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Last Updated on November 1, 2020

The Real Reason Why You Feel Exhausted (No Matter How Much You Sleep)

The Real Reason Why You Feel Exhausted (No Matter How Much You Sleep)

I love my sleep. I always make sure to get at least eight hours each night. I’ll even leave parties early so I can get to bed at my usual time Yet, there are still mornings when I wake up feeling exhausted, even after a great night’s sleep. Whenever that happens, I run through a mental checklist, grasping at straws to explain to myself why I feel so groggy: why do I feel exhausted? Did I drink too much last night? Did I stay up past my usual bedtime? Did I hit snooze on my alarm twelve times? Eight hours of sleep a night shouldn’t result in chronic exhaustion, right?

Regardless of how much quality sleep you’re getting, you can still feel mentally exhausted, burnt out, run-down, worn through—whatever you want to call it. Most of the time, you’re so exhausted you don’t even have the time or the sense to see it clearly.

The answer is right in front of your face, but you haven’t had a chance to step back and analyze your situation. Maybe you hate your job, or you’re worried about paying rent, but you’re not actively thinking about it. How could you with all that’s going on? It’s planted in your subconscious, lurking there and eating away at your morale.

That worn-down feeling is a cumulative combination of unconsidered stressful circumstances—an amalgamation of past worries and future anxieties. We aren’t talking about your regular physical exhaustion from a long day’s work standing on your feet. This is purely in between your ears. You’re overstimulated, and it’s dragging you down. But what’s the real reason behind this brain fog? Why do you feel exhausted?

The first place to look at is stress,[1] which is the body’s natural response to a new challenge or demand. Where are you currently experiencing stress in your life?

Most pain, exhaustion, or emotional fatigue is the direct result of stress. Daily life is filled with tiny stressors—running to catch the morning bus, praying you’ll find a parking spot, or worrying about the leak in your ceiling at home. As these small stressors pile on uncontrollably, you realize you’re white-knuckling through the day.

Mental exhaustion,[2] simply put, is long-term stress. It’s having a day like the above over and over again for months on end until it weighs so much it finally drags you to the ground. You can’t keep living like this.

You may have experienced this in the form of a “mid-life crisis,” or even a quarter-life crisis where you stop and realize you never pursued the things you once hoped and dreamed of. Life passed you by in the blink of an eye. What happened to the “purpose” you once wanted to get out of life? Maybe you wanted to be an artist and all of a sudden, you look down and you’re forty-three years old sitting in a conference room surrounded by suits and boring charts.

You’re faking your way through life and you’re tired of putting on an act.

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Why Do You Feel Exhausted?

“Depression, anxiety, phobias… so many things can be disguised in a way that gives a facade of normalcy over a person’s internal struggles.” —Morgan Housel

There are many reasons why you may be feeling exhausted. There may be times when you had complete hours of sleep yet ask yourself after waking up: why do I still feel exhausted?

Why? It’s because there are other possible reasons for this exhaustion other than improper or lack of sleep. Here are some reasons why you feel exhausted.

1. High-Pressure Occupation (emergency responders and teachers)

Working in a highly stressful scene like an ER or police department is an obvious input for stress. Long hours on the job and making high-level decisions in crisis mode need to be followed by a period of rest, relaxation, and debriefing.

2. Working Long Hours

Consistently clocking in 12-14 hour days for weeks on end can drag you down. Many occupations require this type of work seasonally, like accountants during tax season. But when you’re spending that much time at week year-round and there is no end in sight, mental exhaustion can become chronic.

3. Financial Stress

For obvious reasons, being in troubled circumstances with your finances can cause long-term stress and constant worries, which lead to feeling exhausted. How can you enjoy life if you can’t afford to do the things you enjoy? No matter how much you sleep, you will still feel exhausted if something is troubling you at the back of your mind like financial problems.

4. Dissatisfied With Your Job

When you ask yourself, “why do I feel exhausted?” Try also asking, “Am I satisfied with my job?”

Many people slog through life in a job they hate. Whether it’s your unruly boss, the team that you work with, or the customers who you’re sick of hearing complaining, being stuck in a dissatisfying job can cause feelings of resentment in work and your personal life.

5. Clutter

Whether you’re naturally a messy person or life has become so frantic that you haven’t even had a chance to clean or organize, clutter plays a massive part in mental exhaustion. Having a clear workspace and a calm environment to walk into makes a difference in mental clarity. This can also affect your productivity and your attitude towards your job.

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6. Avoidance and Procrastination

When you feel exhausted, it may be because something at the back of your head is troubling you. You may have some responsibilities that you should be doing or have done but still have not. Putting things off too long will cause hidden stress to climb on top of you like a monkey on your back. Avoiding your responsibilities and procrastinating are some of the possible causes as to why you feel exhausted.

7. Living With Chronic Pain or an Illness

Going through life with stress is hard enough. Add on top of that something like chronic back pain or a congenital condition and it’s like taking care of two separate people for yourself. This can also cause feelings of resentment, bitterness, and irritation around people you love, even those who support and take care of you.

8. Death of a Loved One

Losing a close friend or family member is something everyone has experienced, and it never gets easier. Many people try to play tough and portray to their loved ones that they are okay and dealing with it just fine. But the reality is that it’s weighing them down.

Be honest with yourself about it, and have someone you can talk to. Experiencing your grief alone and not sharing it with anyone may be the reason why you feel exhausted.

9. Lack of Purpose

Life needs to have a purpose. Every individual has a purpose that is entirely unique to their circumstance. It can be guided by religion, occupation, or an ultimate life goal to strive towards, such as writing a book or owning a business. Without an ultimate purpose, it’s easy to let yourself slip into a depression that leads to mental exhaustion.

What Should You Do When You Feel Exhausted?

“When you’re struggling with something, look at all the people around you and realize that every single person you see is struggling with something, and to them, it’s just as hard as what you’re going through.” —Nicholas Sparks

1. Talk About It

It may sound obvious, but talking through these struggles with someone is a form of therapy in itself. Chances are, someone has been through the same type of thing that you’re going through right now. Don’t hide it. Open up and learn how others dealt with it. It’s more common than you think.

2. Find an Outlet or a Hobby

One way to help find joy out of a life of exhaustion is to come home to a hobby. Unwind from the workday by doing something you love that’s also a bit challenging. Learn how to play guitar, play video games with your kids, read a book, or learn new recipes to cook for your family. Take your mind away from whatever it is you’re worried about. Focus entirely on the process and get out of your anxiety.

3. Be Realistic

You can’t do everything. Look at your schedule, and be honest with yourself and the people around you about what’s possible for one person to do in a day. You can’t change the world alone. Enlist the help of others and don’t be too proud to ask. Putting the weight of the world on your shoulders may be the reason why you feel exhausted.

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4. Arrive Early

It took me years in life to realize how much being early can relieve stress. Waking up five minutes earlier gives me five minutes to relax and think if I’m forgetting anything before I head out the door. Leaving five minutes before I normally would for an event gives me five minutes to arrive and get a good seat, scope out the scene, or talk to someone and learn something about the place.

Being early allows you to be relaxed and completely comfortable as opposed to running through life in a hurry. Settle in before anyone else and have the mental edge that you’re prepared for anything.

5. Exercise More, Try Healthier Habits

Exercise is probably the last thing you want to do. But have you ever regretted a workout? One hundred percent of the time it makes you feel better and gives you the momentum to have a great day.

Try healthier habits. Go for a walk right when you get out of bed. Try a new vegetable once a week. Drink more water. Stand more. Replace dessert with fruit. If you drink ten cups of coffee a day, try to go one day a month without coffee. Healthier habits ultimately lead to a happier life in more ways than you think.

6. Journal

Similar to talking about your problems, journaling is an excellent outlet for not only getting the thoughts out of your head but also to clarify your feelings. As you write, you’ll realize you actually didn’t understand what you were thinking. Writing helps that. Do it often.

7. Take Care of Something

Get a pet. If you’re not ready for a dog, then buy a few plants to take care of. This takes the attention off yourself and on to something that relies on you for livelihood. It will help put everything in perspective and relieve stress and exhaustion.

8. Meditate

This is such an overly-used cure-all, but meditation really does help with clarity of thinking and developing a sense of calm in your life. Researchers found that meditation “decreased symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression.[3]

It doesn’t have to be sitting with your legs cross, fingers in a circle, and saying “Oooommmmmm.” Meditating can take on whatever form you’re comfortable with. It can be taking a few deep breaths before you step out of your car, or it can be closing your eyes and thinking of your loved ones when you’re having a hard time.

Sometimes before bed, I’ll just close my eyes and envision a future I want for myself. I picture the people I love hugging me and saying “Congratulations.” For what? I don’t know, but I’m putting myself in the mindset to succeed.

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Final Thoughts

Dr. Alice Boyes, author of The Healthy Mind Toolkit:[4]

“The more you work on systems for reducing stress and excess decision-making, the more mental energy you’ll have.”

This is true in so many areas. Work on habits and routines that will eliminate the number of decisions you make. The more disciplined you are in these areas, the more freedom you will have to do the things you truly want and need. But also, understand how you are getting in your own way.

Author Tim Ferriss likes to ask himself, “How am I complicit in creating the conditions I say I don’t want?” or “What are the stories I tell myself that interfere with self-love?”

Take a look at the actions and routines you structure your life around. Are there small tweaks you can make to get out of your own way? What would this look like if it were easy? Sometimes, asking yourself questions like these can lead to surprisingly simple solutions and answer the question of “why do I feel exhausted?”

As I said, everyone is struggling in their own way. How you manage your stress may differ completely from someone else. By being vulnerable and understanding that you have the ability to overcome this exhaustion, you can begin to find meaning. Exercise consistent positive habits and the momentum will attract more positive momentum. Oh, and get good sleep!

More Tips to Help You When You Feel Exhausted

Featured photo credit: Hernan Sanchez via unsplash.com

Reference

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Kyle J. Brennan

Digital marketing expert, book reviewer, triathlete, & experimenter of all things.

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Published on October 23, 2020

5 Things That Will Help You Sleep Naturally

5 Things That Will Help You Sleep Naturally

Sleep is an essential part of everyday life. We all love a good night’s sleep and loathe the tiredness and lack of concentration that comes from not having slept well.

Sleep also contributes to our feelings of wellness and our happiness. Many of us go through periods of time in our lives where we experience problems with our sleep. Sleep disruption, delayed sleep, insomnia—whatever you want to call it, sleep issues are a common experience, especially when you are feeling emotionally overwhelmed by the demands life places on you.

There is so much general advice out there on things to help you sleep, referred to as sleep hygiene. This includes how many hours to aim for, going to bed at the same time every day, getting up at the same time every day, avoiding day time sleep, taking regular exercise (but only during day time), avoiding caffeine alcohol and nicotine, not going to bed hungry or overfull, and having a good routine for bedtime.

One of the things I always advise my patients is to rethink their use of screens, especially in their bedrooms. You may find it hugely beneficial to change the way you use screens and electronic devices at night and leading up to bedtime.

In this digital age, most of us love our electronics, whether it’s a tablet, mobile phone, games console, laptop, computer, or TV. But these things take up a lot of our time, and they do not help with sleep at all.

In fact, they are proven to disrupt sleep. They can suppress the body’s ability to release melatonin—a sleep-inducing hormone.  Therefore, avoiding these things can help you sleep better.

The habit of checking our devices last thing at night and reaching for them first thing in the morning is ingrained in us. Remember these points when you next find yourself reaching for your device:

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  1. They stimulate your brain.
  2. The light that some devices emit can interfere with your internal body clock.
  3. Devices can be highly addictive, eating into even more sleep time.
  4. Checking work emails at night can create worry and stress, leading your brain to become stimulated in thinking about a specific issue/task.

Sleep hygiene is really important for us, and I would recommend thinking about all these things if you haven’t already.

In addition to sleep hygiene, here are some natural things to help you sleep, that you can try straight away, some of which you may not have come across before. Even with the best routines and behaviors around sleep, we can still struggle to get some decent shut-eye, and having ways to deal with that can be invaluable.

Quoting the Dalai Lama,

“Sleep is the best meditation.”

1. Mindfulness and Breathing

Mindfulness—yes, here it is again. We’ve all heard of it, and you guessed right—it can help with your sleep and is proven to do so.

Looking at it simply, mindfulness is the ability to objectively and non-judgmentally take notice of our internal and external experiences as they happen and without reactivity. When we can’t sleep, we experience unwanted thoughts and unpleasant feelings—the type we want to get rid of quickly, so that we can fall asleep.

Mindfulness shifts our focus from trying not to think about these things to accepting that these thoughts and feelings will come and then, noticing their presence without struggling against them. Then, as you lie still in your bed, move your focus to your breath and simply count 1 on every inhale and 2 on every exhale. Do this very slowly, allowing your lungs to fill and empty as you go.

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Some people find that tuning into this rhythm can get them off to sleep. It’s important to stick to this consistently before you decide it doesn’t work. Naturally, our attention can drift away. When this happens, just restart the counting of your breath. Let your body relax with each breath as you feel calmer, and approach the fringes of sleepiness.

2. Weighted Blankets

Maybe you’ve heard of these before maybe you haven’t, but they really are something else. Weighted blankets are exactly what they sound like—heavy blankets that are just the right weight to apply deep, evenly distributed pressure on your body, resulting in a calming effect that aids relaxation and sleep.

Some people have described the feeling of a weighted blanket as being hugged or held. There has been lots of research on the effectiveness of using weighted blankets, and a recent study in the Journal of Clinical and Sleep Medicine confirmed the benefits of using them. They have helped many people reduce sleep onset time (the time it takes to get off to sleep) and the number of nighttime awakenings.[1]

Aside from the deep pressure and holding experienced by the use of a weighted blanket, they have also been shown to increase serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in regulating sleep. All these benefits from a heavy blanket.

Learn more about the benefits of sleeping with weighted blankets here: Weighted Blanket for Anxiety and Insomnia: How to Make It Work

3. Yoga Nidra

Yoga Nidra is one of the fastest-growing forms of yoga right now, and guess what, it can help you get right off to sleep. Yoga Nidra is a technique for supporting your body’s natural relaxation response. It has been noted as therapeutic for several health conditions.

It’s essentially a type of meditation of the experience of falling asleep. This is a type of yoga where you don’t actually have to move. You just lie still under your duvet—cozy and warm—and are talked into sleepiness by listening to a recording.

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Think of it as a type of restful yoga in bed, requiring you to listen to a Yoga Nidra recording to help your mind and body restore themselves to a restful sleep state. You can find recordings on YouTube to give this technique a try. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t fallen asleep after a session of Yoga Nidra.

4. White Noise

If you are someone who experiences the slightest noise as disruptive to your sleep, then you might find white noise helpful. White noise is when sound waves of a broad spectrum of frequencies are combined to form a sound that blocks out background noise, reducing your attention to external sound. By doing this, white noise acts as a constant ambient sound to help mask the surrounding noise.

Many people find the rhythm of white noise soothing and relaxing. Before you rush out and buy a white noise machine to test out whether it could help you or not, there are plenty of white noise recordings available on YouTube.

Try to be consistent, with some level of persistence. Many things don’t work the first time, but that doesn’t mean they won’t work at all. Moving away from the idea of a quick fix to focusing on experimenting with a flexible attitude can be helpful.

5. Acceptance

From personal experience, changing the focus from trying to sleep to accepting it might not happen helps take the pressure off and reduce sleep stress.

The more we struggle to sleep, the more frustrated we can feel, and the more unwilling we can become of tolerating and experiencing unwanted thoughts and feelings that arise. This can leave us wired with stress and anxiety. This actually heightens wakefulness, with the nervous system becoming increasingly activated and consequently, worsening sleep problems.

The purpose of acceptance is to accept that we will experience unwanted thoughts and feelings. We should accept that we may not sleep so well given the problems we are having, and move to focus on resting and allowing discomfort to be present instead of struggling against it.

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The more accepting our attitude towards whatever problems we are having with sleep, the greater the willingness is to experience poor sleep. This often results in fewer struggles, less arousal, and interestingly, improved levels of sleepiness.

Next time you hit the sack, try to gently say to yourself, “I might not sleep, sleep is sometimes hard for me, I accept it might be difficult again tonight, but I will focus on resting my eyes, and my body.” Keep trying these techniques over several nights to try and lessen the intensity of the struggle you are having with sleep.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, you are now armed with a few more techniques to manage sleep difficulties. Remember that like most people, many of us don’t get the exact number of hours we would like every single night. Some nights we get less, and some nights we get more. I certainly do.

Have an acceptance that sleep fluctuates, and at worst, you may feel tired,. But you know there will not be a catastrophe, that you will cope, and that you will get through the day just like you always do.

As always, if you’ve tried lots of things to help you sleep but are still experiencing difficulty, consider seeing your doctor.

More Things to Help You Sleep

Featured photo credit: Gregory Pappas via unsplash.com

Reference

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