Are you tired and lacking in energy? This is one of the most common complaints people have. In fact, a study showed that between 21% and 35% of visits to a doctor’s office are related to fatigue. Sometimes feeling tired is due to an undiagnosed medical problem, such as diabetes, infection, anemia, or an underactive thyroid, to name a few. That’s why you should always see your doctor if you have persistent fatigue and lack of energy. However, feeling tired can also come from lifestyle habits as well. If that’s the case, you can often correct them by changing those habits that cause fatigue. Let’s look at some of the most common lifestyle habits that zap your energy and make you feel tired and what you can do about them.
Feel Tired: Eating a Processed Food Diet
Processed foods are typically loaded with sugar and carbohydrates that raise your blood sugar rapidly. When you chomp down on a doughnut or a pack of chips, you might feel a short-term boost in energy as your blood glucose rises – but don’t count on that energy to stick around. The rise is followed by a surge in insulin and this leads within a few hours to a quick drop in blood sugar. As a result, you feel tired, hungry, and unproductive. Many people repeat this pattern throughout the day, eating junk food, experiencing a short-term jolt of energy, followed by a crash. By the end of the day, you feel depleted of energy and want to crawl on to the couch and sleep.
If this is your eating pattern, eliminate sugar and unprocessed foods, and consume whole foods and a lean source of protein at each meal to steady your blood sugar and prevent sugar crashes that inevitably lead to fatigue. Give your body clean fuel to burn and you’re less likely to experience those feelings of lethargy.
Feel Tired: Mismanaging Caffeine
Yes, caffeine is a pick-me-up but you can develop a tolerance to its effects over time. When this happens, you have to drink more to get the same degree of alertness and energy. If you find you have to drink more and more coffee to feel awake and alive, you’re probably tolerant. The only way to break the tolerance is to gradually cut back and allow your body to adjust to lower caffeine levels.
During the withdrawal period, you’ll probably feel irritable. Once you’ve successfully weaned yourself and your body has adapted, moderate your caffeine intake. Instead of reaching for a cup of coffee first thing in the morning and several more later in the morning, begin the day with a heart-pumping exercise session instead. Stick to one or, at most, two cups a day. Don’t use caffeine as a crutch to keep you alert and productive.
Feel Tired: Not Drinking Enough Liquid
Mild dehydration is a common cause of fatigue. One study found that women who were mildly dehydrated experienced fatigue and increased moodiness. The moodiness isn’t surprising since dehydration reduces blood flow to the brain. Mild dehydration is linked with other annoying symptoms related to the brain, like a headache.
How much water do you need? There isn’t a set formula for how much water to drink each day. Optimal quantities vary from individual to individual based on exercise habits, sweating patterns, and how much liquid you get from the foods you eat. The best course of action is to carry a steel water bottle with you to work and wherever you go and drink from it throughout the day.
Feel Tired: Clutter
Is your house or office disorganized? Surprisingly, clutter and disorganization can cause fatigue. Not surprising since clutter usually means you have too many things and options and this can overwhelm and lead to the inability to make decisions. When faced with so much chaos, your brain shuts down and you don’t feel productive. In fact, a study carried out at Princeton University found that clutter interferes with the brain’s ability to focus and this leads to feelings of fatigue. If you’re wiped out by the end of the day, reassess your home and work area. Is it begging for a clean-up? Giving it a clean sweep may help you feel better and be more productive.
Feel Tired: Too Much Blue Light at Bedtime
Sometimes it’s hard to put away technology. Too often, we use our iPhones and iPads in the evening when our bodies are winding down for sleep. These devices are a source of blue light, a wavelength of light that interferes with the release of melatonin. Melatonin is the main hormone that regulates your sleep-wake cycle so that you slip into a restful sleep. By shutting down melatonin, devices that deliver blue light make it harder for you to get 7+ hours of quality sleep, which is what you need for health and to feel your best. Even if you’re getting at least 7 hours of sleep per night, it may not be quality sleep if you’re exposing your eyes to blue light before bedtime. Put away the devices, at least a few hours before you turn in, and focus on relaxing and unwinding. We all need a break from technology!
Feel Tired: Not Moving Enough
Even if you do a structured workout, you probably spend more time sitting than you think. The average office worker spends a whopping 10 hours of the day sitting! Not only does all of that sitting zap your energy, it contributes to other health issues. Studies show that sitting for more than 6 hours daily is linked with a higher risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and early mortality. Plus, it’s harmful to your posture. Keep doing structured workouts but break up the time you sit during the day as well. Don’t allow yourself to sit for more than 30 minutes at a time. Stand up, stretch, and walk around. This habit alone can help you feel more energetic and be more productive.
The Bottom Line
Now, you know a few reasons why you always feel tired – but make sure you get checked out medically as well. Better safe than sorry.
Arch Intern Med. 1990;150(8):1685.
Live Science. “Mild Dehydration Triggers Moodiness & Fatigue in Women”
The Washington Post Company. “Health experts have figured out how much time you should sit each day”
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