So you get enough sleep every night, yet still feel tired. What gives? There are many reasons you can feel overwhelmed or exhausted – anything from a serious medical condition to the hustle of daily life. Edith Berejnaya, APRN, and Certified Family Nurse Practitioner, weighs in about what may be behind your ongoing fatigue.
“There are multiple reasons that can cause us to feel tired. Fatigue is a common problem. Additionally, it can be temporary or chronic,” says Berejnaya. “It is important to address this problem with your medical provider for a comprehensive work up to identify the individual risk factors. If not addressed, it can lead to serious complications, causing harm in personal and professional life.”
Beyond the everyday reasons of fatigue, other reasons listed below, exist.
Life Makes You Tired
From the second we wake up the decisions begin. Snooze the alarm? What do I eat for breakfast? What’s on my to-do list? And this is just the first minute of your day. In fact just thinking of the hundreds of daily decisions you make can tire you out.
With this in mind, have you ever thought about automating your day? Maybe your Mom was right – laying out your clothes and packing your lunch the night before is the way to go. Steve Jobs notably had a “uniform” of jeans, a black mock turtleneck and New Balance sneakers. Other well-known people including Carolina Herrera and Mark Zuckerberg, also automate this task to lessen fatigue.
In order to save energy for important decisions you can start automating less important tasks.
Here are some tips on prioritizing your decisions:
- Limit distractions. Have scheduled times to look at your phone and turn off notifications. Fear of missing out (FOMO) can hamper your focus ultimately making you feel tired.
- Simpler is better. Which option is simpler, easier and less overwhelming? Choose that one.
- Worst things first. Prioritize your must-do items in the morning when you are fresher. Completing a task when you are drowsy not only takes longer, but can lead to mistakes.
Binge-watching Makes You Tired
Do you look forward to a weekend catching up on your favorite TV shows? Although it may not make sense, couch-surfing can be tiring. Increasing your activity can actually make you less tired. Exercise increases your heart rate and releases endorphins (feel good hormones), which make you feel more awake. In fact, exercise also improves the quality of deep, slow-wave sleep, so you feel rested.
In addition to lack of exercise Berejnaya advises, “Some of the most common causes of fatigue are insufficient and/or interrupted sleep, poor nutrition, inadequate hydration, stress, anemia, endocrine issues, overexposure to electronics and blue light.”
Your Diet Makes You Tired
You probably know too many refined carbs and desserts set you up for a sugar crash. But surprisingly, you may actually be iron deficient and not know it. One of the main symptoms of low iron in your body (anemia) is feeling tired. According to the American Society of Hematology, iron deficiency is very common.
Those at high risk include:
- Women with heavy menstrual periods
- Pregnant or breastfeeding women
- People who have undergone major surgery or physical trauma
- People with gastrointestinal diseases, such as celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, colitis or Crohn disease
- Vegetarians, vegans and others with iron-poor diets (Iron from vegetables absorbs less than iron from meat, poultry, and fish.)
- Children who drink more than 16 ounces of cow’s milk daily (Cow’s milk is not only low in iron, it can also decrease absorption of iron and irritate the intestinal lining causing chronic blood loss.)
Iron-deficiency anemia is generally diagnosed by blood tests that should include a complete blood count (CBC). “Comprehensive blood work quickly reveals deficiencies in electrolytes, vitamins, and also assess kidney and liver function. Your provider will ask you questions about smoking, caffeine consumption, alcohol use, illicit substances, and other stimulants,” adds Berejnaya.
Your Hermit Habits Make You Tired
Although it’s tempting to stay in and ‘cave’ at the end of a long day, going outside – and trying something new is usually a better option. The National Institute on Aging (NIH) believes boredom can make you feel tired too. Hence they recommend trying new activities and volunteering in your community. However, more energy is not the only health benefit of spending time with others.
Psychology Today reports these additional benefits:
- Longer lifespan
- Greater physical health
- Better mental health
- Lower risk of dementia
Other Medical Concerns
“Of course your primary care provider can help you identify risk factors to appropriately address the problem. You can expect a series of leading questions in regards to your current symptoms, personal and family health history, as well as lab work to rule out anemia, blood sugar instability, thyroid and adrenal function,” states Berenjnaya.
“If risk factors are identified and further work up is warranted, you may also expect a referral to a specialist for further diagnosis and management. For example: an endocrinologist, pulmonologist, rheumatologist, cardiologist, psychologist, psychiatrist, urologist, allergist,” she adds.
“Overall feeling tired can be a normal physiological response in the presence of identified risk factors,” Berejnaya states. “However, if fatigue persists without resolution it becomes a medical problem, and should not be accepted as “normal”. Seek help and start feeling your best.”