10 Reasons Why You're Always Tired
Feeling tired on a regular basis is extremely common. In fact, about one-third of healthy teens, adults and older individuals report feeling sleepy or fatigued. Fatigue is a common symptom of several conditions and serious diseases, but in most cases it is caused by simple lifestyle factors.
Fortunately, these are most often easy things to fix.
This article lists 10 potential reasons why you're always tired and provides recommendations for ways to get your energy back.
Consuming Too Many Refined Carbs
Carbs can be a quick source of energy. When you eat them, your body breaks them down into sugar, which can be used for fuel. However, eating too many refined carbs can actually cause you to feel tired throughout the day.
When sugar and processed carbs are consumed, they cause a rapid rise in your blood sugar. This signals your pancreas to produce a large amount of insulin to get the sugar out of your blood and into your cells. This spike in blood sugar levels - and subsequent fall - can make you feel exhausted. Craving quick energy, you instinctively reach for another serving of refined carbs, which can lead to a vicious cycle.
To keep your energy levels stable, replace sugar and refined carbs with whole foods that are rich in fibre, such as vegetables and legumes.
Living a Sedentary Lifestyle
Inactivity could be the root cause of your low energy. But many people say they're too tired to exercise.
To boost your energy levels, replace sedentary behaviors with active ones. For instance, stand rather than sit down whenever possible, take the stairs instead of the elevator and walk instead of driving short distances.
Not Getting Enough High-Quality Sleep
Not getting enough sleep is one of the more obvious causes of fatigue. Your body does many things while you sleep, including store memory and release hormones that regulate your metabolism and energy levels. After a night of high-quality sleep, you typically wake up feeling refreshed, alert and energized.
Adults need an average of seven hours of sleep per night for optimal health. Importantly, sleep should be restful and uninterrupted in order to allow your brain to go through all five stages of each sleep cycle.
In addition to getting enough sleep, maintaining a regular sleep routine also seems to help prevent tiredness.
Being physically active during the day may help you get more restorative sleep at night. One study in older people found that exercising helped improve their sleep quality and reduce levels of fatigue. To improve the amount and quality of your sleep, go to bed at roughly the same time every night, relax before sleeping and get plenty of activity during the day.
Food sensitivities or intolerances typically cause symptoms like rashes, digestive problems, runny nose or headaches. But fatigue is another symptom that's often overlooked.
Common food intolerances include gluten, dairy, eggs, soy and corn. If you suspect that certain foods may be making you tired, consider working with an allergist or dietitian who can test you for food sensitivities or prescribe an elimination diet to determine which foods are problematic.
Not Eating Enough Calories
Consuming too few calories can cause feelings of exhaustion. Calories are units of energy found in food. Your body uses them to move and fuel processes like breathing and maintaining a constant body temperature.
When you eat too few calories, your metabolism slows down in order to conserve energy, potentially causing fatigue. Your body can function within a range of calories depending on your weight, height, age and other factors. However, most people require a minimum of 1,200 calories per day to prevent a metabolic slowdown.
In addition, it's difficult to meet your vitamin and mineral needs when calorie intake is too low. Not getting enough vitamin D, iron and other important nutrients can also lead to fatigue.
In order to keep your energy levels up, avoid drastic cuts in calorie intake, even if your goal is weight loss.
Sleeping at the Wrong Time
In addition to inadequate sleep, sleeping at the wrong time can reduce your energy.
Sleeping during the day instead of at night disrupts your body's circadian rhythm, which are the biological changes that occur in response to light and darkness during a 24-hour cycle. Research has found that when your sleep pattern is out of sync with your circadian rhythm, chronic fatigue may develop.
This is a common problem among people who perform shift or night work. It's best to sleep during the night whenever possible. However, if your job involves shift work, there are strategies to retrain your body clock, which should improve your energy levels.
In one study, shift workers reported significantly less fatigue and better mood after being exposed to bright light pulses, wearing dark sunglasses outside and sleeping in total darkness. Using glasses to block blue light may also help people who perform shift work.
Not Getting Enough Protein
Inadequate protein intake could be contributing to your fatigue. Consuming protein has been shown to boost your metabolic rate more than carbs or fat do. In addition to aiding weight loss, this may also help prevent tiredness.
In one study, self-reported fatigue levels were significantly lower among Korean college students who reported eating high-protein foods like fish, meat, eggs and beans at least twice a day.
To keep your metabolism strong and prevent fatigue, aim to consume a high-quality protein source at every meal.
Staying well hydrated is important for maintaining good energy levels. The many biochemical reactions that take place in your body every day result in a loss of water that needs to be replaced.
Dehydration occurs when you don't drink enough liquid to replace the water lost in your urine, stools, sweat and breath. The key is drinking enough to maintain good hydration levels. Common symptoms of dehydration include thirst, fatigue, dizziness, and headaches.
Relying on Energy Drinks
There's no shortage of beverages that promise to provide quick energy. Popular energy drinks typically include caffeine, sugar, amino acids, large doses of B vitamins and herbs.
It's true that these beverages may provide a temporary energy boost due to their high caffeine and sugar contents. Unfortunately, these energy drinks are also likely to set you up for rebound fatigue when the effects of caffeine and sugar wear off.
To break the cycle, try cutting back and gradually weaning yourself off these energy drinks. In addition, limit coffee and other caffeinated beverage consumption to early in the day.
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High Stress Levels
Chronic stress may have a profound effect on your energy levels and quality of life. Although some stress is normal, excessive levels of stress have been linked to fatigue in several studies. In addition, your response to stress can influence how tired you feel.
While you may not be able to avoid stressful situations, developing strategies for managing your stress may help prevent you from feeling completely exhausted.
There are many possible causes for feeling chronically tired. It's important to rule out medical conditions first, as fatigue often accompanies illness.
However, feeling overly tired may be related to what you eat and drink, how much activity you get or the way you manage stress.
The good news is that making a few lifestyle changes may very well improve your energy levels and overall quality of life.