Why am I always tired?
Do you always feel tired? You’re not alone. But what’s the reason and, more importantly, what can you do about it? Our nutritionist explains
If you’re feeling overly tired with little energy, you’re not alone – 1 in 8 Britons report feeling tired ‘all the time’ and a quarter of us are tired ‘most of the time’. In fact, this is such a common experience there’s even an acronym for it – TATT ‘tired all the time’.
What do we mean by ‘tired all the time’?
Feeling tired all the time means you have a sense of constant fatigue that can interfere with your normal day-to-day activities. The reason may be physical, psychological or even a combination of the two.
There are numerous reasons that might explain your tiredness – perhaps too many late nights, a new baby or menopausal symptoms, like night sweats. Similarly, a poor diet, overuse of stimulants or excess stress may all impact the quality of your sleep. It’s worth digging a little deeper to investigate whether a number of causes could be playing their part, and whether addressing them with diet and lifestyle modifications may help you feel more energised.
Here are 10 common reasons for feeling TATT:
10 reasons you’re feeling tired
1. Not getting enough sleep
Although we tend to think of sleep as an inactive process, our body and brain use this time to perform a number of important tasks. For example, the release of growth hormone peaks during the first 90 minutes of sleep and if we delay going to bed or toss and turn without falling asleep we won’t experience this beneficial peak. Over time the effect of this will be to reduce our muscle mass and limit our exercise capacity.
2. Working shifts
Sleep experts estimate between two and five per cent of all shift workers experience a sleep disorder that results in excessive sleepiness or disrupted sleep. These disruptions to our natural circadian rhythm make shift workers more prone to infection and illness and more likely to experience disrupted blood sugar levels and high blood pressure.
Even if you can’t avoid irregular sleep patterns, there are ways to optimise your sleep.
3. High levels of stress
Although some stress is normal, too much may severely affect your life and your ability to sleep well. As well as trying to minimise your exposure to stressful situations, implementing practical strategies like meditation may help you better manage the stress in your daily life.
Take a look at other methods for managing stress.
4. Excess caffeine
Caffeine provides many of us with a welcome boost, especially if taken at key points in the day, but over-reliance on it may make you tired and jittery. Drinking too much and too late in the day is linked with increased sleeplessness, night-time waking and daytime sleepiness. However, it is worth saying that some people are more sensitive to the effects of caffeine than others.
5. Not drinking enough water
Being dehydrated leads to lower energy levels and poor concentration: just a two per cent reduction in body mass due to dehydration appears to influence mood and increase fatigue.
6. Nutrient deficiencies
If you are deficient in key nutrients such as vitamins B12, D or the mineral iron, you may feel tired throughout the day, despite sleeping well. Although low levels of these nutrients are quite common, you should get your levels checked by your GP before starting a supplement programme.
7. Poor diet
Eating a balanced and varied diet is important for all aspects of health including energy levels. If you don’t eat adequate amounts of calories and macronutrients, like protein, your body can turn to reserves and start breaking down fat stores and muscle – this may lead to fatigue.
Although you might think a diet high in sugar provides plenty of calories to fuel the body, studies suggest these calories actually hinder our production of energy and deplete nutrients from the other foods we have eaten – leaving us even more tired.
8. Being overweight
Being overweight for your height, age and sex increases your risk of chronic illness (including heart disease, type II diabetes and certain cancers). It may also increase your risk of developing sleep disorders including sleep apnoea – this may leave you feeling constantly tired. If you think this is relevant for you, refer to your GP for guidance.
9. A medical condition
There are numerous medical conditions that are linked to tiredness, these include hypothyroidism, chronic fatigue syndrome and multiple sclerosis. Getting the appropriate diagnosis and treatment may help you feel better and improve other aspects of your health. If you’ve been experiencing long-term fatigue discuss this with your GP.
10. Drug or alcohol dependence
Studies suggest that those who are dependent on drugs or alcohol are more likely to experience excess tiredness. If this is relevant to you or a loved one, seek professional help.
Check out these resources for more information and help:
When might my tiredness suggest something else?
It is important to remember that tiredness and exhaustion that go on for an extended period is not normal and may severely impact your quality of life. If you have taken steps to address the most likely causes, and your tiredness continues for two weeks or more, make an appointment to see your GP. They may suggest you are assessed for iron deficiency anaemia, an underactive thyroid or sleep apnoea. Alternatively, your tiredness may be a result of a psychological issue such as depression, anxiety or a bereavement.
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Does this sound familiar? Are you tired all the time? What steps have you taken to address this? Share your experiences in the comments below…..
Kerry Torrens is a qualified nutritionist (MBANT) with a post graduate diploma in personalised nutrition and nutritional therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the last two decades she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food. For more food and health tips follow Kerry on Instagram at @kerry_torrens_nutrition_
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