Why Am I So Tired? | 9 Common Causes of Fatigue | The Old Farmer's Almanac

Fighting Fatigue: Why Am I So Tired?


How to Beat 9 Common Causes of Fatigue

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Do you often feel fatigued during the day for seemingly no reason at all? Here are some of the most common causes of fatigue and how to overcome them!

Why Am I So Tired?

You've tossed and turned for nights or, even worse, got a seemingly good night's sleep, only to awake feeling sluggish and exhausted. Everyone goes through periods of fatigue. Life events and everyday stressors are often to blame. But when those occasional bouts become chronic and interfere with life, it's time to consider the factors that could be contributing to the problem.

1. Lack of Sleep

Yes, we know this one falls under "master of the obvious." According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in three Americans say they don't get enough sleep. Experts recommend seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep for adults 18 and older.

So, how do you turn bedtime around? 

  • At least an hour before bed, put all devices away. The blue light they emit is like an alarm clock sent directly to your brain to "Wake up!" Set up an alarm on your device to remind yourself to turn it off! 
  • Keep a routine and go to bed at the same time each night. Again, set an alarm for yourself.
  • Sleep in a darkened, cool room. We are programmed to wake up with light. So, if you don't want to wake up with natural light, ensure that your windows are covered with black-out shades or whatever it takes to keep the room dark. 

2. No Java Jolt

Anyone here drink a pot of coffee in the morning and then crash mid-day? (I've been known to take a catnap!) You've just entered a vicious cycle of instant energy followed by an inevitable crash when caffeine's effects begin to wear off.

If caffeine is always your go-to when fatigue sets in, beware. You'll end up no better off than the moment before you took your first sip. This stimulant leaves many people craving even more sugar and caffeine, amplifying the anxiety and fatigue.

That doesn't mean all caffeine is off-limits. It's better to taper off gradually to avoid symptoms of withdrawal. As with all things, aim for moderation.

  • One cup of coffee in the morning is okay, but after that, try decaffeinated.
  • Or, if you're making a pot in the morning, try mixing your coffee so it's half decaffeinated.

3. Dehydration

If you're thirsty, you're already dehydrated and that can lead to fatigue and weakness. Urine doesn't lie and one need look no further than the toilet to know the status of your hydration. Clear or light yellow and you're golden (no pun intended). Dark or cloudy and you need water.

Aim for six to eight glasses a day, more if you're exercising.

How to drink more water? Here are some ideas:

  • Drink a cup of water right when you wake up and drink a cup before every meal. (Drink water helps curb your appetite, too.)
  • But a water bottle as an accessory so you have it with you.
  • Always put a glass or water by your desk or your side so you drink it.
  • Drink a glass of water after every bathroom break! This is an easy habit to fall into. 
  • Set an alarm on your phone for every hour or so to remind yourself to drink water.
  • Eat fruits and vegetables which have a lot of water!

4. Too Few Calories/Quality Calories

Some of us would love to be told to eat more! However, if you are someone who isn't getting enough calories, you're a car about to run out of fuel. Without enough calories, your engine ceases and you're left feeling lethargic. An average woman needs to eat about 2000 calories per day to maintain; an average man needs 2500 calories to maintain.

For all of us, it's quality calories, not quantity here. Avoid sugary or fatty foods and opt for healthier choices. Refined sugar, while great for that quick burst, is always followed with a crash. You want sustained energy. Things like nuts, seeds, fruits, and veggies are excellent choices.

5. Not Enough Exercise (or Too Much)

Provided there's no known medical condition contributing to your fatigue, exercise could be the answer. It sounds counterintuitive, but elevating that heart rate and engaging in activities like yoga, light resistance training, and daily walking can do wonders for your state of mind as well as your energy level. You may also experience more restful sleep.

Overexercising can have the opposite affect and exacerbate fatigue. See your doctor to come up with a plan of action that works for you.

6. Sleep Apnea

Have you ever been told you snore? It's possible you may have sleep apnea, a condition where throughout sleep, there are brief periods when breathing stops. Most people are unaware of it, but it can cause snoring, fatigue, and weight gain. Smoking and alcohol consumption make it worse. See your doctor to rule out the condition. You'll likely undergo a sleep study and your doctor may prescribe a CPAP device, which helps open airways while you're sleeping.

7. Food Allergies

Some folks have food intolerances. If you feel sluggish or sleepy after eating certain foods, it's possible it's related to an allergy. An elimination diet will help pin-point the culprit by removing the suspected food from your diet and monitoring energy levels. After several days, reintroduce the food. If fatigue returns, bingo! Talk with your doctor for tips on an elimination diet.


8. Shift-Work Sleep Disorder

Night shifts and rotating shifts really do a number on the circadian rhythm, your body's 24-hour clock. Confusion like this can send your sleep pattern into a tailspin. Best to sleep in a cool, quiet and darkened room. Avoid caffeine and try to follow a regular sleep schedule when possible.

9. Medical Causes

When you've ruled out everything within your control, it may be time to consult a doctor. Anemia, depression, hypothyroidism, infection, diabetes, heart disease, and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) are among the many conditions that can present with symptoms of fatigue and listlessness. 

Certain medications, like antihistamines and cough medicines, can also drag you down. 

Now that you know the most common causes of fatigue, hopefully you can take the steps necessary to remedy the situation! Let us know what works best for you in the comments below.

Learn More

Speaking of remedies, check out Natural Remedies for Anxiety and Stress, Natural Remedies for Migraines, and Remedies for Nighttime Leg Cramps.

About The Author

Heather Blackmore

Heather Blackmore tends a perennial and vegetable garden in the southwest suburbs of Chicago. She writes about her garden successes, failures, and observations on her blog. Read More from Heather Blackmore

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