Why Am I Tired? 11 Potential Causes of Fatigue

If you rely on countless cups of coffee to get through the workday, you’re not alone. Research finds that about 76% of Americans say they are tired at work many days of the week.

But late-night Netflix binges aren’t necessarily to blame. Nor is sleeping more always the solution. Since tiredness such a general symptom, it can be a result or a side effect of many sneaky issues — from health conditions to lifestyle habits. Keep reading to find out what could be causing you to feel so sleepy. 

1. Poor Sleep Quality

Ever laid awake and stared at the ceiling at 3 a.m.? Or tossed and turned for an hour before you actually fell asleep? Yep, this might be why you're so tired. Even though we said more sleep isn’t always the answer, it might be more about the quality of your sleep, rather than the quantity.

Seven to eight hours of shut-eye each night is the typical requirement for adults, but even if you’re in bed for that amount of time (or longer), you may not be getting the restorative, refreshing sleep you need, he said.

Environmental disturbances, such as blue light from screens; ambient noise; hot or cold temperatures; an uncomfortable mattress; or restless pets or children in the bed are often to blame. To get better sleep, try to stick to a consistent sleep schedule, cut out caffeine and alcohol, keep your room cool and avoid screens before bed. 

2. Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea, a disorder that causes shallow breathing or even pauses in breathing, can also disrupt your sleep and affect the quality of your shut-eye. It stems from a partially blocked airway, due enlarged tonsils, a small airway, being overweight or allergies. If you are concerned you’re affected by sleep apnea, talk to your doctor.

3. Low Iron Levels

Low iron levels affect how much oxygen reaches your tissues and deprives them of the energy they need. And you can still feel tired and have low iron without being in the anemic range. Other symptoms of iron deficiency include pale skin; brittle nails and dry skin; headaches and dizziness; chest pain or shortness of breath; cold hands and feet; inflammation or soreness of the tongue; and unusual cravings for ice.

4. Vitamin B12 Deficiency

B12 is an essential vitamin found in meat, fish, poultry, eggs and milk. For this reason, some vegetarians, and especially vegans, tend to be deficient in this vitamin. It’s necessary for the proper function and development of the brain, nerves, blood cells and other parts of the body. And when your levels are low, you’ll often feel tired. 

P.S. You can get a chewable B12 tablet in your BINTO personalized vitamin pack. Learn more by taking our quiz here:

5. A Diet High in Sugar

Although the body needs some sugar for energy, eating too much of the refined kind can cause unwanted consequences, such as weight gain, chronic disease and, of course, those dreaded “sugar crashes,” which affect your mood and energy levels. Protein is the antidote to those crashes, helping to stabilize your blood sugar and prevent those spikes and dips in energy. Try to include more veggies and high-protein, low-fat foods in your diet, and fewer sugary snacks like cookies, cake and donuts.

6. Depression

Fatigue, along with changes in sleep habits, is one of the main symptoms of depression. Other signs that depression may be present include feeling unmotivated, no longer enjoying the things you used to find fun and feeling hopeless. Talk to your doctor if you suspect you may be depressed. 

7. Underactive Thyroid

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland at the base the neck that produces hormones that regulate metabolism. If your thyroid hormone levels are low, you may experience fatigue. Other signs of thyroid dysfunction include feeling cold, feeling down, constipation, dry skin, brittle nails and hair changes. Your doctor can administer a simple blood test that can determine whether your thyroid levels are off.

8. Adrenal Fatigue

Signs of adrenal fatigue include feeling nervous or anxious, not sleeping well, and experiencing digestive problems (such as constipation, gas, and bloating), in addition to fatigue, body aches, and irritability, according to Mayo Clinic. We covered adrenal fatigue in depth in this blog post, plus five steps to take to start healing your body.

Why Am I Tired? Woman Sitting at Desk

9. Not Enough Exercise

You may not use up much energy sitting on the couch, but a lack of movement ironically may lower your energy levels overall.

Our bodies need movement, and the physical inactivity negatively affects our muscles and our emotional well-being. Getting in exercise earlier in the day can help you sleep better, too. 

10. Out-of-Whack Hormones

Low cortisol levels can also lead to fatigue, while elevated levels of estrogen and not enough progesterone can make you tired and moody. (Learn more about how low progesterone affects your fertility and cycle.) See your doctor for a test to help determine your plan of treatment.

11. Seasonal Affective Disorder 

If you tend to feel more exhausted during the winter months, it may not be coincidental — especially if you live in a cold, dark climate. People with SAD exhibit depressive symptoms, including fatigue, due to less light exposure during the shorter winter days. Light boxes, such as this LED lamp, can be very helpful in treating SAD symptoms.

Locke Hughes is a freelance journalist and Emory-certified health coach based in Park City. Her approach to health and wellness is all about balance. In other words, she believes long hikes, hot yoga, and white wine all play an important role in a happy, healthy life.

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