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Why am I always tired?

Are you at work, trying your best not to nap behind the desk? Or are you stuck in traffic, nodding off at the wheel? (If that is the case, you shouldn’t be reading this. Put away your phone this instant and pull over!). It could be even worse! Are you waking up, feeling tired and drained before the day even started? I know this sounds terrible, but it is a reality. Some people wake up feeling tired. Sometimes I am one of those people… But I try my very best not to fall in that category. If you want to know why you are always feeling tired, and how to change that, read on.

Some reasons why you might be tired all the time…

There are the common and obvious reasons for being tired, like a lack of sleep. But then there are other, more interesting and rare reasons for feeling fatigued. Let’s start with discussing (and trying to solve) the obvious reasons and make our way down to more complicated and less common ones.

1. Lack of Sleep

Man in a checkered shirt covering his face with tattooed hands

The most obvious reason to feel sleepy or drowsy is the lack of sleep. If you don’t sleep enough, you will feel it. It is that simple. But how much sleep is enough sleep? That is the question, isn’t it? I’m going to take a wild stab in the dark here, but I am assuming that if you are reading this blog post you are an adult. It is rare for children to read up on feeling drained and fatigued, but if you consider yourself a child, please do not take offense at my blanket statement above.

I make the assumption that you are all adults, because I don’t want to explain how much sleep each different age level requires. So let’s stick to an adult’s sleeping schedule for now, okay? According to the American National Sleep Foundation, a normal adult should sleep somewhere between seven and nine hours a night. But a lot of us don’t get those essential zzz’s in. Going out or watching series is just too important nowadays, isn’t it? I get it, believe me, I do! But here’s the thing, if you chronically don’t get enough sleep, feeling tired will be the least of your worries. It has been medically proven that chronic sleep deprivation increases one’s chance to contract heart disease and/or Alzheimer’s disease.

So if you want to avoid feeling fatigued and ending up with heart disease, start sleeping more! You don’t have to go from six to nine hours a night, but try to go to six and a half and work your way up to seven or eight. Cut down on the series, have one less drink, play one less game of DotA. You will be surprised at how much better you feel the following morning!

2. Bad Sleeping Habits

Are you in bed for eight or nine hours every night, but you still wake up feeling drained? That can be due to bad sleep hygiene. Bad what!? You heard me, bad sleep hygiene. This basically comes down to how you live your entire life. But to be more specific, sleep hygiene describes the routine you follow before you go to bed. If you have a bedtime routine, good on ya! If not, bad sleep hygiene…

So what does this have to do with how I feel when I wake up? How can what I do before bed influence how I feel after bed? It is simple, really. What you do before going to bed will influence the quality of your sleep. And in some sleep experts’ opinions, quality of sleep trumps quantity of sleep.

Here are a few things you should try to avoid before bed time:
  1. Caffeine: Even though you might not stay awake after having a cuppa Joe before bed, it will still have a negative effect on the quality of your sleep. It will keep you from entering deep sleep, which is an essential part of the sleep cycle.
  2. Alcohol: Used to having a nigh cap before hitting the hay? It might be effective to make you drowsy and help you to nod off, but in the long run, alcohol is detrimental to the quality of your sleep. You see, drinking alcohol before bedtime will inhibit your brain’s ability to dream. And dreaming is an essential part of sleeping! If you do not enter the dream state, scientifically known as Rapid Eye Movement sleep (REM), you cannot consolidate memories and the things that you learned during the day. It will also hinder your body from going though the entire sleep cycle, which makes you feel tired when you wake up.
  3. Screen time: Being exposed to blue light tells the brain that it has to be awake and alert. So if you spend your last waking hours in front of the screen every day, your brain won’t be ready to go to sleep by the time you get in bed. This will lead to conflicting signals going through your body when you lie down. Your brain will be like: “Dude, we are supposed to be awake! Why are the lights out all of a sudden and why are we lying down?” If you can’t avoid the screen before going to bed, use a blue light filter to make the transition from waking to sleeping easier.
Here are some things you should try to incorporate into your pre-bedtime routine:
  1. Read: Try to read something non-intensive before you go to bed. This will force your mind to focus on what you are reading, instead of on what needs to be done at work tomorrow. Try to read a paperback or magazine, rather than to read on your tablet or phone (unless you use a blue light filter on your device).
  2. Drink herbal tea: Not directly before you go to bed, mind you. But having a herbal tea infusion roughly an hour before bed time is wonderful for sleep, as it contains natural anti oxidants and relaxing agents.
  3. Write: You don’t need to write an essay or a book, but write a to-do list for tomorrow. This will help you to get your mind in order and to relax. No one likes trying to fall asleep while thinking of everything that has to be done at work tomorrow! So to help you get rid of those thoughts, write them all down and get them out of your head. Once you’ve written them down, you don’t have to worry about forgetting anything, because it is right there on paper.

Don’t snooze…

Get out of bed when your alarm goes off. Don’t snooze! Even though snoozing is a lot of fun, it can be highly disruptive and undo all of the hard work you did while sleeping through the night. You see, when you sleep you go through a couple of sleep phases. REM, deep sleep and so on. Each sleep cycle lasts roughly 90 minutes. For your body to rest effectively, you have to complete a couple sleep cycles every night. But when you disrupt such a sleep cycle, you can wake up feeling more tired than before you went to bed.

That is why snoozing is bad for you! You might start off a sleep cycle and then interrupt it. Doing this a couple of times over can be very bad for your body and make you feel fatigued right at the start of the day. And you don’t really want that, do you?

3. Sleep Disorder

You might be suffering from a sleep disorder without even knowing it! Obstructive Sleep Apnea is one of the most common sleep disorders in adults. And also the one that doesn’t get diagnosed in a lot of patients, because they never go to the doctor (or because the doctor doesn’t look for sleep apnea symptoms during a regular, rushed check-up).

Sleep apnea is when you wake up every now and then because of shallow breathing, or because you stop breathing for a short interval during the night. Most people that suffer from sleep apnea do not realize that they wake up every few minutes during the night. This sleep disorder is more common in people that sleep on their backs. So if you sleep on your back, maybe it is time to try out a new sleeping position. It is also common in people whose pets sleep on the bed. And believe it or not, snoring is an indicator that you might have sleep apnea.

If you wake up feeling drained, it might be wise to go to your medical practitioner and ask him/her to check for symptoms of a sleep disorder.

4. Stress and Anxiety

A person with the silhouette of hands on their face, against a black background

Stress and anxiety often goes hand in hand. When you stress about something and you do not get a solution for the problem you are stressing about, you become anxious. From there it is a bad downwards spiral into the belly of the beast. Stress often inhibits your sleeping patterns and anxiety tends to keep people awake at night.

Apart from disrupting sleep, it also has a chemical effect on your body that makes you feel tired and drained. People that stress release adrenaline, the “fight or flight” hormone that is only supposed to be released into the bloodstream under extreme conditions. When you have a constant flow of adrenaline in your bloodstream, your body becomes tired after a while. It simply can’t stay alert all the time, like the adrenaline wants it to.

Constant adrenaline in the bloodstream has a double barrel effect. Because in the event that something life threatening happens, your body might not have enough adrenaline to release into the bloodstream to make your body react as it should. So you might end up just standing there like a deer in the headlights, instead of reacting to the threat.

5. Diseases and Shortages

This is where it gets tricky. And to be honest, I am not really qualified to write about this stuff. A medical practitioner would be far better at explaining these stuff than I am, but here goes… There are a couple of diseases and shortages that might make you feel drained and fatigued throughout the day. I won’t describe all of them, as there are too many to mention and I don’t even know of all of the different shortages that can make you feel tired! so I will just talk about fairly well known ones here and you can do some more research on your own, how’s that?

1. Anemia:

This is when you have too little red blood cells in your blood, or your hemoglobin levels are too low. Red blood cells contain hemoglobin and this is the substance that transports oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body (via the blood stream). As you can imagine, when you have a shortage of red blood cells or hemoglobin, you won’t get enough oxygen to all of your body parts. Obviously this will make you feel lethargic and fatigued, because your body is operating under unfavourable conditions! If you feel out of breath, dizzy or have regular headaches, it might be worth it to visit a health practitioner and ask for a blood test to confirm if you are anemic or not.

2. Thyroid Disease:

Your thyroid gland regulates your metabolism. If the thyroid is not functioning properly, your might gain weight and feel tired all the time. If you suffer from these symptoms, go to the doctor and ask to be tested for thyroid disease.

3. Heart Disease:

If your heart is ill, it won’t be able to pump blood as effectively as it should. This will result in feeling exhausted and drained. The symptoms will be similar to that of an anemic person. Think about  it, if your heart can’t pump the blood to where it should be, your limbs will end up having to function with less than the required amount of oxygen. Not optimal at all!

But I am not one to prescribe self medicating or self diagnosing. If you suffer from any of the above mentioned symptoms, go to your doctor and ask to be tested.

Until next week! Stay safe and try to get some sleep!

 

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