Still feeling sluggish after your third cup of coffee? We all suffer from sleepless nights now and again, but if you’re going to bed early and still finding it a struggle to wake up in the morning, it might be time to investigate exactly what it is that’s making you feel so fatigued. Lifestyle factors can play a big part, but there could be an underlying health condition that’s causing your drowsy spells to spiral out of control. Here are 17 reasons why you might feel tired all the time.
Find it a struggle getting out of bed every morning, despite turning in before 10pm? Fatigue and lack of energy is a common complaint — in fact, around 1.5 million Australians see their doctor about fatigue each year.
Of course there are certain lifestyle factors — like busy work schedules, lack of exercise, and poor diet and nutrition — that can often leave you feeling less energetic than usual. But if you find yourself in a constant state of exhaustion asking the same question day in, day out? “Why am I always tired?”… it could be a symptom of something else entirely.
Feeling tired now and again after a few late nights is normal. After a nap or a good night’s sleep, your energy levels are usually restored and back on track. But if you find it hard to concentrate, feel motivated or you find it difficult to perform everyday activities, it could be your body’s way of telling you that something else is wrong.
To fully understand your symptoms, and put your minds at rest, here are some of the most common culprits that could be making you feel tired all the time.
17 reasons you’re tired all the time
1. You skip meals
If you have a tendency to skip meals, you may not be getting the calories you need to keep your energy levels up, nor are you fuelling your body with the nutrients it needs to remain healthy. If you leave long gaps in between meals, this can cause your blood sugar to drop, which will in turn decrease your energy, and leave you feeling more tired than usual.
Try and eat three nutritious meals per day, and set them out at specific times so that your body gets into a rhythm of digesting food at the same time, and giving you the bursts of energy you need throughout the day.
To ensure you're consuming an adequate nutritional intake, try taking a protein powder or nutritional supplement to make up for lost nutrients.
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2. You’re overdoing it on sugar and refined carbs
Foods that are sugary or high in refined carbs — think white bread, pasta, cakes, pastries etc. — cause a spike in blood sugar levels. You might feel a burst of energy straight away, but that will inevitably crash soon after, leaving you feeling tired and sluggish throughout the day.
Eating too many of these foods can also lead to insulin resistance. This is when your body can’t break down glucose (or sugar) as well as it should do for your stored energy reserves, and as a result, you end up feeling tired. Insulin resistance increases your risk of developing prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.
To keep your energy levels up, replace sugar and refined carbs with whole foods that are rich in fibre, such as vegetables and legumes.
3. You could have a vitamin deficiency
This could include low levels of vitamin D, vitamin B-12, iron, magnesium, or potassium. Ask your doctor for a routine blood test to determine whether you have a deficiency. You can also take supplements and change your diet to increase your vitamin intake.
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4. You could have a food intolerance
Food sensitivities or intolerances can cause a number of different symptoms including skin rashes, digestive problems, runny nose or headaches. But fatigue is another symptom that’s often overlooked. Generally speaking, if it’s a food intolerance causing your fatigue, your bouts of tiredness will keep cropping up, no matter how many extra zzz’s you get the night before.
The most common food intolerances are dairy, eggs, wheat or gluten, nuts and soy. If you suspect it could be a culprit food causing your tired spells, visit an allergist or dietician who will test you for food sensitivities or prescribe an elimination diet to determine which foods are problematic.
5. You could have coeliac disease
If you are Coeliac, your immune system reacts abnormally to gluten (a protein found in wheat and other grains) and damages the lining of the small intestine (bowel). This prevents proper absorption of food nutrients, and causes symptoms including flatulence, bloating, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, constipation, nausea, vomiting, and yep, fatigue. It can also cause long-term digestive issues that keep you from getting the essential nutrients you need, which causes ongoing fatigue.
Coeliac disease can be tricky to diagnose, but usually involves a physical exam, a blood test and an intestinal biopsy to look for inflammation in your small intestine. If you are diagnosed with Coeliac disease, you’ll need to avoid foods containing gluten.
6. You’re not exercising enough
Believe it or not, doing nothing actually makes you more exhausted. You’ll have more energy if you work out. Regular physical activity is known to improve fitness, health and wellbeing, reduce stress, and boost energy levels. It also helps you sleep, too.
With more and more of us working from home, our sedentary lifestyles often mean we’re sat in front of laptops and computers for hours on end each day. And whilst it does require a bit of motivation to get outside and exercise, you’ll notice a shift in energy almost instantly. Try a short lunchtime stroll every day to get your body moving then work up to the longer workouts or runs. Time to grab those running sneakers.
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7. You’re constantly stressed
When under stress, your body goes into fight or flight mode, which also causes an increase in cortisol and adrenaline. It’s your body’s way of dealing with stressful situations. In small doses the response is safe and won’t cause any lasting damage, but if it’s ongoing, it takes its toll on your body’s resources, and leaves you feeling exhausted.
Chronic stress can cause your body to break down in many ways — it gives you headaches, muscle tension, stomach issues and constant fatigue. Try to manage your stress levels by setting yourself realistic goals and changing your thought patterns. Try deep breathing and meditation to help you stay calm in stressful situations.
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8. You could be suffering from depression
Fatigue, lack of energy and tiredness are common side effects of depression, along with other well-known symptoms including lack of appetite, weight gain or loss, anxiety and lack of interest in sex.If you’re concerned you may be suffering from depression, speak to your doctor who may prescribe an antidepressant or an anti-anxiety medication. Alternatively you can try counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy — a psychological therapy that corrects negative thought patterns.
9. You drink too much coffee
Getting your daily caffeine fix can be bitter-sweet — it perks you up, but it can also keep you up if you drink too much of it, or drink too late in the day. Caffeine is a stimulant, and can affect your body’s natural sleep pattern, so it can decrease the amount of deep sleep you have each night and cause you to wake frequently, leaving you feeling tired and groggy in the morning. Cut back on the amount of caffeine you have during the day, and steer clear of caffeinated drinks before bed.
10. Your bedtime nightcap is disturbing your sleep
Unlike caffeine, alcohol is a depressant drug that slows the nervous system. It also has a sedative effect that relaxes you. You might drift off quicker after a coupe of glasses of wine, but those effects quickly wear off once you’re asleep as your body tries to eliminate the alcohol from your system. A nightcap will actually disrupt your sleep more, as you’re more likely to wake up during the night. Alcohol also inhibits REM sleep, which is often considered the most mentally restorative phase of sleep. So, with every drink, you’re cutting back on the quality sleep your body needs to feel fully rested.
11. You’ve started taking a new medication
Fatigue is one of the most common side effects of pharmaceutical medication. If you’ve started a new medication, give your body time to adjust. Check the label to see if fatigue is a common side effect. If so, talk to your doctor. They might be able to prescribe another drug, or reduce your dosage.
12. You could have a virus
Recovering from a virus or infection takes time. A viral or bacterial infection can cause dehydration, inflammation and extreme fatigue. It might take your body a little while for your energy levels to bounce back. Just be patient and give your body time to recoup. Drink plenty of water and take it easy for a few days. If your body is telling you it’s tired, you need to rest — so do it!
Once you’ve had the rest you need to regenerate, you should feel back to normal in a week or two.
If your illness and fatigue lasts longer than a few weeks, you could have either post-virus chronic fatigue or you could have glandular fever — an illness caused by a virus that also gives you a sore throat and swollen glands. This can cause severe fatigue that lasts for months. If you are worried, visit your doctor for further blood tests and a more detailed examination.
13. You’re not getting enough sleep
Late nights can really have an effect on your energy levels. Try to go to bed earlier and get at least 7-8 hours per night if you can. If your sleep doesn’t improve, get further advice from your doctor. You might need prescription medication to help you drift off.
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14. You’re overweight
The more weight you carry, the harder your body has to work to complete everyday tasks like walking and lifting. Switch sugary, fatty and junk foods for fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains instead to try and shift a few of those extra pounds.
15. You could have early onset of diabetes
If you have diabetes, your body doesn’t produce enough insulin. This can cause high blood sugar, which can affect your concentration and leave you feeling fatigued and irritable. Low energy and constant tiredness can be a telltale symptom of diabetes, so if you’re concerned, or the tiredness doesn’t improve, see your doctor for further examination.
16. You could have a sleep disorder
Your tiredness could be the result of a sleep disorder like sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is when your breathing pauses while you’re asleep. As a result, your brain and body don’t receive enough oxygen at night, so your sleep is disrupted and can leave you fatigued during the day. Seek further advice from your doctor, as you may need to be referred to a sleep specialist.
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17. You could have chronic fatigue syndrome
If you experience overwhelming fatigue that doesn’t improve with rest, and which may get worse with physical or mental exertion, you could be suffering with a condition known as chronic fatigue syndrome. People suffering with this condition find it extremely hard to perform daily tasks and activities, and the condition can last for years. Accompanying symptoms can include insomnia, dizziness, short-term memory loss, impaired concentration, muscle and joint pain, headaches, tender lymph nodes, and frequent sore throat. If you experience any of these recurrent symptoms, visit your GP for further advice and an accurate diagnosis.