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Last Updated on October 15, 2018

How to Stop Feeling Tired All the Time (And the Real Causes Explained)

How to Stop Feeling Tired All the Time (And the Real Causes Explained)

It seems that more and more of us are facing tiredness and fatigue on a regular basis. In fact, a lot of people assume that being tired all the time is just part of being a busy person living and working in the 21st century.

Sometimes, the cause is clear – perhaps you’ve been putting in too many hours at the office, or maybe you have just moved to a new home. However, the reason isn’t always so obvious. If you often catch yourself thinking, “Why am I so tired all the time?” this is the article for you.

I’m going to outline some of the most common causes of tiredness, and tell you how to boost your energy levels.

Why are you so tired all the time?

There’re different reasons why you maybe feeling tired all the time, it could be related to your daily habits or even some health issues.

Lack of sleep

We all know that a lack of sleep causes tiredness, but did you know that many people don’t even realize that they aren’t getting enough rest every night?

The average adult aged between 18 and 60 needs at least 7 hours of sleep every night if they want to enjoy optimal health.[1] Unfortunately, 1 in 3 of us aren’t meeting this target.

A lack of sleep doesn’t just result in fatigue – it also places you at elevated risk of a range of diseases, including diabetes.[2]

Unhealthy diet

Your diet has a huge impact on the way you feel. A poor diet lacking in nutrients will leave you drained and fatigued, as will too many processed foods and added sugar.

Your body requires a variety of vitamins and minerals in order to synthesise the neurotransmitters that regulate sleep, so be sure to eat plenty of vegetables and fruit.[3]

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Eating candy and other junk food can give you a brief energy hit, but you will soon become tired again when your blood sugar levels crash.[4] It’s best to eat healthy meals and snacks at regular intervals throughout the day as this promotes steady energy levels.

Alcohol and caffeine are best avoided or enjoyed in small quantities because both disrupt your natural sleep patterns.[5] Do not drink them in the evening shortly before going to bed.

Finally, if you don’t drink enough water, you may become dehydrated. This quickly results in fatigue and a diminished attention span.

Sitting too much and not moving

You might think that sitting down would conserve energy but you’d be wrong. Movement is a great way to beat fatigue.

You don’t have to work out for hours either. Research has shown that just a single 20-minute bout of moderate exercise has an energy-boosting effect.[6] People who spend more time sitting around during the day tend to report getting less sleep at night.[7]

Regular exercise promotes high-quality sleep because it increases the time we spend in the “deep sleep” part of the sleep cycle, which is known for its restorative properties. Aim to get at least 150 minutes of exercise per week.

Ideally, you should exercise every day. Avoid exercising in the late evening as this can stimulate your body and make it harder to drift off when you go to bed.

Stressful life

We all come up against stressful situations from time to time. You might be under a lot of pressure at work, be facing relationship issues, or be worrying about your finances.

Stress can wreck havoc with your sleep patterns and not only because your worries can keep you up at night.More than 40% of adults reporting that they only experience “fair” or poor sleep during periods of stress.[8]

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Our bodies produce adrenalin, cortisol, and other “fight or flight” chemicals when under stress.[9] This process is an excellent way of preparing the body for an emergency but it makes getting a good night’s sleep difficult.

Medical conditions

What if you have tried to make positive daily life changes yet still feel exhausted? You may have an undiagnosed medical condition.

The following illnesses can cause ongoing fatigue. Make an appointment with your doctor if you suspect you might have an underlying health problem:

  • Anemia: Anemic patients have a low red blood cell count which impairs the normal circulation of oxygen throughout the body, resulting in tiredness, weakness, and other symptoms including chest pain.[10]
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS): CFS, also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis, is characterized by extreme fatigue that lasts at least 4 months. Sufferers often report other symptoms such as joint pain, aching muscles, and gastrointestinal difficulties.[11]
  • Depression: A lack of energy and decrease in general motivation are among the most common symptoms of depression, along with difficulty concentrating and a pervasive feeling of emptiness or sadness.[12]
  • Diabetes: A person with diabetes will frequently feel tired during the day because their body is unable to utilize glucose, one of the body’s primary sources of energy. Aside from tiredness, the symptoms include excessive thirst, blurred vision, and weight loss.
  • Sleep apnea: This condition causes the airway to narrow during sleep, which interrupts a person’s breathing and oxygen supply. The classic sign of sleep apnea is disrupted sleep that causes tiredness the next day. Snoring is a common indicator of this condition.
  • Thyroid disease: Low levels of thyroid hormone (“hypothyroidism”) result in fatigue, weakness, weight gain, a low body temperature and constipation. This is because the thyroid hormone is responsible for regulating the body’s metabolism. An imbalance triggers a cascade of physical and psychological symptoms.

How to stop feeling constantly tired and feel energetic

Here are 7 proven ways to tackle the cause of your tiredness and help you sleep better and wake up more energectic every day.

1. Unwind & de-stress

Everyone deals with stress in their lives but it’s how you react to it that matters. If you find that you’re getting stressed consistently, it’s time to make the effort to do something about it.

There are many ways you can do this but if stress is consistent, your de-stressing habits must be consistent too.

  • Change your perspective. Sometimes stress is all about your mindset. Try to view a stressful situation in a different way by finding an alternative positive slant. If your commute to work is full of cancellations or roadworks, decide to see this as a perfect time to read a book or listen to uplifting music. It’s all about shifting your focus to the positive.
  • Buy a plant. Researchers have found that simply being around plants can induce your relax response. One Washington State University study found that a group of stressed out people who entered a room full of plants had a four-point drop in their blood pressure. Being around nature in general has a calming and therapeutic effect on our brain. So even just taking a break to sit in a park or by a tree can decrease your stress levels.
  • Go for a short walk. A walk will help to clear your head and boost endorphins, helping to reduce stress hormones.[13] If you’re at work, walk up and down the stairs a couple of times or walk around the block. Try to get a longer walk in every now and then to really get a boost. You can be mindful of what you see around you, or download an audiobook to help pass the time. Again, shifting your focus away from stressful thoughts.
  • Laugh. Go on, you’ll feel better instantly. Laughter activates your body’s stress response, then quickly cools it down, leaving you feeling relaxed. Take time out to watch a funny video clip, dig out your favourite comedy or ring up that friend who always makes you laugh. Laughter really is the best medicine!

2. Eat healthier

The foods that we eat (and don’t eat) have a huge influence on our health. When it comes to our sleep patterns, food influences our circadian rhythm, the 24-hour cycle that our body follows each day. So it’s important to watch what we put into our body.

You can easily sleep better by making a few changes to your diet:

  • Eat peanuts. If you have difficulty falling asleep, eat more peanuts or natural peanut butter. A rich source of niacin, peanuts help to increase the release of serotonin (which makes us sleepy).
  • Eat cherries. Cherries are one of the few natural foods to contain melatonin (which controls our body clock). One study found that drinking tart cherry juice resulted in improved sleep quality and duration.
  • Try dark chocolate. Dark chocolate helps to relax your body and mind. Make sure you stick to dark chocolate as milk chocolate contains tyrosine which converts into dopamine and acts as a stimulant.
  • Avoid alcohol. Any kind of alcohol is bad for your sleep. One study found that mixing a single glass of vodka with caffeine-free soda at bedtime increased the amount of time women spent awake during the night by 15 minutes.

3. Avoid caffeine

Sure, caffeine can give you a bit of a boost in the short term, but you could drink over eight cups and still feel sluggish.

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And the side effects of caffeine consumption? Headaches, irritability and dehydration. When you’re already feeling drained and crappy, the last thing you want is to feel worse! Here are some surprising ways caffeine is slowly harming your health.

Instead, try drinking plenty of water throughout the day. Your brain will feel alert and energised naturally rather than relying on a stimulant like coffee. Also consume energy-boosting foods, like almonds, oranges, salmon, spinach, or blueberries.

4. Get some sun

Just fifteen minutes in the sun increases your vitamin D levels, which, along with vitamin B is responsible for fighting fatigue. A common symptom of vitamin D deficiency is feeling tired, moody, achey and stressed. Get outside in the sunshine!

5. Work out

Too much time spent sedentary drains your fuel tank.

I know, I know—when you’re feeling tired, the last thing you want to do is be active and move about. But you’ll be amazed at how better exercises makes you feel.

According to a recent study in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, women who get 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week report less fatigue and more energy that those who don’t.

On the flip side, you can have too much of a good thing. Excessive physical activity can leave you pushing your body, resulting in feelings of tiredness.

Try to find the balance between activity and rest.

If you’re wondering when is the best time to exercise, check out this article: Which Is Better: Morning Workout Or Evening Workout?

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6. Have a power nap

There are numerous benefits of napping, including improved alertness, learning, memory and performance.

The benefits of a quick power-nap at work have proved to be so good that companies such as Google and The Huffington Post have installed designated sleeping zones in their offices!

However, author of Take a Nap! Change your Life says that napping for more than 20 minutes will make you feel even worse. Make sure you set your alarm!

Check out this article if you want to maximize the effect of a nap: How a 20-Minute Nap at Work Makes You Awake and Productive the Whole Day

7. Switch off

Eight out of ten of us keep our mobile phones turned on overnight. According to Ofcom, around half the population use their phones as an alarm clock too.

Experts are concerned that using phones and other electronics before bed cause problems with our sleep. Research has shown that the bright light emitted from electronics and smartphones seriously mess with our sleep behaviors.

Their advice is to cut back on TV, computer and mobile phone time after 8 p.m. It’s better to read a book or just listen to some relaxing music before you go to sleep.

Summing it up

If you find stress is influencing your quality of life on a consistent basis, it is definitely time to rethink your habits. Be aware of how you react to stressors and create habits that change your negative perspectives and physically banishes stress in your body.

Exercising, switching off, and being more mindful of what you eat creates more energy and counteracts your stress mechanisms.

Decide to make changes today and give yourself the best support you can to improve your wellbeing and stop feeling tired all the time.

Featured photo credit: Cris Saur via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Published on November 14, 2018

Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

With our busy, always on lives, it seems that more and more of us are facing constant tiredness and fatigue on a regular basis.

For many people, they just take this in their stride as part of modern life, but for others the impact can be crippling and can have a serious effect on their sense of wellbeing, health and productivity.

In this article, I’ll share some of the most common causes of constant tiredness and fatigue and give you some guidance and action steps you can take to overcome some of the symptoms of fatigue.

Why Am I Feeling Fatigued?

Fatigue is extreme tiredness resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness.  It is a reduction in the efficiency of a muscle or organ after prolonged activity.[1]

It can affect anyone, and most adults will experience fatigue at some point in their life. 

For many people, fatigue is caused by a combination of lifestyle, social, psychological and general wellbeing issues rather than an underlying medical condition.

Although fatigue is sometimes described as tiredness, it is different to just feeling tired or sleepy. Everyone feels tired at some point, but this is usually resolved with a nap or a few nights of good sleep. Someone who is sleepy may also feel temporarily refreshed after exercising. If you are getting enough sleep, good nutrition and exercising regularly but still find it hard to perform, concentrate or be motivated at your normal levels, you may be experiencing a level of fatigue that needs further investigation. 

Symptoms of Fatigue

Fatigue can cause a vast range of physical, mental and emotional symptoms including:

  • chronic tiredness, exhaustion or sleepiness
  • mental blocks
  • lack of motivation
  • headache
  • dizziness
  • muscle weakness
  • slowed reflexes and responses
  • impaired decision-making and judgement
  • moodiness, such as irritability
  • impaired hand-to-eye coordination
  • reduced immune system function
  • blurry vision
  • short-term memory problems
  • poor concentration
  • reduced ability to pay attention to the situation at hand

Causes of Fatigue

The wide range of causes that can trigger fatigue include:

  • Medical causes: Constant exhaustion, tiredness and fatigue may be a sign of an underlying illness, such as a thyroid disorder, heart disease, anemia or diabetes.
  • Lifestyle-related causes: Being overweight and a lack of regular exercise can lead to feelings of fatigue.  Lack of sleep and overcommitting can also create feelings of excessive tiredness and fatigue.
  • Workplace-related causes: Workplace and financial stress in a variety of forms can lead to feelings of fatigue.
  • Emotional concerns and stress: Fatigue is a common symptom of mental health problems, such as depression and grief, and may be accompanied by other signs and symptoms, including irritability and lack of motivation.

Fatigue can also be caused by a number of factors working in combination.

Medical Causes of Fatigue

If you have made lifestyle changes to increase your energy and still feel exhausted and fatigued, it may be time to seek guidance from your doctor.

Here are a few examples of illnesses that can cause ongoing fatigue. Seek medical advice if you suspect you have a health problem:

Anemia

Anemia is a condition in which you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to the body’s tissues. It is a common cause of fatigue in women.

Having anemia may make you feel tired and weak.

There are many forms of anemia, each with its own cause. Anemia can be temporary or long term, and it can range from mild to severe.[2]

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a condition that can cause persistent, unexplained fatigue that interferes with daily activities for more than six months.

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This is a chronic condition with no one-size-fits-all treatment, but lifestyle changes can often help ease some symptoms of fatigue.[3]

Diabetes

Diabetes can cause fatigue with either high or low blood sugars. When your sugars are high, they remain in the bloodstream instead of being used for energy, which makes you feel fatigued. Low blood sugar (glucose) means you may not have enough fuel for energy, also causing fatigue.[4]

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder where sufferers briefly stop breathing for short periods during sleep. Most people are not aware this is happening, but it can cause loud snoring, and daytime fatigue.

Being overweight, smoking, and drinking alcohol can all worsen the symptoms of sleep apnea.[5]

Thyroid disease

An underactive thyroid gland means you have too little thyroid hormone (thyroxine) in your body. This makes you feel tired and you could also put on weight and have aching muscles and dry skin.[6]

Common lifestyle factors that can cause fatigue include:

  • Lack of sleep
  • Too much sleep 
  • Alcohol and drugs 
  • Sleep disturbances 
  • Lack of regular exercise and sedentary behaviour 
  • Poor diet 

Common workplace issues that can cause fatigue include:

  • Shift work: Our body is designed to sleep during the night. A shift worker may confuse their circadian clock by working when their body is programmed to be asleep.
  • Poor workplace practices: This may include long work hours, hard physical labour, irregular working hours (such as rotating shifts), a stressful work environment, boredom or working alone. 
  • Workplace stress – This can be caused by a wide range of factors including job dissatisfaction, heavy workload, conflicts with bosses or colleagues, bullying, or threats to job security.
  • Burnout: This could be striving too hard on one area of your life while neglecting others, which leads to a life that feels out of balance.

Psychological Causes of Fatigue

Psychological factors are present in many cases of extreme tiredness and fatigue.  These may include:

  • Depression: Depression is characterised by severe and prolonged feelings of sadness, dejection and hopelessness. People who are depressed commonly experience chronic fatigue.
  • Anxiety and stress: Someone who is constantly anxious or stressed keeps their body in overdrive. The constant flooding of adrenaline exhausts the body, and fatigue sets in.
  • Grief: Losing a loved one causes a wide range of emotions including shock, guilt, depression, despair and loneliness.

How to Tackle Constant Fatigue

Here are 12 ways you can start tackling the causes of fatigue and start feeling more energetic.

1. Tell The Truth

Some people can numb themselves to the fact that they are overtired or fatigued all the time. In the long run, this won’t help you.

To give you the best chance to overcome or eliminate fatigue, you must diagnose and tell the truth about the things that are draining your energy, making you tired or causing constant fatigue.

Once you’re honest with yourself about the activities you’re doing in your life that you find irritating, energy-draining, and make you tired on a regular basis you can make a commitment to stop doing them.

The help that you need to overcome fatigue is available to you, but not until you tell the truth about it. The first person you have to sell on getting rid of the causes of fatigue is yourself.

One starting point is to diagnose the symptoms. When you start feeling stressed, overtired or just not operating at your normal energy levels make a note of:

  • How you feel
  • What time of day it is
  • What may have contributed to your fatigue
  • How your mind and body reacts

This analysis may help you identify, understand and then eliminate very specific causes.

2. Reduce Your Commitments

When we have too many things on our plate personally and professionally, we can feel overstretched, causing physical and mental fatigue.

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If you have committed to things you really don’t want to do, this causes irritability and low emotional engagement. Stack these up throughout your day and week, then your stress levels will rise.

When these commitments have deadlines associated with them, you may be trying to cram in far too much in a short period of time.  This creates more stress and can affect your decision making ability.

Start being realistic about how much you can get done. Either reduce the commitments you have or give yourself more time to complete them in.

3. Get Clear On Your Priorities

If working on your list of to-do’s or goals becomes too overwhelming, start reducing and prioritizing the things that matter most.

Start with prioritizing just 3 things every day. When you complete those 3 things, you’ll get a rush of energy and your confidence will grow.

If you’re trying to juggle too many things and are multi-tasking, your energy levels will drop and you’ll struggle to maintain focus.

Unfinished projects can make you self-critical and feel guilty which drops energy levels further, creating inaction.

Make a list of your 3 MIT (Most Important Tasks) for the next day before you go to bed. This will stop you overcommitting and get you excited about what the next day can bring.

4. Express More Gratitude

Gratitude and confidence are heavily linked. Just being thankful for what you have and what you’ve achieved increases confidence and makes you feel more optimistic.

It can help you improve your sense of wellbeing, which can bring on feelings of joy and enthusiasm.

Try starting a gratitude journal or just note down 3 things you’re grateful for every day.

5. Focus On Yourself

Exhaustion and fatigue can arrive by focusing solely on other people’s needs all the time, rather than worrying about and focusing on what you need (and want).

There are work commitments, family commitments, social commitments. You may start with the best intentions, to put in your best performance at work, to be an amazing parent and friend, to simply help others.

But sometimes, we extend ourselves too much and go beyond our personal limits to help others. That’s when constant exhaustion can creep up on us.  Which can make us more fatigued.

We all want to help and do our best for others, but there needs to be some balance. We also need to take some time out just for ourselves to recharge and rejuvenate.

6. Set Aside Rest and Recovery Time

Whether it’s a couple of hours, a day off, a mini-break or a proper holiday, time off is essential to help us recover, recharge and refocus.

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Recovery time helps fend off mental fatigue and allows us to simply kick back and relax.

The key here, though, is to remove ourselves from the daily challenges that bring on tiredness and fatigue. Here’s how.

Can you free yourself up completely from work and personal obligations to just rest and recover?

7. Take a Power Nap

When you’re feeling tired or fatigued and you have the ability to take a quick 20-minute nap, it could make a big difference to your performance for the rest of the day.

Napping can improve learning, memory and boost your energy levels quickly.

This article on the benefit of napping is a useful place to start if you want to learn more: How a 20-Minute Nap at Work Makes You Awake and Productive the Whole Day

8. Take More Exercise

The simple act of introducing some form of physical activity into your day can make a huge difference. It can boost energy levels, make you feel much better about yourself and can help you avoid fatigue.

Find something that fits into your life, be that walking, going to the gym, running or swimming. 

The key is to ensure the exercise is regular and that you are emotionally engaged and committed to stick with it.

You could also walk more which will help clear your head and shift your focus away from stressful thoughts.

9. Get More Quality Sleep

To avoid tiredness, exhaustion and fatigue, getting enough quality sleep matters. 

Your body needs sleep to recharge.  Getting the right amount of sleep every night can improve your health, reduce stress levels and help us improve our memory and learning skills.

My previous article on The Benefits of Sleep You Need to Know will give you some action steps to start improving your sleep. 

10. Improve Your Diet

Heavy or fatty meals can make you feel sluggish and tired, whilst some foods or eating strategies do just the opposite.

Our always on lives have us reaching for sweets or other sugary snacks to give us a burst of energy to keep going. Unfortunately, that boost fades quickly which can leave you feeling depleted and wanting more.

On the other hand, whole grains and healthy unsaturated fats supply the reserves you can draw on throughout the day.

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To keep energy up and steady, it’s a good idea to limit refined sugar and starches.

Eating small meals and healthy snacks every few hours throughout the day provides a steady supply of nutrients to body and brain. It’s also important not to skip breakfast.

Eating a balanced diet helps keep your blood sugar in a normal range and prevents that sluggish feeling when your blood sugar drops.

11. Manage Your Stress Levels

Stress is one of the leading causes of exhaustion and fatigue, and can seriously affect your health.

When you have increased levels of stress at work and at home, it’s easy to feel exhausted all the time. 

Identifying the causes of stress and then tackling the problems should be a priority. 

My article on How to Help Anxiety When Life is Stressing You Out shares 16 strategies you can use to overcome stress.

12. Get Hydrated

Sometimes we can be so busy that we forget to keep ourselves fully hydrated.

Water makes up about 60 percent of your body weight and is essential in maintaining our body’s basic functions.

If we don’t have enough water, it can adversely affect our mental and physical performance, which leads to tiredness and fatigue.

The recommended daily amount is around two litres a day, so to stay well hydrated keep a water bottle with you as much as possible.

The Bottom Line

These 12 tips can help you reduce your tiredness and feeling of fatigue.  Some will work better than others as we are all different, whilst others can be incorporated together in your daily life.

If you’ve tried to make positive changes to reduce fatigue and you still feel tired and exhausted, it may be time to consider making an appointment with your doctor to discuss your condition.

Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

Reference

[1]Oxford English Dictionary: Definition of fatigue
[2]NHS Choices: 10 Reasons for feeling tired
[3]Verywellhealth: What is chronic fatigue syndrome
[4]Everyday Health: Why does type 2 diabetes make you feel tired
[5]Mayo Clinic: Sleep apnea
[6]Harvard Health: The lowdown on thyroid slowdown

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