5 Reasons You're Always Tired That Have Nothing To Do With Your Sleep Schedule
Every so often I’ll hear someone complain about how exhausted they are and think, well, why not just go to bed earlier? A warm shower and a few extra hours of shut-eye is pretty much my remedy for everything these days, but just because you feel burnt out doesn’t necessarily mean you’re tired in the traditional sense. There are plenty of potential reasons why you’re always tired, and chances are, they might not have anything to do with a lack of quality sleep. You can snooze like a baby and still wake up tired AF, which is obviously super frustrating and annoying, but I’m here to tell you that it isn’t abnormal, nor is it untreatable. The trick is to figure out what’s causing your fatigue in the first place, and make adjustments from there.
If you, like me, tend to only associate being tired with a sloppy sleep schedule, your assumption isn’t necessarily wrong, but it’s not always right, either. To figure out how much of being tired actually has to do with a lack of sleep, I reached out to Alesandra Woolley, executive editor of Mattress Advisor, for some answers. But before diving into the direct — or indirect, I should say — connection between sleepiness and actual sleep, Woolley mapped out what it actually means for your body when you feel “tired.”
Basically, if your “bodily processes aren't functioning correctly,” Woolley explains — meaning you’re experiencing some kind of hormonal imbalance, or perhaps some kind of mental health issue — “it can cause genuine exhaustion of your body and mind,” she tells Elite Daily. If you’re occasionally tired, and can link exhaustion to a blip in your sleep schedule, then it’s probably a sleep issue, she clarifies. But, if you're chronically exhausted, that’s when an underlying issue is probably at play. “If you increase the quantity of your sleep to around seven to nine hours per night and still feel exhausted," Woolley explains, "you should consult with a licensed professional to diagnose the cause."
But let's not jump to conclusions here. Just because you're a sleepier person than those around you, that doesn't necessarily mean your health is at risk. However, I'm not a doctor, so to narrow down a few potential reasons why you might be tired all the time, I've asked the experts to weigh in. Here's what they had to say.
Your Diet Is Full Of Foods That Naturally Make You Sleepy
Got brain fog? Fatigue? You might want to re-evaluate the foods you're tossing into your lunch bag every day. According to mental health counselor Dr. Danielle Forshee, LLC, nutrition plays a major role in not only your physical health, but your mental well-being, too. So if you've come to find that all of a sudden you're exhausted all the time, particularly right after eating a meal, try to pay closer attention to the types of food you're eating to see if you can find a pattern.
"Foods that are high in refined sugars and are heavy, such as pastas, breads, cookies, cakes, etc., will affect the blood sugar in a way that will cause you to feel tired," Forshee tells Elite Daily. However, she adds, there are certain foods that can help combat your fatigue; "most of them include whole foods," she explains, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, oats, beans, and basically anything that's minimally processed, meaning you can actually read and understand the ingredients on the label.
You're Working Out Too Much, Too Little, Or At The Wrong Time
Health gurus love to throw around the word "balance," and even though it sounds super appealing, all kidding aside, finding your happy medium when it comes to an exercise routine is actually super important.
Exercise gets your blood flowing, and it can help your body release excess energy that may have built up over the course of the day, right? Well, when you don't exercise on a regular basis to expel some of that energy, Woolley says there's a good chance you'll have trouble falling asleep at night. "On the other hand," she adds, "excessive exercise can lead to post-workout insomnia, especially if you work out in the evenings."
Unfortunately, figuring out what time of day and how much exercise is best for you might take some trial and error before you find a flow that works for your lifestyle. Patience is a virtue, my friend.
You're Spending Too Much Time On Your Phone Before Bed
I know myself, and sometimes when I can't fall asleep, rather than reach for a physical book (which I know from experience will actually put me to sleep), I'll browse through Instagram instead. If this scenario sounds all too familiar, you and I are both committing a major faux-pas.
Nightfood scientific advisor, Dr. Michael Breus, tells Elite Daily that the blue light from your phone, laptop, and TV can indirectly cause you to feel exhausted. Even though blue light itself technically makes you feel more awake, Dr. Breus explains that the "exposure to blue light in the evenings causes a delay in melatonin production, [which] prevents a person from sleeping," so it's really no wonder that you're waking up the next morning feeling totally wiped out.
The Weather Might Have Something To Do With It
As much as I love the cold weather months and all the cozy vibes that come with the season, winter can do quite a number on your circadian rhythm — aka your body's natural sleep-wake cycle. The days are shorter, it gets dark outside earlier, and your internal clock is hella confused. The result? Sleepiness.
"In the summer seasons when you are exposed to more natural sunlight, you'll probably have an easier time sleeping soundly at night," Woolley explains. During the winter season, however, when most of your day is covered in darkness, "your circadian rhythm may be affected," she says, as a result of a) the lack of light, and b) if you have seasonal depression, your hormones may negatively affect your sleep schedule as well. Either way, be sure to touch base with your doctor to figure out the best way to manage your energy levels and sleep schedule.
There Might Be An Underlying Health Issue, But Don't Freak Out
If the above explanations don't seem to pan out, Dr. Breus suggests consulting your doctor ASAP, as you might be experiencing chronic exhaustion due to a more serious, underlying health issue.
"Thyroid issues, vitamin or mineral deficiencies (B, D, omegas, iron, etc.), depression, and anything that causes poor sleep quality or interrupted sleep, [such as] pain, sleep apnea, narcolepsy, etc.," he tells Elite Daily, are just some of the potential issues that could be at play here. "Many medications people take for medical issues can cause sleepiness as well."