If you’re addicted to the snooze button, often feel groggy by noon, or find yourself yawning at your desk all afternoon, you aren’t alone. Feeling tired all day is a common problem in the U.S, where 15 percent of women and 10 percent of men regularly feel exhausted External Site, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
You may know why you are so tired, particularly if it’s a temporary problem. But if it’s a regular occurrence, you may find yourself looking for explanations. Here are a few common causes of exhaustion, plus some tips for feeling more refreshed.
Poor sleep habits
While it may seem obvious, poor sleep habits are actually quite a problem in the U.S. — where one in three adults are not getting enough sleep External Site, according to the CDC. Most adults need seven or more hours of sleep External Site, according to The American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Get more sleep with these tips:
- Set an alarm for bed. You probably set an alarm to wake up. Now, try setting an alarm for bedtime. This will help you develop a set routine of going to bed at the same time every night and waking at the same time each morning. The alarm will can serve as a signal to turn off the television or put away other electronics so you get to bed at a decent time. To make it even easier, some smartphones offer a bedtime setting.
- If you can’t sleep, take a break. Don’t lie awake in bed for more than 10 to 20 minutes. If your mind is racing, get out of bed and write down things that might be troubling you or make a list of what you want to complete tomorrow. You can also read a book under a dim light or sit quietly until you are sleepy, then go back to bed.
- Limit screen time before bed. Minimize blue light from electronic devices 2–3 hours before going to bed.
Food and drink choices can sabotage your energy levels. Limit caffeine to early morning hours, avoid alcohol, and stay away from sugary or fried foods to stay more alert. A few more ideas to give you energy:
- Drink more water. Dehydration makes you less alert, and can zap your concentration and decrease energy levels. Drinking more water can help you feel refreshed.
- Eat smaller meals more often. Eating healthy, small meals every three hours may stabilize your blood sugar level and keep you more alert during the day. Think fruits, vegetables and lean proteins. For example, plain Greek yogurt with berries or an apple with nut butter.
- Shed extra weight. Even small reductions in body fat improve mood, energy and quality of life.
Lack of exercise
The last thing you want to do when you’re exhausted is do a workout. But, exercise boosts your energy levels and improves the efficiency of your heart, lungs and muscles. In addition to 30 minutes of moderate activity daily, try these tips:
- Spend less time sitting. You’ll have more energy if you break up stretches of sedentary activity with some movement. Make it a habit to get up, walk and stretch every hour.
- Build more movement into your day. The human body is designed to move. Even small amounts of movement count. Walk instead of drive. Park far away. Take the steps instead of the elevator.
If you’re not sure where your tiredness is coming from, it’s important to rule out potential health problems. Fatigue is a common symptom of many illnesses, including diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, anemia, thyroid disease, and sleep apnea.
- Talk to your doctor. If you feel unusually tired and can’t figure out the cause, tell your personal doctor.
- Consider your prescriptions. Many prescriptions have drowsy side effects. Talk to your doctor about fatigue-causing medications you may be taking, or possible drug interactions that may be making you feel tired.
Even night owls can be early birds
In a small study, night owls who tweaked their bedtime schedules External Site had positive results in only three weeks. Study participants went to bed and woke up 2 to 3 hours earlier, got outdoor light each morning and limited light at night and ate on a schedule. By the end of the study, they reported less stress and depression.