If you’ve spent a 12-hour day skiing or boarding, come dinner time you just may feel like crashing. If you’ve put in 60-70 hours a week at your job, or work two jobs with no down time, it’s understandable that you’ll wear yourself out: body and mind. Maybe your full time job plus managing a hectic family life leaves you little time to sleep, eat right, or work out. In that case, again, it’s a no-brainer that you are going to operate in a near-collapse mode unless something changes. Or, if you stay out partying or roam up until 3 a.m. trying to get it all done, chances are the results are going to leave you more exhausted than energized. These outcomes are to be anticipated.
Why Am I So Tired Even After a Full Night’s Sleep?
But what about doing everything (or almost everything!) right, and you’re still dragging yourself through your 10 a.m. staff meeting asking, “Why am I so tired”?
One or more of the following possibilities for fatigue may just hit home, and though some may sound unconventional, taking the time to investigate may yield positive results:
- That’s right: When the body’s struggling to function on an inadequate amount of daily fluids, neurons in the brain’s hypothalamus send mood-altering messages, according to a 2012 study in “The Journal of Nutrition.” While experts believe the 8-glasses a day rule may be outmoded, taking your environment (do you live in a dry or humid climate; is it hot or cold?) into consideration, along with your activity level (did you run four miles today or take a 90-minute power yoga class?), what you’ve eaten (lots of dry foods like bread and popcorn, or moisture-rich foods like fruits and vegetables) should impact how much you need to drink.
- Heart disease. Symptoms of heart disease include shortness of breath, trouble sleeping in the weeks preceding a heart attack and fatigue. Blocked arteries or a weak heart muscle reduce blood flow, impeding the oxygen you need from getting to where it needs to go.
- Iron issues. It’s a known fact that too little iron, or anemia, spells fatigue. But too much iron can also result in weariness still leaving you asking “Why am I so tired?” The body uses vitamins, minerals and energy to rid itself of excess iron, leaving you feeling depleted. While too little iron can result from a vegetarian or vegan diet, thyroid or digestive issues, or heavy menstrual flow, to name a few conditions, high levels can be genetic or result from taking too many supplements that contain iron.
- Thyroid disease. Among the symptoms of hypothyroidism—or a sluggish thyroid—is low energy. With some sufferers, depending on how long symptoms are not acted upon, the body can become so weak people have trouble climbing stairs or even lifting a bag of groceries. While weight gain, hair loss, night sweats and other symptoms may also be present, crushing fatigue and problems even walking to the bus stop are sure signs that a doctor’s visit and blood work are necessary.
- B12 deficit. Being low on vitamin B12, a critical element to life which makes red blood cells, among other key functions, decreases the amount of oxygen the blood carries throughout the body. With age, the body produces less of a protein called “intrinsic factor” which aids in processing B12. The vitamin is produced naturally in animal foods, so vegetarians and vegans run the risk of a deficit, along with individuals who’ve had bariatric surgery. According to research, even low levels or borderline normal levels can cause fatigue, leaving you asking: “Why am I so tired?”.
- Sure—indulgences are fine if they are balanced primarily by what fuels you. Forget about “dieting,” though being overweight is the recipe for a cornucopia of ailments. The excess carbs, salt and fat that define junk food will deplete you faster than anything as your body fights for its health. Fill your day and your body with adequate and frequent servings of lean protein, water, fresh vegetables and fruits, raw nuts and the like. These will keep your blood sugar up and constant, resisting crashes which cause fatigue, and help fortify you against illness, so can stop asking yourself: “Why am I so tired?”.
- Though research hasn’t pinpointed exactly why one of the symptoms of diabetes is exhaustion, some medical experts posit the body expends a great deal of energy managing fluctuating blood sugar levels.
- Chronic stress. Though it’s easier said than done, cutting down on stress can be the difference between constant feelings of exhaustion and having normal energy levels and reserves. Under typical conditions, levels of the stress hormone cortisol are high in the morning and wane at night. But in a constant state of alert, levels may never fall off, making a decent night’s sleep an unattainable goal. Also, with some conditions, adrenal glands can fall behind in cortisol production, leaving you exhausted while still asking,”Why am I so tired?”
- Sleep apnea. This condition results in the body not being able to adequately rid itself of carbon dioxide throughout the night, frequently waking itself up in a state of alarm. Because of the innumerable interruptions, sleep’s critical REM stage is never reached, with the end product: a quantifiable state of exhaustion while wondering “Why am I so tired?” the next day.
- A lack of serotonin is a byproduct of depression, or depending on which study one subscribes to, a precursor. In any event, serotonin helps regulate the internal body clock. Without it in ample supply, energy levels are low, sleeplessness, great difficulty falling asleep or sleeping too much may occur, and the body becomes worn out leaving you asking “Why am I so tired?”.
- At its extreme, Generalized Anxiety Disorder—what one expert calls “a constant, draining buzz of worry that gets in the way of living your life”*—can cause sleep interruptions, muscle tension, consistently feeling powerless and on edge, and feelings of general exhaustion from battling these demons.
- Too sedentary. The adage is when you feel you can’t take another step, that’s when you need to the most. In fact, try taking a run, not a step. If you spend your life “moving” from couch to car to desk to table to couch again and then to bed, yikes! To paraphrase a famous phrase, “where’s the oxygen?!” Stress and pent up energy need a release, and your brain needs lots of oxygen to keep the gears moving and rid the body of excess cortisol. Exercise increases the intake of oxygen and stimulates the flow of “feel good” chemicals like endorphins, which both energize and relax you so you can stop asking yourself “Why am I so tired?”.
- Too active! Conversely, even with good intentions, over-exercising can produce fatigue. Perhaps more common among professional athletes who train intensively, or those who train for participate in endurance sports like triathlons or marathons, overtraining can cause the body to signal you to put the brakes on with symptoms such as fatigue. No matter what your goals are, the body can only withstand so much before it starts breaking down, so better to heed its messages in the short term to maintain it in the long term.
- In the movie “Where the Heart Is,” Ashley Judd’s character—with five young children—asks Natalie Portman if it’s all right if the two of them drive home slowly. She says it will feel like a vacation. For those whose lives revolve around unrelenting caregiving for young children, a chronically ill family member or elderly parents, the amount of physical and mental energy expended without end is unquantifiable.
- As with thyroid disease, menopause is hormonally-related, sometimes resulting in night sweats and hot flashes. These can wake you or keep you up at night, disturbing normal sleep patterns, leaving you in a state of exhaustion the next morning and wondering “Why am I so tired?” throughout the day.
- Hidden infection. Sometimes ailments like a urinary tract infection, or UTI, can manifest in the form of exhaustion and a sense of just not feeling right. Though typically people experience the burning and sense of urgency that accompany it, sometimes a general malaise and fatigue are the only symptoms. In elderly patients, UTIs can also manifest in the form of temporary confusion or dementia.
- If every time you enter a room in your house, or arrive at work in the morning, with tables and desk tops, chairs, benches, bureaus, closets, drawers, file cabinets and even corners teeming with the detritus of weeks, months and years’ worth of activity, no wonder you can’t hold your head up. Too many feelings of being overwhelmed are likely to have you asking: “Why am I so tired?”. Psychologists bang that drum early, often and quite loudly. Believe you can’t tackle the clean-up because you don’t know where to start? Master organizers recommend removing everything from the surface, closet, drawer (or floor space) you are targeting, rather than picking up one item at a time and trying to figure out where to relocate it (chances are you’ll just end up with another pile). A clean surface area—made more so by a nice dusting—represents a clean slate, and you are more apt to take care when replacing items or deciding what else you can do with them so as not to destroy your efforts.