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Why Do You Feel Tired All The Time?
Everyone knows the feeling: you wake up after a good night’s sleep and still feel tired. For some people, this happens very rarely, but for others it can be a serious problem. If you are always waking up feeling unrefreshed and fatigued, there might be an underlying cause. Understanding the cause and fixing it could help to improve your sleep, your mood and your energy levels.
What causes someone to feel tired constantly?
The cause of this problem can usually be broken down into three categories:
1. Lifestyle habits
2. Dietary habits
3. Medical conditions
How can lifestyle habits cause tiredness?
The most common reason for tiredness stems from living an unhealthy lifestyle. If this is the cause of your tiredness, it can be vastly improved by making small changes to your daily routine, such as:
Reducing the amount of caffeine you drink
Do you drink a lot of tea or coffee? These drinks contain caffeine, which can interfere with your sleep, and make you feel tired when you drink them in large amounts (1). This is quite surprising considering that many people commonly drink these drinks to feel less tired! However caffeine can stay in your system for up to 10 hours (2) and of course the more you drink, the longer it will take for the effects to wear off.
If you drink a lot of caffeine but still feel tired when you wake up and throughout the day, try the following:
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Cut down the amount of caffeinated drinks you consume in a day (this includes normal tea, green tea, coffee and energy drinks). For example, if you usually drink 4 cups of coffee a day, try cutting it down to 3 cups, and then 2 cups, and so on and so forth.
Try avoiding drinking any caffeinated drinks after lunchtime. This will help minimise the disruption the caffeine causes to your body’s natural sleep cycle.
Reducing the amount of time you spend looking at electronic screens
In today’s world, most people spend a lot of time looking at screens, whether it is a phone, computer or TV screen. This might be for work or pleasure, but either way it can strain your eyes and also cause tiredness. Most devices also emit a type of light called high-energy visible blue light, which is known to suppress your body’s sleep hormone (called melatonin) and disrupt sleeping patterns, resulting in tiredness throughout the day (3).
Of course, if your job involves looking at a computer screen all day, you won’t be able to cut your screen time dramatically, but there are other things you can do to limit the effects modern technology has on your energy levels:
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Try to avoid looking at your phone or computer or watching television for at least 30 to 60 minutes before you go to bed. This helps you to relax and unwind before you settle down to sleep.
To reduce the effect of visible blue light, you can turn on a “blue-light filter” on your electronic device. Most devices like your laptop or smartphone should have this option in their “settings” section.
You can also buy glasses with a “blue-light filter”, or change your prescription lens glasses to include a blue-light filter. This can help reduce the strain on your eyes if you look at electronic screens for many hours of the day, and can also help you sleep better at night.
Getting the right amount of exercise
Too much, or not enough exercise can also lead to fatigue (with the latter being more common). Of course, if you exercise very hard, you will feel tired afterwards and that is completely normal. If you are healthy, you should recover within 1 to 2 days. What you might not know however, is that if you do not exercise enough, you are more likely to sleep badly, have less energy, and lower moods. It might not seem logical, but it is based on how your hormones react to exercise. Exercise has been proven to help reduce tiredness. In fact, the main treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome is exercise, gradually built up over time (4).
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How can lifestyle habits cause tiredness?
It’s not just lifestyle factors that can make you feel tired, but what and how much you eat can make you feel tired as well. If you are greatly overweight, you are likely to feel more tired than you would otherwise because your body has to work harder to do even the simplest of activities. Equally, if you are very underweight, you won’t have the muscular strength needed to carry out everyday tasks, and so you may also experience a lot of fatigue.
Even if you are a healthy weight, your diet may still contribute to feeling tired. We have already explored how caffeinated drinks can affect energy levels and sleep, but did you know that the foods you eat can also have an impact? Below are some tips for dietary changes that may help reduce your tiredness:
Reduce your intake of sugary and processed foods
Consuming a lot of sugary and processed foods can make you feel tired because of how they are broken down within the body. They are processed quickly and cause your blood sugar to rise, and then fall, equally fast (5). Although this fast increase in blood sugar may give you an initial rush of energy, it can also make you feel quite tired when it drops down quickly afterwards. This pattern of rising and falling blood sugar levels can start to make you crave more sugary foods over time, in order to reverse the feeling of exhaustion after you eat them.
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Make sure you are getting the right level of vitamins and minerals
If your body is lacking certain vitamins and minerals, you may also feel tired. It is important to be aware that in many cases, these deficiencies are caused by an unbalanced diet. You should try to make sure that you are eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, beans, meat and fish to ensure that you are getting a wide range of nutrients in your diet. Most people can manage this with diet alone, but a few may need to take additional pills containing vitamins or minerals. If you are planning to take these additional pills (such as vitamin pills), please consult a qualified doctor or pharmacist before doing so.
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How do medical conditions cause tiredness?
This brings us to the third cause of tiredness or fatigue: medical conditions. There is a wide range of illnesses that can cause tiredness, and only a couple of the most common are described here:
The leading medical cause of tiredness is iron deficiency anemia. This is a condition where the body either does not receive enough iron, or loses too much iron because of bleeding, pregnancy, or other causes.
One of the most common symptoms of anemia is tiredness and fatigue, but if you are anaemic you may also notice that you:
- Look pale
- Feel short of breath
- Have episodes of heart palpitations, where you can feel your heart beating in your chest.
To help increase your iron levels, it is recommended that you eat leafy green vegetables, red meat and pulses, which include beans, lentils and peas (6). You can also get iron tablets if your diet is not helping you, or if you are pregnant. You should however, consult a qualified doctor before taking these tablets.
Because the Iron in your body is found attached to your red blood cells, losing a lot of blood can also make you anaemic. If you suspect that you may be losing a lot of blood, even if you cannot see it, it is vital to see a doctor as soon as you possibly can.
Another medical cause of fatigue is a condition called hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism is fairly common (7), and in most cases does not have any serious consequences or effects. This condition develops when a gland in your neck called the Thyroid gland does not produce as many thyroid hormones as it should, and is therefore considered to be “underactive”. This condition can lead to the development of symptoms such as:
- Weight gain
- Feeling cold
If you think you may have hypothyroidism, you can ask your doctor to take a blood test to check the amount of hormones that your thyroid gland produces.
Hypothyroidism is easily treatable, and is treated by replacing the hormones via tablets. If you get the appropriate treatment for this condition, it should resolve the tiredness and other symptoms you may be having.
If you have any concerns about your health, or suspect that you may have either of these medical conditions, the best thing to do would be to seek advice from a qualified medical doctor.
So, what can you do now?
If you suffer from ongoing tiredness, take a moment to think about your lifestyle and diet, and consider whether you can make any healthy changes, such as doing more exercise, eating more fresh foods, or cutting down on screen time. If you have tried these measures and have seen no improvement or have noticed other symptoms, there could be a medical cause for your fatigue which should be investigated by a doctor. It may even be a combination of several factors, but with the right guidance and treatment, you should be able to get back to your usual energy levels.
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- nhs.uk. (2018). Sleep and tiredness. [online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/sleep-and-tiredness/ [Accessed 29 Jan. 2020].
- Bahadur, N. (2019). How Long Does the Caffeine from Coffee Stay in Your System? | Livestrong.com. [online] LIVESTRONG.COM. Available at: https://www.livestrong.com/article/272782-how-long-does-coffee-caffeine-stay-in-your-system/ [Accessed 29 Jan. 2020].
- SEIDMAN, B. (2015). What too much screen time does to your eyes. [online] Cbsnews.com. Available at: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/screen-time-digital-eye-strain/ [Accessed 29 Jan. 2020].
- nhs.uk. (2017). Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS/ME) – Treatment. [online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/chronic-fatigue-syndrome-cfs/treatment/ [Accessed 29 Jan. 2020].
- Spritzler, F. (2017). 10 Reasons You’re Always Tired (And What You Can Do About It). [online] Healthline. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-reasons-you-are-tired#section1 [Accessed 29 Jan. 2020].
- nhs.uk. (2018). Iron deficiency anaemia. [online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/iron-deficiency-anaemia/ [Accessed 29 Jan. 2020].
- British Thyroid Foundation. (2020). Your thyroid gland. [online] Available at: http://www.btf-thyroid.org/information/your-thyroid-gland [Accessed 29 Jan. 2020].
Many of us dream of having strong, toned bodies with visible muscles like the pictures of celebrities that we see in the media. For the average person, achieving this look can take years of hard work in the gym, and involves denying yourself a lot of life’s pleasures like fast food and sweets.
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