Why Am I So Tired? 9 Things You Can Do to Get More Energy
Always tired? 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 utilize caffeine on a daily basis, earning the substance its status as American adults’ most popular drug of choice.
The Problem with Caffeine
Unfortunately, all that caffeine (and, often, sugar) in the quest for greater energy may be doing more harm than good.
There’s some evidence that high levels of caffeine disrupts your circadian rhythms, which are normally responsible for regulating healthy sleep-wake cycles. Additionally, human bodies are highly susceptible to caffeine addiction—and once that happens, they’re also highly susceptible to caffeine withdrawal, which is characterized in part by decreased energy. A caffeine-addicted person who abstains from caffeine for just a single day may be vulnerable to this effect.
This leads to a vicious cycle. Consuming caffeine may provoke exhaustion in a number of ways, which then motivates you to reach for more caffeine—and so the cycle continues. Add in the fact that many coffee drinks are packed with sugar (which will ultimately provoke an energy crash), and you’ve got a recipe for exhaustion.
(Teaser alert: One possible solution is mushroom coffee. There’s evidence this combination may counteract some of the negative effects of caffeine, leading to more stable energy levels. Plus, the combination of coffee and mushrooms means significantly less caffeine per serving, no sugar, and the same jolt you need.)
Perhaps the biggest issue with chronic reliance on energy drinks and sugar-packed frappuccinos is that they’re little more than a band-aid. They do nothing to address the root cause of fatigue; instead, they simply cover it up for a few hours before the inevitable crash.
So what’s a sleepy person to do?
If you’re already getting the recommended amount of sleep every night and you’re still feeling TATT, it’s reasonable to think the only option available to you is a raging Red Bull addiction. Let’s take a look at why you might feel fatigued on a regular basis, and what to do for naturally sustained energy.
6 Reasons Why You Might Be So Tired (Even When You Get Enough Sleep)
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.
You’re getting poor quality sleep.
Even if you spend 11 hours in bed every night (in which case, count yourself lucky!), you’re not going to feel well rested if all that sleep is fitful or disrupted. The key determinants of 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; and
- Being awake for 20 minutes or less after initially falling asleep.
This can be caused by external factors (like having too much light in your room, sleeping with the TV on or other technology), using substances -- whether caffeine or alcohol -- before bed, inconsistent sleep times, and more.That’s why research suggests poor sleep quality can provoke daytime sleepiness and fatigue.
You’re stressed out.
Feeling stressed doesn’t just make you anxious and 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.
You’re not eating a healthy 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, and/or processed foods can further deplete your energy.
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 H20.
You’re mostly sedentary.
There’s evidence that a sedentary lifestyle can zap energy and contribute to feelings of fatigue. (The linked study focused exclusively on women.) While it’s natural to think lounging about all the time would conserve energy, research suggests it may actually drain you.
You have an undiagnosed medical condition.
Most of the time, fatigue results from lifestyle factors. But in some cases, one of a variety of medical conditions may be the culprit. These include anemia, diabetes, hypothyroidism, hepatitis C, sleep apnea, chronic fatigue syndrome, urinary tract infections, food sensitivities, heart disease, depression, anxiety disorders, and nasal congestion. Additionally, some medications (both prescription and over-the-counter) may provoke fatigue.
How to Get More Energy: 9 Natural Ways
Regardless of the source of your tiredness, several natural strategies may help you enjoy more stable, sustained energy. Here are nine of them.
Improve your sleep quality.
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 weekends.)
- 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. (More on that below.)
- 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 those out below.)
Take steps to reduce stress.
Stress and anxiety are common sources of fatigue, which means taming your stress may be one way to feel less tired all the time.
Research suggests practicing yoga or mindfulness meditation on a regular basis may alleviate symptoms of stress, depression, and anxiety. Studies also suggest that the simple act of breathing deeply may help mitigate mental and physiological stress responses.
Eat nutritious foods throughout the day, every day.
A healthy, well-balanced diet is essential for maintaining sustained energy levels. To that end, embrace the following guidelines:
- In keeping with the idea that a diet high in processed foods may contribute to fatigue, embrace whole foods over processed foods whenever possible.
- Consume a diet that’s primarily comprised of organic plants (i.e. fruits and vegetables).
- Enjoy high-fiber, complex carbs.
- Consuming a diet rich in vitamins B12 and D, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids. Food sources of vitamin B12 include animal products such as meat, eggs, and dairy; food sources of vitamin D include fatty fish (e.g. tuna and mackerel), beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks; food sources of iron include lean meat, seafood, nuts, and beans; and food sources of omega-3 fatty acids include flaxseed oil, walnuts, chia seeds, sardines, mackerel, and herring.
Give mushrooms a try.
Speaking of nutritious foods: When it comes to fighting fatigue, you may want to add functional mushrooms to your arsenal. That’s because mushrooms may help combat tiredness in a number of ways:
- Reishi mushroom may facilitate falling asleep at night and improve sleep quality once you’ve dozed off. As we all know by now, obtaining high-quality sleep may reduce daytime sleepiness.
- During the waking hours, cordyceps may support energy levels. That’s largely because it helps increase levels of ATP (the body’s main energy supply source).
- Across the board, functional mushrooms are packed with nutrients, including iron and vitamins B and D. As noted above, these vitamins and minerals are key to fighting fatigue.
- In general, functional mushrooms have also been shown to support stress reduction.
To learn more about the many benefits of mushrooms (fatigue-related and otherwise), check out Healing Mushrooms.
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.
Not surprisingly, good ’ol H20 is one of the most hydrating beverages around. Alcohol, on the other hand, has a dehydrating (read: fatigue-inducing) effect.
Move multiple times a week.
When you’re feeling tired, you probably just want to lie around on the couch and maybe binge some Netflix. But overwhelmingly consistent research suggests you’re probably better off getting some exercise.
That’s because 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 positive mood, thereby targeting another common cause of tiredness. Even a 10-minute walk may yield a moderate energy boost.
Go outside every day.
Studies find that spending time in nature is associated with increased energy and an enhanced sense of vitality (as well as greater wellbeing 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.
Socialize on the regular.
Research suggests that people who cultivate a healthy social network—and spend time with the people in it—tend to sleep better, enjoy greater psychological wellbeing, and engage in more physical activity than people who don’t have a social support system. Each of those factors, in turn, can reduce the risk of experiencing fatigue.
Head to the doctor for a physical.
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. Disappointing as that might be, the good news is there are plenty of natural ways to cultivate more stable, sustained energy levels over time.