Lately, have you been asking yourself, “why am I so tired?” You’re not alone.
Sometimes, we need to remind ourselves that feeling weak and tired shouldn’t be our default mode.
If you feel like you’re tired all the time, there’s likely a simple explanation to be found in your lifestyle, habits or health status.
Read on to find out our top reasons why you might be constantly feeling tired, and what you can do about it.
1. Poor sleep
If you’re always feeling tired, the first and most obvious place to look is your sleep.
You might think you’re getting plenty of sleep – but are you? Adults need from 6 – 9 hours’ sleep each night according to the NHS.1 If you usually get eight hours and are still tired during the day, perhaps you’re one of those people who needs nine.
You should also consider if the sleep you’re getting is of a low quality. Having trouble dropping off, waking up during the night and tossing and turning are all signs your sleep isn’t of the deep, restful type needed for optimum energy the next day.
If you have trouble dropping off at night, try the following:
- Keep your bedroom free of clutter, well-ventilated and dark
- Exercise during the day, not right before bed
- Don’t drink coffee or tea in the evening, as caffeine takes 5-7 hours for just half of the caffeine dose to be eliminated by your system2
- Don’t put your phone on charge right next to your bed. The impulse to check it if you wake up even for a few moments can be strong and can sabotage the rest of your night’s sleep. Put your phone across the bedroom with silent mode on
How to address tiredness due to poor sleep
Going to bed at the same time each night can help set your circadian rhythm. This is the internal clock all humans (and animals) have. Sensitive to light, it makes you feel sleepy when it’s dark outside, and alert and awake when it’s light.
Disrupted circadian rhythms lead to disordered sleep and excessive daytime sleepiness.3
Going to bed at the same time each night – whether that’s 9pm or midnight – will help set your circadian rhythm and give you a more restful night sleep over time.
2. Your diet
What you’re eating and drinking could hold the answer to why you’re feeling tired all the time.
A diet full of sugary foods and beverages – or refined carbohydrates (such as white bread and potatoes) – can leave you sleepy and craving a sugary ‘pick-me-up’.
This is because, when we eat sugar (or refined carbs), our blood sugar experiences a raise or ‘spike’.
This causes our bodies to flood with insulin to bring down the levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood. This can make you feel spaced-out and sleepy – the notorious ‘carb coma’.4
And remember – being overweight can contribute to feeling tired and exhausted. Obesity puts undue strain on joints and the cardiovascular system and has been strongly linked to daytime sleepiness.5
3. The season
Are you always tired when the colder months roll around? You’re not imagining it – seasonal tiredness is very real.
You’re probably aware of the effects the winter can have on your mood. As the winter draws closer, the shorter days, miserable weather and lack of sunlight can really do a number on your energy levels, too.
During winter, the lack of daylight can disrupt your circadian rhythm. Longer hours of darkness mean your body produces more melatonin – the ‘sleep hormone’, making us feel sleepy and wishing we could crawl under the duvet and snooze the winter away.6
For most of us, hibernating for the winter isn’t an option. As a result, we can experience feelings of fatigue and tiredness.
How to address seasonal tiredness
Get as much daylight as you can during the day, even if it’s just half an hour. This will help set the sleep/wake pattern of your circadian rhythm and reduce melatonin production.
As much as you can, avoid sugary foods during those long evenings. You don’t need a blood sugar rollercoaster contributing to your tiredness.
4. Being inactive
Doing less might seem like a logical way to address constant feelings of tiredness, but in reality, the opposite is true.
Ironic as it may seem, doing too little can leave you lethargic and lacking in energy.7
Many of us have jobs which involve sitting down all day looking at screens. This is a sure-fire way to feel mentally fatigued by the end of the day, and you might find it difficult to get to sleep after a day of sedentary activities as you won’t be physically tired.
How to address tiredness due to inactivity
Doing something active throughout the day will help get your blood flowing and energise you. This will also prepare you for a restful sleep.
You may not feel like it at first, but after a day or two your body will respond positively to this change.
Have you recently started working from home? If so, you may find yourself craving a nap in the afternoon. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Various other cultures see an afternoon nap as quite normal, and some scientists think it can even be beneficial for health. A short nap of up to 30 minutes during the afternoon is thought to make you feel more awake while enhancing performance and learning ability.8
Is it normal to be tired all the time?
“Why am I always tired?” is a common question. Most of us, at one time or another, have felt exhausted, fatigued and worn out.
Feeling tired from time to time is normal. However, you shouldn’t consider feeling constantly tired as the norm.
Prioritise your sleep, take some form of exercise during the day and avoid caffeine.
Is your bedroom a calm place to be? Piles of laundry, mess and papers can really disrupt the tranquillity of a sleep space, so try overhauling your bedroom.
Clear out clutter, invest in a dimmer switch or some soft lamps and make it a rule to never bring work into the bedroom.
What is tiredness a symptom of?
Usually, tiredness is a symptom of not getting enough high-quality sleep and rest.
If your tiredness is severe and regularly prevents you from doing activities you enjoy, it could be a sign of something more serious.
One possible explanation is chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) which is a rare condition which causes extreme, unexplained fatigue.9
Another is an underactive thyroid – feeling tired and weak are common symptoms.10
Obstructive sleep apnea is another cause. This is when you can stop breathing temporarily in your sleep, causing frequent wakefulness and disrupted sleep cycles.11
Speak to your GP if you’re concerned.
What vitamin are you lacking if you are tired all the time?
- Vitamin B
Weakness, tiredness and fatigue are all symptoms of a deficiency in B- vitamins.12 Whole grains, eggs and dark leafy vegetables are all good sources.
Iron deficiency anaemia causes tiredness, lack of energy and shortness of breath.13 Meat, dark green vegetables, pulses and fortified cereals are all good sources.
- Vitamin D
Low levels of vitamin D are linked to low muscle strength and weaker bones.14 We need sunlight to create vitamin D naturally, so during the darker months take a supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D.15
Last updated: 13 November 2020
Author: Bhupesh Panchal
Bhupesh started his career as a clinical toxicologist for Public Health England, advising healthcare professionals all around the country on how to manage clinical cases of adverse exposure to supplements, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, industrial chemicals and agricultural products. After 7 years in this role and a further year working as a drug safety officer in the pharmaceutical industry, Bhupesh joined Holland & Barrett as a Senior Regulatory Affairs Associate in 2019.
In his spare time, Bhupesh likes to cycle and has been learning to speak Korean for several years.