Why are you always tired, even though you get enough sleep?
Feeling tired or exhausted all the time, even after a good night sleep? You are not alone. It is a common problem for many and quite a lot of us go through that phase at one point or another. Our lives are so fast-paced with a much faster rate of change that it’s natural to feel dead tired occasionally. But you should not feel exhausted constantly. In this article, we’ll discuss possible reasons why you are tired all the time and some practical steps to deal with them.
WHY ARE YOU ALWAYS TIRED?
Do you feel you are sleeping enough most of the nights, but still wake up tired and feel low on energy for the rest of the day? Here are five possible reasons why you are always tired and what can you do about it.
#1 YOU MAY BE DEALING WITH A ‘REST DEFICIT’
The concept of Rest Deficit was introduced by Dr Saundra Daulton Smith in her book Sacred Rest. We go through life thinking we have rested as per our needs because we have gotten enough sleep. But sleep is only one part of the bigger picture and one of the seven types of rest that we all need. Every activity we do requires energy and most of that energy is not physical. So, in reality, we are missing out on the other types of rest we desperately need.
The first step towards overcoming your rest deficit is to identify where you are using most of your energy during the day. Based on that you can focus your attention on getting the type of rest that you need. Here are the seven types of rest we all need:
This is the most common type of rest that we all understand. Physical rest includes sleeping and napping. It also includes physical activities that rejuvenate us such as stretching, yoga or getting massage therapy.
Sometimes, we may feel we have slept enough but that may not be enough for you. More on that in the subsequent sections.
Do you tend to feel irritable, forgetful and find it hard to concentrate on one thing at a time? Ever find yourself staring at the same page of the book for 10 mins or unable to finish a routine work email? Do you sometimes find it hard to fall asleep because you are unable to turn off your brain as the conversations from the day clogging your mind? You may be in a mental rest deficit.
This is the type of rest you need to tune out of the daily grind and give yourself a break to quiet your mind. Schedule short breaks during your workday – go for a short stroll or listen to peppy music; these breaks can remind you to slow down and calm your mind. You can also keep a notepad by the bed to jot down any nagging thoughts that keep you awake.
If you are someone who is a constant “giver” and seldom says “no” to others, you may be in an emotional rest deficit. You may sometimes feel underappreciated and like others are taking advantage of you. Certain occupations such as teachers, caretakers, activists and even parents are often in need of emotional rest.
Emotional rest requires having the time and space to freely express your feelings and cut back on people-pleasing. That could mean scheduling regular therapy sessions or finding people with whom you can be yourself. It also requires the courage to be authentic and be able to say “no” when necessary. An emotionally rested person can answer the question “How are you today?” with a truthful “I’m not okay” and then go on to share some hard things that otherwise go unsaid.
Socialising can be exhausting irrespective of whether you are an introvert or an extrovert. It is necessary to differentiate between the relationships that revive us and the ones that exhaust us. Consciously assess how you feel after interacting with certain individuals. You may need to cut out negative people who leave you completely drained, depleted, and exhausted after a mere 20 mins conversation. But sometimes, it may not be feasible to cut ties especially if it’s your parents or siblings or a close friend. In that case, reduce your interaction with them so you can counter your social rest deficit.
And then there are people who you find enthusiastically supportive, caring and easy to be around. Surround yourself with such positive and supportive people. For competitive souls and go-getters, this could mean hanging out with like-minded people with varied interests – people you don’t have to compete with. If you are unable to find your tribe closeby, you can choose to engage with them virtually over video or audio calls.
This type of rest is especially essential for those who regularly solve problems or brainstorm new ideas. Creativity makes the end product look effortless but it takes away a lot of mental energy. Give yourself a break by going on a walk, or reading an engrossing book. Do something enjoyable such as dancing, listening to music, visiting an art gallery, or watching an inspirational movie. As a health coach who produces content regularly, I find myself in creative rest deficit quite often. No wonder I love going for long walks in the evening.
The bright lights, computer screens, multiple conversations around you and background noise of the traffic can all cause your senses to be overwhelmed and drain your energy. It can cause a lot of strain on your eyes and sometimes even cause restlessness and irritability.
Sensory rest deficit can be countered by doing something as simple as closing your eyes for a minute in the middle of the day or intentionally putting aside all the electronics at the end of every day. Establish “bright lines” (firm and clear-cut ground rules) such as not opening emails after working hours or avoiding screen time post-dinner.
Do you sometimes feel helpless, hopeless, trapped, or defeated? Or maybe you have achieved a lot in life but still, feel a lack of accomplishment and feel like life is pointless with no real purpose. You may need spiritual rest. I often come across people in my coaching practice who have been working hard all their life and can be placed much higher on Maslow’s Need Hierarchy Pyramid. However, they sometimes feel disconnected from the rest of the world and feel stuck in life. What they often crave, is the ability to connect beyond the physical and mental and feel a deep sense of belonging, love, acceptance and purpose.
To receive spiritual rest, engage in something greater than yourself. Add meditation, prayers, doing things that give you joy such as community service/ helping strangers without expectation or a gratitude journal to your daily routine.
#2 YOU MAY HAVE SLEEP APNEA
Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition in which your breathing is repeatedly interrupted during sleep. When this happens, your body wakes you up to resume breathing. The multiple sleep interruptions prevent you from sleeping well, leaving you feeling extra tired or fatigued during the day. In most instances, a person with sleep apnea is not aware of their breathing problems at night. So you may feel that you get enough rest at night, but you will feel tired all the time due to disturbed sleep. Your spouse, family member, roommate or someone who sleeps in your room may be able to identify this issue.
You may be in bed for the recommended 7-9 hours, but your sleep quality is sabotaged due to sleep apnea and you are not even aware.
In general, if you snore loudly and feel tired even after a full night’s sleep, you might have obstructive sleep apnea. Here is a self-evaluation test by the division of sleep medicine at Harvard Medical School.
SELF EVALUATION TEST
Answer the following questions as Yes or No
- Do you snore loudly (louder than talking or loud enough to be heard through closed doors)?
- Do you often feel tired, fatigued, or sleepy during the day?
- Has anyone observed you not breathing during sleep?
- Do you have or have you been treated for high blood pressure?
If you answered Yes to two or more of these questions, you have a high risk of sleep apnea. Now, answer the following questions for an even better prediction:
- Is your Body Mass Index more than 35 kg/m2?
- Is your age more than 50 years old?
- Is your neck circumference greater than 40 cm?
- Is your gender male?
If you answered Yes to three or more of the eight questions above, you have a much higher risk of sleep apnea. Certain lifestyle changes such as losing weight if you’re overweight or smoking cessation can also help reduce the risk of sleep apnea. Consult an appropriate doctor or health professional in your local area to know more. If you are in India, you may consult Sleep Apnoea India to learn more about sleep apnea and possible treatment options.
#3 YOU MAY HAVE A NUTRIENT DEFICIENCY
Being tired all the time can also be a sign of a nutrient deficiency. This could include low levels of vitamin D, vitamin B12, iron, or magnesium. If you are feeling unusually lethargic or tired most of the time, a routine blood test can help identify if there are any nutrient deficiencies. Your doctor may recommend taking supplements. You can also increase your intake of certain foods to correct a deficiency naturally.
Vitamin D deficiency is one the most common causes of tiredness or fatigue. It is primarily synthesised in our body when the skin is exposed to direct sunlight. Food sources such as oily fish, egg yolk, mushroom and some fortified products also provide Vitamin D. Depending on a person’s dietary preferences, consuming enough vitamin D may be difficult. If proper sun exposure is not feasible, Vitamin D supplements may be a good choice. Consult your doctor or physician to get the right supplement dosage.
Since your body doesn’t make vitamin B12, you have to get it from animal-based foods or supplements. Animal sources include dairy products, eggs, fish, meat, and poultry. For this reason, vitamin B12 deficiency is quite common among those who follow a plant-based or vegan diet. In that case, you must add fortified foods to your diet or take supplements to meet this need.
Deficiency of iron can cause anaemia which can lead to extreme fatigue and tiredness. Causes of iron deficiency include lack of enough iron in the diet or an inability to absorb iron. In women, it is common during pregnancy or due to excessive bleeding during menstruation. In either case, it is best to consult a doctor and get the correct diagnosis.
Some of the iron-rich foods include dark leafy vegetables such as spinach and broccoli, legumes such as beans, lentils, chickpeas, peas, and soybeans, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, raisins, apricots and animal products such as red meats, poultry, fish and organ meats. Sometimes, the doctor may prescribe you supplements for a few weeks or months until you achieve normal iron levels.
Loss of appetite, nausea, fatigue and weakness are some of the early signs of magnesium deficiency. While the elderly are especially at risk, magnesium deficiency isn’t unknown in younger people especially athletes, since magnesium is lost through sweat. Magnesium deficiency can also impair sleep quality.
Magnesium-rich foods include seeds and nuts such as almonds, peanuts, cashews, hazelnuts, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds and chia seeds. Green vegetables, fruits, whole grains, cereals, and legumes are also excellent sources of magnesium.
#4 YOUR DIET IS AFFECTING YOUR MOOD AND ENERGY LEVELS
What you eat can have a profound impact on your mood and energy levels. Research shows that indulging in higher amounts of refined sugars and highly processed foods such as juices, desserts, croissants, pizza, pasta, bhujia etc. can result in fatigue and mood disturbances. That is probably the reason why we feel lethargic after a couple of days of indulgence.
Write down and click pictures of everything you eat, with timings, for a few days. It will give you insights into how processed foods consumption is impacting your energy levels and mood.
For this reason, I follow one simple rule – Consume more whole foods, choose minimally processed foods and eat fewer highly processed ones. The figure below provides some examples of foods on the “whole foods” to “highly processed foods” spectrum. Use this to make better food choices by opting for more whole foods in your diet.
Some studies (1,2) also suggest that poor dietary habits along with other lifestyle patterns may adversely alter your gut microbiota i.e. the composition of the microbiome (bacteria, viruses and fungi) present in your intestine and colon that are crucial for your overall health. Differences in the gut microbiota are also linked with chronic fatigue syndrome, a condition that causes extreme fatigue or tiredness that does not go away with rest and cannot be explained by an underlying medical condition. Further, a healthy gut microbiome (or gut health) may benefit our mental health (1,2,3,4) by impacting the secretion of certain neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin.
In essence, an unhealthy diet and lifestyle can adversely impact your gut health and that may be the reason why you feel tired all the time, even though you sleep enough.
How to Improve your Gut Health?
In addition to the above rule for making better food choices, certain probiotic and prebiotic foods can also help maintain a healthy gut microbiota.
Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for you, especially your digestive system, that help keep your gut healthy. Some of the probiotics rich foods include fermented foods such as:
- Idli and dosa
- Non-fried dhokla
- Kefir or kombucha
Prebiotics are special plant fibres that act as a source of food for your gut’s healthy bacteria and help them grow. Some of the prebiotics rich foods include:
- Fruits such as apples, bananas and berries
- Artichokes and Asparagus
- Onions and garlic
- Green vegetables
- Whole grains such as wheat and barley
- Legumes such as peas and beans
Please note that too many probiotics or prebiotics can sometimes cause bloating, gas, nausea or brain fog. So, it’s best to consume these in moderation.
#5 YOU LACK PURPOSE AND INSPIRATION IN LIFE
If rest deficit, sleep apnea, nutrition deficiency and diet related causes of fatigue do not apply to you, then there may be a deeper reason for this.
- Are you struggling to get out of bed in the morning because you have nothing to look forward to?
- Have you lost motivation to do things that you otherwise enjoy?
- Do you indulge in endless procrastination?
If you can relate to these questions, you probably need a purpose and some inspiration in life. Sometimes we get too busy in our mundane day to day routine that we are unable to see what lies ahead for us. Other times, it is because we have worked relentlessly to pursue our goals and have reached a point where we don’t have anything further to look forward to. It has turned into a downward spiral of boredom and indifference, and this may be the reason why you are feeling tired and fatigued all the time.
So, what can you do about it?
There is no one size fits all solution, but being aware of what is holding you back may be a good first step. Here are some things you may try to get out of the rut of apathy and fatigue:
- Learn something challenging: Baking, gardening, pottery, martial arts, musical instrument, blogging, photography, something work-related – it could be anything under the sun. Learning something new and challenging adds excitement to our life and keeps us motivated. And if it clicks, it can turn into a new lifelong hobby.
- Set new goals & milestones: Set long term milestones and break them into short term goals. We need something that drives us. It doesn’t have to be something out of ordinary. For a married couple, a milestone could be as simple as starting a family. Then their short term goals are the things that they need to fulfil their responsibilities as a parent. For a fresh graduate, it could be their next promotion. For another person, a milestone could be travelling 10 countries in the next two year and he/ she can look forward to planning each trip.
- Celebrate small wins: Pat yourself for the small wins. Something small and simple enough to remind yourself that you are doing well. Acknowledging small wins helps release the “feel-good” neurotransmitter dopamine.
- Talk to someone: Share your struggles with someone who wouldn’t judge you. Discussing your challenges with others can help you zoom out and understand the problem. It could be a close friend, a mentor or someone you look up to.
If you have been in this phase for more than a month, there could be a deeper issue that needs to be addressed. In such cases, it is best to seek professional help from your doctor, therapist or psychologist.
Sometimes, sleeping is not enough to feel rested. If you are feeling tired or lethargic all the time, you may be dealing with a rest deficit. It is also possible that your sleep is disturbed due to obstructive sleep apnea. Try the sleep apnea self-evaluation test and consult an appropriate professional as required. A nutrient deficiency may be the reason why you are always tired, even though you sleep enough. a routine blood test can help identify if there are any nutrient deficiencies.
Your diet may be affecting your mood and energy levels. Eat fewer refined foods, consume minimally processed foods and eat more whole foods. Include prebiotics and probiotics in your diet to improve your gut health. If none of the other reasons applies to you, a lack of purpose and inspiration may be leaving you fatigued. Do something that excites you and discuss your challenges with someone you can trust.
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My recommendations for protein supplements:
Whey Protein – Option 1
Whey Protein – Option 2
Vegan Protein – Option 1
Vegan protein – Option 2
Protein for Women
Other Option – Sattu
Other supplements I recommend (Confirm with your doctor before consuming):
Multivitamins for women
Read these amazing books to learn about mindset, what motivates us and how to form good habits, and break bad ones.
Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
Old Path White Clouds: Walking in the Footsteps of the Buddha
7 Habits of highly effective people
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