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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?

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      Brian Wu

      Health Writer, Author

      Why Am I So Tired? 10 Reasons You’re Tired and How to Fix It Signs You Might Lack Iron (And 9 Iron-Rich Foods for Your Diet) Amazing Benefits Of Cucumber Water (+5 Refreshing Recipes) How To Improve Your Health With Matcha Green Tea How To Enjoy Green Tea By Reducing Caffeine In It

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      Published on May 13, 2021

      How Physical Inactivity Affects Your Energy Levels

      How Physical Inactivity Affects Your Energy Levels

      We’ve all heard people say, “I’m too tired to exercise.” Perhaps, we also say this excuse ourselves when others ask why we don’t consistently engage in physical activities. According to The Heart Foundation, this is the number one reason given for physical inactivity.[1]

      This is a paradox because we need the energy to exercise and yet, one major effect of physical inactivity is having depleted energy levels, which makes it extremely difficult to get moving in the first place. Oxygen is a key energy-producing fuel source, and lack of exercise limits oxygen supply to our brains and bodies, creating an energy slump.

      So, how does physical inactivity affects our energy levels?

      Low energy levels do more than just leave us feeling sluggish and unmotivated. The effects of physical inactivity set off a domino effect that topples our ability to focus, make smart decisions, manage our mood, build resilience against stress, and perform at our highest capacity—basically, all the fundamental pillars of maintaining optimal energy levels.

      Left unchecked, this can lead to discontent in our own lives and create a ripple that impacts everyone around us.

      There’s good news, though. You don’t have to suffer through hours at the gym, force yourself out of bed for a crack-of-dawn jog, or endure other such unpleasantries to shift this dynamic for yourself.

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      Here are some of the ways the effects of physical inactivity play out in various areas of our lives and also some simple, painless activities to try that will enhance your energy levels.

      1. The Relational Element

      Do you ever feel drained of energy when you’re caught up in an argument with your partner or when your kid is having a meltdown? It’s like someone pulled the plug and every last drop of your life force is flushed down the tubes.

      It turns out that a lack of physical activity could be a factor in this phenomenon. One study found that when people exercise, it creates a cascade of positive interactions with friends and family on the day of—as well as the day following—the activity.[2]

      Better Together

      These benefits are increased when we exercise with our loved ones. Next time you sense an impending family feud, take a timeout for some physical activity together. I remember many occasions when my own kids were toddlers, ditching our plans in a moment of frustration to go outside together quickly moved the day’s trajectory onto a more positive track, even if it was for just a few minutes. This still rings true today in their teen and preteen years. Though persuading them to change gears can require a bit more patience these days, it’s always well worth it!

      Play a game of basketball or tennis. Bike around the block. Trek through your nearest trail or green space. Go critter spotting at a local park or in your own backyard. Not only can this tactic help diffuse a situation before it becomes volatile, but if you make it a habit, you’re also likely to notice an overall reduction in these energy-draining moments.

      2. The Mental/Emotional Element

      An estimated 40 million adults suffer anxiety disorders in the US alone.[3] When we are triggered by a threat, whether real or perceived, our brains pump out hormones to help us cope in what’s known as the “fight – flight – freeze” response. The aftermath can feel like a massive depletion of our energy.

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      Sleep is an excellent method for recovering, but continuous anxious thoughts often make this difficult. Physical inactivity compounds this because it means we’re losing out on one of the most effective natural methods for regulating our sleeping patterns. Exercise also promotes mental clarity by effectively wiping our minds and bodies of the excess stress hormones instigated by anxiety.

      Natural Regulators

      It’s not only anxiety disorders that bungle our energy levels. Everyday stresses and mood fluctuations can make us feel like we’re stuck on an exhausting rollercoaster of emotion.

      Physical inactivity contributes to the depletion of serotonin and dopamine—chemicals that help naturally regulate our mood and energy. Physical activity boosts these chemicals which enhances activity in the prefrontal cortex (the part of our brains responsible for higher-ordered thinking).[4] This process calms the limbic brain (our emotional headquarters), automatically shutting down energy-wasting emotional triggers.

      3. The Intuitive/Spiritual Element

      Exercise helps us grow our mind-body awareness while we learn to move out of our logical thought processes. The more we tune into our bodies and what they are telling us, the better we can tap into our inner knowing. We can stop using up our energy chasing after solutions or validation that comes from outside ourselves.

      Our connectivity to the Universe or a higher power can be a catalyst for improving our energy levels as well. There are several approaches to enhance this through physical activity. Yoga and Tai Chi, for instance, are well-known spiritual practices used for centuries to connect mind, body, and spirit. From a Western perspective, they also help to create harmony between our needs for “achievement” energy and “restful” energy. Too much focus on either end of the spectrum can lead to burnout or depression.

      A Powerful Combination

      Meditation is another spiritual custom that is also a proven energy booster.[5] Unfortunately, sitting still and calming our minds can be a struggle, especially for people with anxiety issues.

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      “Walking meditation” is one ritual that makes this easier while providing the powerful energy-boosting combination of both physical activity and intentional reflection. The Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley describes this as a “basic method for cultivating mindfulness . . ., which involves focusing closely on the physical experience of walking, paying attention to the specific components of each step.”[6]

      Hiking in nature also counteracts physical inactivity while helping us reconnect with our spirituality by calling our attention to the wonders of the world beyond ourselves. Awe-inspiring experiences contribute to positive changes in mood, attitude, and behavior. This enhances our energy levels by freeing up our mental space from overthinking and negativity. We can trust in our own inner knowing and lean into the belief that the Universe always has our backs.

      4. The Self-Mastery Element

      How energetic do you feel when your inner critic is saying you’re “too weak,” “too old,” or “too broken” to achieve your greatest goals and live your full purpose in life? It drags you down, right?

      When our brains believe these negative thoughts, it exhausts our energy levels, but fortunately, there is a simple method for counteracting these lies.

      You guessed it—exercise.

      Physical accomplishments change our self-perception and boost our feelings of empowerment and self-worth. The agility and flexibility gains we achieve through repetitive practice of HIIT (high-intensity interval training), martial arts, or metabolic conditioning sessions, for example, create neural patterns in our brains. This carries over and rewires our mind-body for grit, strength, coordination, and resilience in all areas of our lives. What could feel more energizing than knowing you are powerful and capable of overcoming any challenge that comes your way?

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      Express Yourself

      Our energy levels can also be improved through self-expressive activities (e.g., dance) by helping us unpack a mess of emotions that may be bogging us down. Reaping the rewards of physical activity doesn’t require us to be focused on appearance or weight. Just find something you enjoy and that makes you feel good to move your body, whether it’s a salsa class or a favorite sport, Pilates or Zumba, or just a stroll through the neighborhood.

      We don’t have to jump in with the go-getter approach we tend to take with most endeavors either. We don’t even need to be what we would consider athletic, artistic, or dramatic. All that’s required is to take one step forward with a focus on personal progress. Remove the expectations, self-judgment, and comparisons, and watch yourself bloom.

      5. Energy Beyond Exercise

      Globally, one in four adults does not meet recommended levels of physical activity, according to WHO.[7] While it is important to understand the ramifications that inadequate exercise can have on our health and longevity, this is just one part of the equation. There is far more at stake here.

      Modern living enables us to achieve most of our daily needs with the least amount of physical effort possible. Not only do we not exercise enough, but we also rarely move our bodies at all—except from couch to fridge or from the doorstep to the car.

      Physical inactivity robs us of powerful elements that enrich our lives—deeper connections with ourselves, our loved ones, our inner peace, and the vastness of the Universe around us. Our ability to feel fulfilled and successful in life hinges on the link between movement and vitality. Simply put, physical inactivity dwindles our energy at every level.

      Here is a breakdown to help you fit it into your schedule with ease: On each of 5 days per week, do 15 minutes of vigorous exercise (HIIT, jogging, metabolic conditioning, or fast swimming or biking) or 30 minutes of moderate exercise (brisk walking, dancing, hiking, tennis, or water aerobics). And remember, any form of movement is better than none.

      More About the Importance of Physical Activity

      Featured photo credit: Adrian Swancar via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] The Heart Foundation: The Top 10 Excuses for Not Exercising
      [2] Science Direct: The cascade of positive events: Does exercise on a given day increase the frequency of additional positive events?
      [3] Anxiety and Depression Association of America: Facts and Statistics
      [4] American Psychological Association: Working out boosts brain health
      [5] NCBI: Meditation: Process and Effects
      [6] Greater Good Science Center: Walking Meditation Practice
      [7] World Health Organization: Physical activity fact sheet

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