This is a question a lot of us have been asking ourselves lately. Sometimes it is unavoidable, in certain situations completely understandable, but being tired should not be a constant state. Being “always tired” is often normalized and even romanticized to an extreme in our society, but it is actually very dangerous. Excessive tiredness is always a sign from your body that something might be off. Let’s look at the most common explanations behind constantly feeling tired and some possible solutions.
Tiredness is a completely normal bodily reaction to the demands that a day can hold, physical or mental. In a perfect world, feeling tired would simply be a welcome sign that a fulfilling day of work and activities is over and that 8 hours of blissful sleep awaits. Of course, that is not really the case for most people.
Depending on your general health, job, lifestyle and family situation the ideal 8 hours of sleep and a balanced daily life can be literally impossible. But you can probably tell if what you’re feeling is understandable levels of tiredness for your situation or something more serious. In any case, excessive tiredness is not normal and can have long-lasting negative effects.
Energy is a limited resource, and there is only so much we can do in one day. If you notice that you are too tired, your energy levels probably do not correspond with the tasks and activities that you need and wish to do in a day. The lack of energy can be caused either externally or internally: your daily schedule might be too much for you to handle right now and/or there might be underlying health conditions at play. The second option is much more common than might seem at first.
For many people, especially in corporate culture, creative circles and amongst entrepreneurs “always feeling tired” is almost a status symbol, a sign of a rich, fulfilling life full of activities and responsibilities. If you’re not tired, that means you’re not doing enough, right? Wrong. If you are constantly tired, you are most likely not at your best in terms of cognitive abilities and general health. It is actually very dangerous to, for example, drive and operate heavy machinery when tired.
Of course, there are many jobs that require night shifts and similar arrangements where being tired and exhausted at the end of the day is unfortunately the norm. It might be necessary, but that doesn’t make it healthy.
Another group of people who are understandably exposed to excessive tiredness is new parents. Getting up at night is unavoidable with babies, as is general tiredness throughout their childhood. Again - while being constantly alert is a big part of parenthood and feeling tired is expected, excessive, debilitating tiredness should not be.
If you feel too tired from day to day, the first step could be re-evaluating your daily schedules and planned activities in relation to the points where you can gain your energy back.
Pay attention to details such as:
Of course, many people simply don’t have the privilege to “work less” and make time for health-related activities or even proper meals. Evaluate your situation and set realistic goals in your health journey.
The thing with tiredness is that it is a complex condition and feeling that affects your whole body. Just like with pain, it can be difficult to locate one certain cause for feeling tired and there can be many hidden details that pile up over time, hitting the “weak spots” of your body. For some people that will be tension headaches and dry eyes, for others – swelling, muscle pain, trembling and various other conditions.
If you don’t pay sufficient attention to your well-being, simple tiredness can grow into fatigue and, eventually, burnout. Similarly, tiredness is a known symptom of various health conditions that can stay untreated if you keep pushing through.
A blood test can reveal some of the conditions that make you feel excessively tired, such as:
Anemia – iron deficit in your blood is one of the most common causes for chronic tiredness. It is especially common for those experiencing periods with a heavy flow and during pregnancy.
Disbalanced vitamin levels - vitamins such as B12, C and D are vital for your well-being. Weakness, dizziness, heart palpitations and vision loss are all common symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency, which overlap with general effects of tiredness. If vitamin B12 deficiency is seen in your blood test results, your doctor will recommend the correct doses of supplements. Magnesium is also a highly important micronutrient that can influence your energy levels.
Sleep disorders such as insomnia, restless leg disorder, REM sleep behavior disorder and sleep apnea will inevitably make you tired during the day. What’s more you might not be aware that you even have a sleep disorder.
Sleep apnea, for example, makes your breathing repeatedly stop and start while sleeping potentially without you knowing about it. Its symptoms can be loud snoring and gasping for air when sleeping, waking up with a dry mouth and being easily irritated and sleepy during the day.
Pay attention to your sleep hygiene:
If you live together with someone, they might be able to observe your sleep patterns and notice if something’s wrong.
Stress and various mental health conditions are huge contributors to feeling tired and can cause many other disorders.
Apathy and a general lack of energy are textbook symptoms of depression that can be surprisingly hard to spot in others and in yourself but should not be taken lightly.
Neurodevelopmental disorders such as OCD and ADHD influence how you interact with the world, how you perceive time and how well you are able to manage your energy during the day, often causing extreme tiredness.
Chronic stress is highly dangerous for your body and is often one of the main contributors to a wide variety of other health conditions, from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) to insomnia.
Caffeinated products can influence your sleep. Avoid using coffee and other caffeinated drinks in the evening and afternoon, and work your way to giving it up entirely if you experience sleep problems and tiredness.
Similarly, alcohol and other recreational drugs can also affect your sleep patterns and make you feel tired.
All kinds of medical conditions can make you feel tired, as can recovery from diseases and surgeries. Cancer, diabetes, kidney and thyroid disorders are among the most common causes for tiredness, but any medical condition can wear your body down with time.
There is a vicious circle where your existing conditions can cause tiredness and sleep problems which then, in turn, aggravate the medical condition which made you tired in the first place.
Don’t be scared of the seemingly huge nature of the task at hand. Working on getting rid of excessive tiredness is definitely worth it: even small changes here and there in your daily routine will create great health benefits.
Napping is a slightly controversial topic. On the one hand, it seems like a fool-proof method of quickly recharging during the day, but not everyone agrees on how, when and where best to nap and if napping is beneficial at all.
Researchers generally agree that a nap can be beneficial, if the napper goes through a full sleep cycle, which takes 90 minutes. A short 10-20 minute nap can also work very well for some people. Other timings may not be as good for your body, as the sleep stages will be interrupted prematurely.
Mid-day naps can help alleviate stress, improve short-term memory functions and reduce tiredness. Sadly, they don’t work for everyone – if you are already prone to insomnia or usually feel cranky and disoriented after naps, they probably won’t help much.
Do use the power of napping when you are sick and when you need to stay on high alert for longer periods of time, for example, when driving long distances. The short invigoration can make all the difference in these situations.
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