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Why Am I Always Feeling Tired?

Why Am I Always Feeling Tired?

Physical vitality and mental alertness are critical to our overall well-being and performance. However, if you’ve ever found yourself in a mid-afternoon slump, reaching for your fourth cup of coffee and wondering, “why am I so tired,” you’re not alone. Tiredness and exhaustion is becoming increasingly common among American adults. But why do you feel so tired all the time? While lack of sleep is an obvious answer, and getting a good night’s sleep is important for restoring energy, sleep deprivation is only one of the many causes of frequent tiredness.

According to a recent study by YouGov, the majority of Americans are tired most of the week, despite the amount of sleep they get. The study found that only 20 percent of Americans who got the recommended 7–8 hours of sleep a week reported never feeling tired; 45 percent said they were tired between 1 and 3 days a week and 27 percent said they were tired more than four days a week. Below, we’ve outlined the most common reasons for feeling constantly tired, along with tips to stop feeling so tired all the time.

Medical Causes of Tiredness

Medical causes of tiredness Often, the underlying cause of always feeling tired is medical. There are a number of medical conditions that present as fatigue, among other things. If you find yourself feeling constantly tired for a persistent period of time with no relief, it may be caused by one of the following conditions.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Chronic fatigue syndrome is a medical condition characterized by extreme, long-term fatigue and sleep abnormalities that disrupt a person’s ability to carry out everyday activities. The main symptom of chronic fatigue symptom is a feeling of exhaustion that doesn’t go away, even with rest, and persists for six months or more. Symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome include:
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory loss
  • Sore throat
  • Headaches
  • Sleep problems
  • Extreme exhaustion following exertion
  • Inability to get rid of fatigue, even with rest
  • Feeling unwell for more than 24 hours after physical or mental activity
  • Muscle pain

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by one or more pauses in breathing while sleeping. These pauses can last between a few seconds to a few minutes, which often causes the sufferer to wake up gasping for air, interrupting their sleep. According the National Sleep Foundation, more than 18 million American adults suffer from sleep apnea. Symptoms of sleep apnea include:
  • Loud, persistent snoring
  • Pauses in breathing during sleep
  • Choking or gasping for air upon waking up
  • Restless sleep
  • Inability to stay asleep
  • Early morning headaches
  • Excessive daytime fatigue and sleepiness

Restless Leg Syndrome

Restless leg syndrome is a neurologic sensorimotor disorder that presents with an irresistible urge to shake or move the legs when at rest. This urge is typically accompanied by uncomfortable, unpleasant sensations in the legs, which are often described as “crawling” or “itching” sensations. The urge to shake or move the leg to relieve these symptoms interferes with the ability to fall asleep. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, an estimated 7–10 percent of the U.S. population suffers from restless leg syndrome. Symptoms of restless leg syndrome include:
  • Uncomfortable sensations in the legs when at rest
  • A strong, irresistible urge to move legs
  • Relief of symptoms by movement, such as shaking the legs, stretching or walking
  • Worsening symptoms in the evening
  • Nighttime leg twitching

Insomnia

Insomnia is a common sleep disorder characterized by difficulty sleeping, including the inability to fall asleep, the inability to stay asleep, the inability to go back to sleep or waking too early. According to the Sleep Management Institute, insomnia affects an estimated 30–50 percent of the general population; about 10 percent suffers from chronic insomnia. Symptoms of insomnia include:
  • Difficulty falling asleep at night
  • Waking up during the night
  • The inability to fall back asleep once you’ve reawakened
  • Waking up too early
  • Not feeling well-rested after sleep
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Difficulty focusing, concentration
  • Decreased productivity
  • Irritability

Anemia

Anemia is an iron deficiency that occurs when a person has a deficiency of red blood cells. Red blood cells play a vital role in transporting oxygen to the organs and other tissue; the lack of red blood cells means you have less cells to transport oxygen, resulting in fatigue. Why am I always tired anemia Symptoms of anemia include:
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of energy
  • Weakness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Insomnia

Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is the condition that occurs when a person’s thyroid gland is underactive, meaning it can’t make enough of the thyroid hormone to keep the body running normally. This causes the body’s processes to start slowly shutting down, which in turn causes excessive tiredness. Symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
  • Fatigue
  • Dry skin
  • Muscle weakness
  • Muscle aches
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Depression
  • Forgetfulness

Weight Problems

Weight is another factor in feeling tired all the time. Extreme fatigue can present to people who are underweight as well as those who are overweight; in both cases the body has to exert itself more to do routine activities, which leads to fatigue. Additionally, people who are overweight are at a higher risk for insomnia and sleep apnea. Common signs of being overweight include:
  • High body mass index
  • Unhealthy body fat distribution
Common signs of being underweight include:
  • Hair loss
  • Weak immune system
  • Dizziness or fatigue
  • Poor growth or development

Diabetes

Lethargy and fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of uncontrolled diabetes. Tiredness can present when a person has both high blood sugar and low blood sugar. High blood sugar slows down circulation, stopping the cells from getting the oxygen and nutrients they need. Low blood sugar, also known as hypoglycemia, also presents with symptoms of fatigue. Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes include:
  • Increased thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Increased hunger
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue

Medication

If you find yourself constantly feeling tired but don’t have any of the symptoms of the above conditions, it’s possible that you’re taking a medication for another illness and that medication is making you tired. Medications that present with fatigue or drowsiness include:
  • Antidepressants
  • Antihypertensives
  • Steroids
  • Antihistamines
  • Sedatives
  • Anti-anxiety drugs

Psychological Causes of Tiredness

Psychological Causes Of Tiredness In addition to physical conditions that cause tiredness, there are several psychological disorders that can present with feelings of constant tiredness and fatigue.

Anxiety

Generalized anxiety disorder, which is characterized by excessive, persistent worry, can cause the feelings of tiredness and fatigue. Prolonged anxiety can cause emotional stress, which takes a toll on energy levels. Additionally, the agitation and restlessness that comes with anxiety can keep you awake at night, leading to excessive daytime fatigue. Sufferers of anxiety often experience insomnia as well, which leads to sleep deprivation and exhaustion. Symptoms of anxiety include:
  • Nervousness and restlessness
  • Sensing impending panic or doom
  • Increased heart rate
  • Rapid breathing
  • Sweating
  • Fatigue
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Difficulty controlling worry

Depression

Depression, a mental health disorder that presents with a depressed mood and lack of interest in activities, is a common cause of fatigue. Depression is emotionally and mentally exhausting; the disorder often presents with feelings of guilt, sadness and hopelessness. Sleep problems are associated with severe depressive illnesses, and people who are depressed often experience sleep disorders. Symptoms of depression include:
  • Persistent feelings of sadness and anxiousness
  • Feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Decreased energy
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Low appetite
  • Oversleeping
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability

Lifestyle Causes of Tiredness

Lifestyle causes of tiredness Not all causes of excessive tiredness are physical or psychological. There are several factors in everyday life that can lead to fatigue and exhaustion; these are lifestyle causes of tiredness and are often easily treated with lifestyle changes.

Alcohol Use

Alcohol interferes with the REM sleep cycle, which is the deepest and most restorative cycle of sleep, leading to a less restful sleep. Additionally, alcohol raises the body’s level of epinephrine, a stress hormone that increases the heart rate, which can interfere with sleep. Drinking too much can also lead to lethargy and lack of energy the following day.

Lack of a Sleep Routine

Developing a proper sleep schedule, which means waking up and going to sleep around the same time each day, is an important factor in fighting tiredness. A common misconception is that sleeping longer on the weekends will balance out the sleep deprivation experienced during the week. In reality, lack of a consistent sleep schedule interferes with the sleep-wake cycle and our internal biological clock, which leads to persistent tiredness.

Poor Diet

A poor diet can significantly affect energy levels; a bad diet can lead to a hormonal imbalance, depression, disrupted sleep cycles and more. Unhealthy foods, like processed foods and added sugars can cause a blood sugar imbalance, which leads to tiredness. Additionally, diets that are too low in essential, energy-boosting nutrients, like iron and omega-3 fats, can also cause fatigue. why am i always tired lifestyle

Lack of Exercise

It may seem counterintuitive, but lack of a regular exercise routine can actually further fatigue, while exercising can actually boost energy and combat tiredness. Additionally, lack of exercise is linked to medical causes that may eventually cause tiredness, such as weight gain. Developing an exercise routine is especially important for people who have a sedentary lifestyle, such as office workers.

Overwork

Working excessively long hours can often lead to feelings of tiredness and exhaustion. Long hours increase stress levels, and overworked employees often experience feelings of anxiety and psychological or emotional exhaustion, which can lead to persistent tiredness. Overworked employees are also more likely to engage in bad eating habit and excessive intakes of caffeine, which are both linked to tiredness.

Sleep Deprivation

Of course, one of the most obvious reasons for feeling tired all the time is simple: you’re just not getting enough sleep. In fact, most Americans aren’t. According to the CDC, more than a third of Americans aren’t getting enough sleep on a regular basis. Symptoms of sleep deprivation include:
  • Weight gain
  • Irritability
  • Trouble focusing
  • Forgetfulness
  • Lowered productivity
  • Trouble making decisions
  • Impulsiveness
  • Impaired motor skills
  • Weakened immune system
  • Skin breakouts
  • Daytime fatigue or drowsiness
  • Falling asleep almost immediately at night

How to Stop Feeling Tired All the Time

In order to stop feeling tired all the time, you should first assess the quality of sleep that you’re getting, and examine your life to see if any of the medical and lifestyle reasons of tiredness apply to you. Easy tips to boost energy and overcome tiredness include:
  • Eat regular meals
  • Follow a well-balanced diet
  • Avoid junk food
  • Drink water regularly
  • Cut down on caffeine and alcohol
  • Exercise regularly
  • Follow a consistent sleep routine
  • Cut out distractions in the bedroom, such as noise and light
  • Reduce stress and anxiety
  • See a doctor if you think there are medical reasons causing tiredness

It’s easy to blame feeling tired all the time on a busy lifestyle. While sleep deprivation and overwork are two common causes of tiredness, constantly feeling fatigued is also a symptom of a number of other medical, psychological and lifestyle causes. If you often find yourself wondering, “why am I so tired,” it might be time to look for an underlying cause.

Sources

YouGov | Mayo Clinic 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 | Medicine Plus | Sleep Apnea | National Sleep Foundation | National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke 1, 2, 3 | Sleep Management Institute |  American Thyroid Association | Very Well | Diabetes Self-Management | Medical News TodayCDC | Anxiety and Depression Association of America | Harvard Health Publishing | Dr. Axe

Updated: 09/13/2019

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