through meal preparation. It’s easy to just get take-out when you’re tired after work, but if you have a meal ready for you in the fridge, you’ll be less tempted by a frozen pizza or cheese sticks.

    Find out more about healthy meal prep here: 10 Meal Planning Apps You Need To Have To Get Healthier Easily

    4. Skipping Breakfast

    Eating breakfast is key to maintaining a good level of energy throughout the day. When you eat breakfast, you are sending calming signals to the areas of the brain responsible for avoiding danger, along with those that instruct the body to conserve as much energy as possible.

    Ingesting food signals to your brain that there are enough calories available to ensure our survival. This encourages it to stay relaxed, which in turn, promotes restful sleep.

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    Some great ideas for healthy, filling, and make-ahead breakfasts include overnight oats, smoothies, and freezer-friendly breakfast burritos.

    If meal-prepping isn’t your thing, stock up on easy but healthy breakfast foods like multigrain cereal, yogurt, and fruit.

    5. Poor Quality of Sleep

    We all know that it’s important to wind down a couple of hours before bed, but did you know that it’s what you do throughout the day that promotes good-quality sleep? It’s not just about the number of hours you sleep, but how restful and deep that sleep is if you want to stop asking “Why am I so tired?”

    To feel rested, try to regulate your everyday routine to make your sleep deeper and better. Get up at a regular time in the morning to ensure that you get regular sunlight.

    Eat nutritious foods in moderate amounts, and make sure you stay hydrated. Go to bed at the same time, and before bedtime, avoid screens that can give off harmful blue light and also keep you stimulated when you need to fall asleep.

    6. Sleep Apnea

    Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder where a person’s airways get blocked off while they are asleep, causing their oxygen levels to drop while sleeping[3]. This often causes people to stop breathing at night and then to jerk themselves awake (this can happen over 30 times an hour).

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    Risks of Untreated Sleep Apnea

      Because of this, people with sleep apnea can feel short of breath and have low energy levels[4]. Mouthpieces and other devices to aid in breathing can be used to keep oxygen levels in a safe zone.

      If you feel tired all the time and think you might have sleep apnea, consulting with a doctor is important. Do a sleep study, as this can often reveal if there is an underlying problem causing your tiredness — and once a diagnosis is made, treatment to help you get your energy back begins.

      7. Depression

      Depression is the most common mental health disorder in the United States (and in many other countries of the world, as well). It is marked by persistent feelings of sadness or unhappiness but has physical symptoms, too. Apart from fatigue, people may also experience changes in sleeping and eating habits and difficulty concentrating that leave them asking “Why am I so tired?”

      Treatment can often center on anti-depressants, counselling, and lifestyle changes, like stress management to help manage this condition.

      Many people also benefit from activities like yoga and meditation, which help regulate both the body and mind.

      8. Hypothyroidism

      If a person has hypothyroidism, they have an underactive thyroid gland that does not produce adequate levels of important hormones, and the result can be a persistent and unrelenting fatigue, even if someone is getting enough sleep. Other common symptoms of this disorder include mood swings, weight gain, and feeling cold all the time.

      Fortunately, simple blood work can reveal if there is a problem, and it can be treated with artificial thyroid hormone pills. Check here for signs of a thyroid problem. If you suspect that you might have hypothyroidism, talk to your doctor.

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      9. Anemia

      People with anemia are not able to make enough red blood cells to transport oxygen throughout their bodies. This is often due to a lack of nutrients like iron or B-12 and can be caused by problems such as heavy periods, bleeding in the digestive tract, or pregnancy (due to the increased demands of the growing baby).

      However, in most cases, this can be resolved with treatments like changes in diet, iron supplements, or B-12 shots. A simple blood test can tell you if you have anemia, so check in with your doctor if you suspect this.

      10. Cancer

      While you shouldn’t be freaking out about cancer just because you are tired, it is a fact that fatigue is one of the symptoms of cancer. Other common symptoms can include unexplained weight loss and the presence of palpable lumps or growths. This disease is marked by the abnormal and uncontrolled growth of cells that can do damage to surrounding tissues and possibly spread to other parts of the body.

      Diagnosis is usually by biopsy, and treatment often focuses on radiation, chemotherapy or surgery—and generally when a diagnosis is made early, the outcomes for the patient are better.

      Final Thoughts

      If you find yourself constantly asking, “Why am I so tired?” it may be time to see your doctor to find out if any of the problems above apply to you. All of them have treatments that can help improve your quality of life and get you back to normal energy levels.

      More on Overcoming Fatigue

      Featured photo credit: Lily Banse via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Harvard Health Publishing: Fight fatigue with fluids
      [2] NuCara: Are You Dehydrated?
      [3] Sleep Foundation: Sleep Apnea
      [4] Very Well Health: What Is Sleep Apnea?

      More by this author

      Brian Wu

      Health Writer, Author

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      Published on April 14, 2021

      How To Relieve Stress And Restore Energy

      How To Relieve Stress And Restore Energy

      You didn’t get to where you are in life without learning how to relieve stress along the way. But just because you’ve “been there, done that” doesn’t necessarily mean it is going to be easier this time around. Granted life experience will likely have taught you the old refrain, “this too shall pass” but that same life experience will also likely have taught you something about the active role you need to take to combat stress from time to time and how we could all stand to benefit from a stress-busting reboot.

      I think we all know the dangerous side effects of too much stress in our lives. Stress is a major contributor to many poor health outcomes, such as diabetes, weight gain, hypertension, poor memory, and a whole host of mental health issues.[1] Therefore, how we manage the stress in our lives, needs to be revisited with a fresh and new perspective, in the same way, we need to clean out and freshen up our closet every so often.

      Below are my top 10 strategies to relieve stress and restore energy with a fresh look at some old favorites that are guaranteed to help you self-optimize for health and happiness in body, mind, and spirit.

      1. Compartmentalize—Prioritization on Steroids

      People think of the compartmentalizing tactic in different ways, and there are negative associations with this term. However, when I suggest that you compartmentalize to manage your stress—or better yet, relieve stress—what I am referring to is the idea that you block out certain parts of your life that are distracting you from what you need to do in your daily life.

      For example, you are at work but also have some extraordinary stress in your private life due to ailing parents with no siblings to share in the caretaking. Managing this alongside your own family and professional responsibilities, which were already heavy enough, places an enormous amount of stress on you.

      When you compartmentalize, you put up mental blinders to help you focus on the task in front of you with the knowledge that managing your parent’s living and financial situation will be handled in due time after work hours.

      Learning how to block out these different realms of your life will help you prioritize and manage the work that is in front of you.

      2. Get Outside, It’s Like Therapy

      Simply getting outside in the fresh air will automatically bring down your stress levels and restore some lost energy.[2] The research around this growing field known as ecotherapy is proving once again how powerful nature is and how we can improve our mental wellbeing along with our physical and spiritual health with time outdoors.[3]

      When you are outside, you are more likely to have increased activity levels and will be exposing yourself to the mood-boosting sun, which helps our body create vitamin D. Research on vitamin D indicates that those who are vitamin D deficient may be more susceptible to inflammatory illness, depression and lowered resistance to stress, and more and more of us are becoming vitamin D deficient across the United States.[4]

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      Spending as little as 10 minutes outside every day can be enough to improve mood, mental focus, and decrease blood pressure. Think of the increased concentration and improved efficiency you will get as a return on investment that yields way better growth on your aptitude and attitude for life.

      3. Do an Organization Reboot

      We all know the secret to success is largely due to organization or at least some form of it. I would argue that organization is a process. We build structures to organize information and life events based on our current demands. Over the course of your life, this will vary and probably increase as your life becomes more complicated, which will force you to innovate and change things up as you go.

      What was enough in college or your first job out of college may not be enough at this point in your life. Furthermore, many, many systems can help us organize, and too many can detract from their intended benefits.

      Assessing and weeding out the unnecessary systems or consolidating from the many to one might just be the answer.

      Is a family calendar on Google more efficient than the calendar hanging in the kitchen? Don’t just assume that the answer will be in tech. Sometimes the old-fashioned pen and paper is more practical and might also serve as a better physical reminder—think of the whiteboard in the kitchen vs the hidden “to-do list” on your smartphone with reminders that consistently fail.

      Another strategy for your organization reboot is an organization self-assessment. First, what it is that you need help organizing, and what the intended outcome is? Is it for communication purposes—to make sure that everyone is on the same page—or is it to help you process and think about the workload in front of you? Answering these 2 questions will help you move forward as you think about what makes the most sense for you, your family, or your team at work.

      Another way to approach an organization reboot is to ask other people how they stay organized. This is especially helpful when taking on new responsibilities that might come with a job change or a new family dynamic.

      I did this in a new position I recently took and by collecting data on how other people approached their work (think of the complex systems in public education), I was able to create “a best practice” that worked for me and that I could share with my colleagues. Something that could earn you some extra kudos is a bonus, especially when you are the new kid on the block.

      4. Engage Your Creative Brain

      When we engage the creative parts of ourself we tap into the part of our brain that releases dopamine, which has a naturally calming, therapeutic effect. Needless to say, this will almost immediately help us to relax and will lower our stress levels. One of the premises for which art therapy has been well established.

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      In one study, in particular, it was found that after just 45 minutes of engaging with artistic materials, regardless of the level of production or artistic talent the person had, there was a notable decrease of cortisol in 75% of the participants.[5]

      Music therapy is another form of creative art that can relieve stress and restore our energy.[6] Many of us use music to help us decompress or move into another part of our day or activity. Music also taps into this part of our brain that increases focus and can help us emulate the feeling or “vibe” we perceive in the music. As we know, upbeat music will help you feel more positive while slower music can help you feel more relaxed by easing some of the tension in your body.

      There are tons of great playlists out there aimed at stress relief. The next time you are on your preferred music streaming service, test out a few and see which works for you. Needless to say, music is one of those things that we can have in the background while moving forward with other parts of our day.

      Perhaps this is another area in need of a reboot that could enhance your stress relief routine.

      5. Do You Need a Vacation or Weekend Away?

      Vacation opportunities may not be as readily available as we would like. However, it doesn’t have to be a week in the tropics to feel the benefits of a short break from your everyday routine.

      If we are optimizing our time with some of the above strategies, perhaps we might be able to sneak in that weekend getaway or even just a day trip with the family. Getting out of your everyday environment, especially when trying to build in some respite and relieve stress, can do wonders for our mind, body, and spirit.

      We may love our homes, but they do represent the endless “to-do list” and remind us of all the things that contribute to our stress levels. Getting away from this environment where you can get outside and engage in some of your favorite activities with your favorite people will free your mind and your body.

      Granted, COVID-19 has definitely hindered our road trip or vacation opportunities. However, with a little creativity, we can build in the little breaks that we need to relieve some stress, reconnect with the people who are important in our lives, and help us to feel ready for the next hurdle in front of us.

      6. Meditation and Mindfulness, Make Them a Habit

      Meditation and mindfulness can offer endless benefits to us emotionally and psychologically, which will naturally relieve stress. Many of those benefits include increased focus, relaxation, and a decrease in the mental clutter in your head.

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      One of the biggest challenges with mediation or mindfulness is that to feel the impact, we need to practice it consistently, which takes discipline. The people who are most successful at integrating mediation and mindfulness into their self-care and stress relief routines are people who build it into their daily practices.

      And as is true with many strategies, we don’t need to spend hours doing it. Just 5 or 10 minutes a day can make a difference, but we do need to make sure we are doing it.

      Maybe there is a 5 or 10-minute window at the end or beginning of your day where you could fit this consistently? There are lots of great apps to help guide you through your mediation with music and visualization.

      7. Fight Off “Aloneliness” and Find Your Alone Time

      I read an article recently about “aloneliness,” which is the opposite of loneliness. As an introvert, I have always been that person who replenishes her energy from time alone but never quite thought about the craving as a likening to loneliness for the introvert.

      The benefits of alone time are science-backed and include those things that many times go out the window when we are stressed and overwhelmed—things like creativity, mental strength, and productivity. The COVID-19 pandemic has left many people without the opportunity to have their alone time, which could be another reason that you are feeling more stressed and less able to deal with your daily challenges.

      You might need to be strategic, but you could build some alone time into your life with a walk outside to get lunch for example, which will also be incorporating strategy #2 on this list.

      8. Find Balance in Your Life

      Stress can turn our lives upside down and throw everything off-kilter. Finding your equilibrium, getting your bearings straight, and finding the balance in your life between the many demands of family, partner, work, and friends is essential.

      If you are feeling increased stress, take a look at the demands around you and make sure that there is a balance between the different parts of your life—in particular, the areas where you find more nourishment for the soul.

      Incorporating the well-known life coaching strategy “life wheel” is a great way to think about the different parts of your life to ensure that you are giving all areas the time and attention that they need.

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      9. Maintain Good Sleep Hygiene

      It’s no secret that sleep can be your best friend or public enemy number one. As the saying goes, “what a difference a day can make” is in large part due to a restful night’s sleep. However, when we are stressed, sleep is one of the first things to get out of whack.

      If you are going through a period of high stress, you are likely feeling an increase in outside or family demands. Finding the time to fit it all in may naturally creep into your sleeping hours or, on the other hand, the stress might keep you from being able to get a restful night’s sleep. Either of these two scenarios is a case where it might be good to take a look at your sleep routine and force you to be a little more protective of it.

      Some of my go-to tips and strategies around maintaining healthy sleep hygiene are:[7]

      1. Plan ahead
      2. Maintain your physical activity
      3. Limit alcohol
      4. Sleep in a cooler environment
      5. Get plenty of fresh air

      So, before you get to thinking that you can sleep “later,” remember that healthy people and well-balanced lives have a healthy amount of sleep in their lives.

      10. Animal Love

      There’s tons of research out there about the benefits of having a pet, in particular, a dog or a cat. Taking care of a pet or any member of the animal kingdom can have such a positive impact on our mood and psychological well-being that our brain releases a hormone known as oxytocin, dubbed the love hormone.

      We get this hormone from other nurturing (human) relationships as well, but we cannot underestimate the impact this can have on us when we care for and connect with one of our four-legged buddies. A case in point is the fact that many pet owners report feeling a connection to their pet that rivals that of any significant human connection and, in some cases, can even be more significant than a human-to-human connection.[8]

      Additionally, having a pet will likely promote other healthy habits. Some of which I spoke about above, such as being outside more often and increasing your physical activity. On a social level, connecting with friends and neighbors about your pet creates a shared connection—another protective factor in the fight against stress.

      Botton Line

      Modern life places many demands on us which hits us in different ways during different periods of our lives. Maintaining our physical, mental, and spiritual well-being requires a fresh and renewed approach every so often.

      If you take the time today—to take care of yourself for tomorrow by revamping the old worn-out items in your self-care toolbox—you will reap the benefits 20 fold! Learning how to relieve stress from our life is a process that we will need to revisit time and time again, each time getting better and better.

      More Tips on How to Cope With Stress

      Featured photo credit: Candice Picard via unsplash.com

      Reference

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