It’s the middle of the day, and you already feel wiped out. If you’re setting three or four alarms at different intervals just so you can drag yourself out of bed and go to work, you should know that you are not alone. Feeling tired on a regular basis is more common than you’d think, and it can be caused by a multitude of factors.
A lot of the time, you just have to make some lifestyle changes, but if you feel constantly exhausted, even when you’ve had enough sleep and you find it extremely difficult to get through routine tasks, then you should consult your doctor. They can perform a physical exam, analyze your medical history, and run some tests to see if your low energy isn’t a symptom of a more serious underlying condition.
Do You Get Enough Sleep?
This might be an obvious question and maybe even a little irritating, but the three pillars of good health are sleep diet and exercise. You wouldn’t believe how many people go through life burning the candle at both ends, regularly staying up late because they’re don’t have enough time to meet all their obligations. It’s very much a vicious circle: you sacrifice your sleep to be more productive, and the cumulated lack of sleep makes you work slower, and therefore you need more time to get things done, so you need to sacrifice even more sleep.
Most adults need somewhere between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night to function optimally. Perhaps you’ve convinced yourself that you only need five or maximum six, but that’s actually very rare, and you’re most likely accumulating sleep debt. You may think that if you just sleep longer on the weekends, you’ll be able to catch up, but that’s not how it works. Sleep debt refers to the psychological and physiological damage a lack of sleep causes. When you’re “paying back” sleep debt, it’s not just the number of hours. It requires a prolonged period of healthy sleep patterns so the body can heal itself and reach homeostasis.
Sleep Apnea and Other Sleep Disorders
If you’re getting enough hours of sleep, but you still feel tired, you might have a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a condition that causes you to stop breathing for 10 to 20 seconds several times per hour. This pulls you out of the deep sleep phase and results in poor sleep quality. You can tell you have sleep apnea if you snore loudly, your partner tells you that you stop breathing in your sleep, and you wake up with a dry mouth and sometimes headaches.
Left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to high blood pressure and can increase your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. The best course of action is to get a referral to a sleep specialist who will monitor your sleep and determine if sleep apnea or another sleep disorder is the cause of your fatigue. Treatment involves using a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine or an oral device that can keep your airways open while you’re asleep.
Our modern lives come with endless sources of stress: demanding jobs, relationship issues, major life events like moving to a new city, high academic demands, unemployment, etc. Stress for short periods can be motivating, help us think more quickly, and come up with creative solutions. Prolonged stress, on the other hand, can cause physical and emotional exhaustion and weaken the immune system.
The chemicals released by our bodies when the fight-or-flight reaction is triggered, such as cortisol and adrenaline, are beneficial only in immediate situations. If the cause of our stress is not resolved quickly, they can be very damaging to your overall health.
Since avoiding your problems leads to higher levels of anxiety and stress, your best option is to increase your resilience and learn better-coping techniques. This can be achieved through various forms of psychotherapy, physical exercise, meditation, deep breathing, or hobbies that help you relax and regain your calm.
With the growing interest in CBD based products, researchers have discovered that this cannabinoid can increase tolerance to stress, reduce blood pressure and anxiety, and, in small doses, it seems to enhance alertness. You might want to look it up and see if it can help you.
Another common cause of feeling tired all the time is iron deficiency anemia. Women with heavy periods and pregnant women are especially prone to developing this type of anemia. It can, however, also result from gastrointestinal issues that limit nutrient absorption, or from taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) frequently.
As the name suggests, iron deficiency anemia means you have insufficient iron. When your body doesn’t have enough iron, it can’t produce enough hemoglobin – a protein in red blood cells that serves to carry oxygen from the lungs to where it’s needed. Common symptoms are feeling tired, feeling weak, paleness, shortness of breath and increased heart rate, headaches, and feeling lightheaded or dizzy, poor appetite, or unusual cravings like wanting to eat ice or dirt.
Usually, you’ll only need an iron supplement. Still, you should see a doctor who will do a blood test to determine if you really do have an iron deficiency as too much iron can also cause tiredness and health problems. Your doctor will also be able to determine if your iron deficiency comes from poor dietary habits or from another medical condition that requires treatment.
The biochemical reactions that take place in your body daily consume water that needs to be replaced. Without adequate hydration, you will notice a significant decrease in your energy levels. Dehydration occurs when you don’t drink enough water to make up for what your body uses and what you lose when breathing, sweating, urinating, etc. Common symptoms of mild to moderate dehydration are thirst, dry or sticky mouth, fatigue, dark yellow urine, headaches, dizziness, and muscle cramps.
You’ve probably heard that you need to drink eight glasses per day, but the amount of water you need will actually depend on your weight, age, gender, diet, and level of activity. Try to avoid hydrating with sugary drinks because they’re not as efficient as water. Some will have a diuretic effect, and others can cause other health problems in the long run.