7 Reasons You Feel Tired All the Time, Say Experts
When my left eye recently started twitching, I did what we all do when a strange new ailment strikes — I hit the Internet. A Google search gave me a quick answer; the reason for my randomly spasming eye was apparently due to stress and lack of sleep, which sounded right on both accounts. I just feel tired all the time.
This summer, I started a dog walking job that transformed me into an early riser, an initially difficult adjustment for my night owl traits. But despite settling into a new routine, and managing 7 to 8 hours of sleep, I was clearly still tired — at least according to my eye.
Fatigue after a late night is a given. But if you feel tired all the time and you’re unsure why, the reason for it might be less obvious.
1. You have too many work and life stressors.
According to Dr. Jyoti Matta, a sleep specialist and pulmonologist from Jersey City Medical Center, it’s all connected.
“When a person’s tired, it can lead them to eat more processed, high-salt, high-fat, and high-calorie foods,” says Dr. Matta. “These food choices lead to sleep difficulties, which then compound the daily life stressors.”
She recommends meal planning as one way to avoid consuming too many processed foods, or poor dietary choices that are easier to make without a plan.
2. There may be an underlying medical issue.
Excessive tiredness can happen for a number of reasons. Sometimes finding the root cause can be a challenge. Licensed dietician and nutritionist Kimberly Gomer says reviewing any potential medical causes is always the first thing she does with a client.
“One possibility is low iron, so I’d review their iron status, ” Gomer says. “Low levels could explain feeling tired — another possible cause is low thyroid issues — a common hallmark of continuous fatigue.” She recommends lab work to further review potentially contributing medical factors.
3. Your blood sugar is low.
If a medical reason is ruled out, there are other causes for low energy.
“One is low blood sugar, which is regulated by the hormone insulin,” explains Gomer. “An estimated 60 to 70 million people however suffer from insulin resistance, a physiological issue that affects our blood sugar, which rises when we eat and drains the body of energy.”
She says the best way to keep it stabilized is with a careful eye and a healthy diet of proteins, vegetables, and mindful snacking.
4. You’re getting sleep, but it’s not quality sleep.
Just as in my case, even when we think we’re getting enough sleep, our bodies may be telling us something else, and we need to listen to them. One of the main reasons for tiredness isn’t lack of sleep but the quality of slumber.
The number one reason individuals have issues is sleep apnea, Gomer explains. A disorder that causes breathing to stop and start while you sleep which can result in still feeling sluggish or low the next day, and it’s prevalent in 18 million Americans — or one in every 15 people.
“In this case, being treated by your doctor, or a sleep specialist to get proper treatment,” she says. “This will include a CPAP machine or dietary intervention to improve healthy habits.”
According to Dr. Matta, disjointed sleep also impacts cardiovascular and hormonal health, causing physical issues like weight gain and emotional ones like brain fog, or poor decision-making.
5. Anxiety is impacting your life.
If feeling exhausted is a common part of your life, something deeper might be at play.
“Constant worry during the day can carry into the night and cause mental hyperarousal, which can keep you from falling asleep,” says Gomer. “Once you do, having an anxiety disorder can prevent you from feeling rested. Stress management is key. Exercising [can help] — even if it’s just a walk — and making sure to employ coping techniques that include meditation and breathwork.”
For better sleep, she suggests practicing sleep hygiene. This includes watching how close you eat to bedtime (at least 2 to 3 hours is optimal), sticking to a sleep schedule, physical activity during the day, and a restful nighttime environment.
6. You’re consuming too much caffeine.
We use caffeine to wake us up throughout the day. But drinking too much of it can also have the opposite effect. Gomer recommends limiting caffeine intake or keeping a close eye on managing it, and ensuring you don’t drink it close to bedtime.
7. You’re not eating a nutritious diet.
Not just what we eat, but when, greatly contributes to our sleeping patterns. Dr. Matta explains that sleep deprivation correlates to the food we eat during the day. She says a clean, healthy diet with more whole foods and less processed ones promotes healthy blood sugar and smoother sleep.
“Some immediate changes that can help,” she says. “One is meal planning, which helps to keep you on track and encourage better choices throughout the day. Another is monitoring your alcohol intake.”
Unlocking the key to why you’re feeling tired might not happen instantly. Changing habits, and developing new techniques to encourage better sleep happens over time. But once contributing factors are addressed, there should be an improvement in feeling more rested, inside and out.
Good food brings people together. So do good emails.