Why Am I So Tired: 5 Ways to Stop Being Sleepy
Asking yourself “Why am I so tired” all the time? You’re not alone.
Exhaustion has become so common that it’s earned its own nickname: TATT, or “tired all the time.” The vast majority of Americans now report feeling tired multiple days a week — even those who get the recommended seven or eight hours of sleep most nights[*].
All of the fatigue helps explain why more and more Americans are turning to energy drinks, sugary coffees, and other uppers in an effort to remain awake and alert during the day. A whopping 90 percent of Americans use caffeine on a daily basis, earning the substance its status as American adults’ most popular drug of choice[*].
How Caffeine Affects Your Energy Levels
I think it’s time we ripped off the bandage of caffeine that hides fatigue.
Yes, caffeine stimulates your central nervous system, making you feel more awake. But this positive side effect isn’t without its downfalls.
Everybody has a different sensitivity to caffeine, but the consistent side effects of too much caffeine include:
- Rapid or abnormal heart rhythm
- Restlessness and shakiness
- Dependency, so you need to take more of it to get the same results[*]
Preliminary research suggests that just a double shot of espresso may disrupt your body clock[*].
And if you stop regular consumption, you may experience caffeine withdrawal. Which is characterized in part by increased drowsiness[*]. Ouch.
Add in the fact that some coffee and energy drinks are loaded with sugar, and you’ve got a recipe for exhaustion. (Hello energy crash.)
Your solution isn’t found at the bottom of that third or fourth cup of coffee.
Side note: I think that one cup of coffee is often a good idea. And that second cup of coffee is sometimes a good idea. But the third cup is never a good idea.
6 Reasons Why You Are So Tired (Even When You Get Enough Sleep)
Note: This is not intended as medical advice and I always recommend that you speak to your healthcare practitioner or doctor if you are suffering from fatigue.
A number of factors can lead to you feeling fatigued on a regular basis — regardless of whether you head to bed at a reasonable hour most nights of the week. Here are six possible culprits behind persistent tiredness.
1. You’re Getting Poor Quality Sleep
The first step is to assess whether you are getting enough quality sleep. Adults should be getting a minimum of seven hours of sleep a night[*]. I personally need 7.5 hours, plus a 15–20 minute mid-day nap.
Do you get at least seven hours of sleep, but don’t feel rested, or wake up frequently? See a doctor to make sure you don’t have a medical condition that could be causing the fatigue. I’ve seen a lot of people in such high stress that even if they sleep seven or more hours, they wake up tired because the quality of sleep is not there.
The key determinants of high-quality sleep are included in a report published in Sleep Health[*]. They include:
- Sleeping more time while in bed (at least 85 percent of the total time)
- Falling asleep in 30 minutes or less
- Waking up no more than once per night
- Being awake for 20 minutes or less after initially falling asleep
A bad sleep can be caused by external factors (like having too much light in your room, sleeping with the TV on, or other technology), drinking caffeine or alcohol before bed, inconsistent sleep times, and more. Research suggests poor sleep quality can provoke daytime sleepiness and fatigue[*].
2. You’re Stressed Out
Feeling stressed doesn’t just make you irritable. It may also contribute to feelings of fatigue[*]. To add insult to injury, stress can also make it harder to get a good night’s sleep, thereby exacerbating tiredness.
3. You’re Not Eating a Balanced Diet
A variety of vitamin and mineral deficiencies may provoke fatigue. These include deficiencies in iron, vitamin B12, omega–3 fatty acids, and vitamin D, all of which can result from eating a low-nutrient diet[*][*][*][*]. Eating a diet high in unhealthy fats, added sugars, or processed foods can further deplete your energy[*]. Again, if you think you have a vitamin deficiency, speak directly to a doctor about your symptoms.
4. You’re Dehydrated
Being thirsty doesn’t just lead to dry mouth. It’s also a common cause of fatigue[*]. Dehydration can arise from a variety of circumstances ranging from sweating profusely to having diarrhea, vomiting, or simply not drinking enough H2O[*].
5. You’re Mostly Sedentary
There’s some evidence that a sedentary lifestyle can zap energy and contribute to feelings of fatigue[*]. While it’s natural to think lounging about all the time would conserve energy, research suggests it may actually drain you.
6. You Have an Undiagnosed Medical Condition
Possible causes of chronic fatigue can include anemia, diabetes, hypothyroidism, hepatitis C, sleep apnea, obstructive sleep apnea, chronic fatigue syndrome, urinary tract infection, food sensitivities, heart disease, depression, anxiety disorder, and nasal congestion[*][*]. Additionally, some medications (both prescription and over-the-counter) may provoke fatigue[*]. To figure out if this is your root cause, find a healthcare practitioner you trust.
4 Natural Ways to Get More Balanced Energy Levels
Regardless of the source of your tiredness, these five natural strategies may help you enjoy more stable, sustained energy.
1. Keep a Consistent Sleep Routine (Even on Weekends)
Achieving high-quality sleep is one of the most important factors when it comes to reducing fatigue. You can significantly increase your chances of getting a good night’s sleep with this simple sleep hygiene checklist:
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. (Yes, even on days off.)
- Create a relaxing bedtime ritual to encourage your mind and body to unwind before you climb into bed.
- Keep your bedroom as dark and quiet as possible, and don’t crank the heat — cooler temperatures may be more conducive to a good night’s sleep.
- Embrace healthy lifestyle habits such as limiting caffeine consumption, exercising regularly, ditching tobacco, and avoiding alcohol before bed.
- Make every effort to reduce the amount of stress you experience on a regular basis.
- Spend time outside every day to maintain a healthy melatonin balance, which is necessary for stimulating your body’s nighttime sleep responses. (Heading outdoors has additional fatigue-fighting effects — check out #3.)
2. Sip Water All Day
Given that dehydration is a common cause of fatigue, it probably won’t come as a surprise that staying hydrated is a simple way to reduce your risk of daytime sleepiness[*]. Try carrying around a reusable water bottle.
Not surprisingly, good ol’ H2O is one of the most hydrating beverages around. Alcohol, on the other hand, has a dehydrating (read: fatigue-inducing) effect.
3. Get Moving Multiple Times a Week
When you’re feeling tired, you probably just want to lie around on the couch and maybe binge your favorite TV show. But overwhelmingly consistent research suggests you’re probably better off getting some exercise[*].
Participating in physical activity on a regular basis is associated with higher levels of energy and reduced fatigue. Getting a move on can also reduce anxiety and promote a positive mood, thereby targeting another common cause of tiredness. Choose something you enjoy. Even a 10-minute walk may yield a moderate energy push[*].
4. Take Six Controlled Deep Breaths Every Work Hour
Studies find that spending time in nature is associated with increased energy and an enhanced sense of vitality (as well as greater well-being overall)[*].
While this energy spike may partly result from the fact that going outside often means engaging in some form of physical activity (even if it’s just a gentle stroll), there’s also evidence that simply existing in natural spaces may have vitalizing effects.
Spending as little as 20 minutes outside every day may be enough to lend some extra energy to your body and emotional state. As an added bonus, being in nature will expose you to natural light and increase your body’s production of vitamin D, which is essential for maintaining healthy energy levels[*]
If you’ve tried all the strategies on this list and nothing seems to be working, it may be time to seek the advice of a medical professional. They’ll be able to assess your diet, lifestyle, and physiological factors to get to the bottom of why you might be feeling so tired all the time.
No matter the cause of your fatigue, the solution won’t be found in energy drinks or fistfuls of chocolate-covered espresso beans.
TL;DR: Press play instead: