If you’re anything like me, your days are spent in two states of being: sleeping, and wishing you were sleeping.
Well, my fellow ever-exhausted friend, it turns out there are actually a whole bunch of reasons why we could be feeling the grind more than our peers — even if we are getting plenty of shut-eye.
Here are some of the biggest causes of that always-sleepy feeling.
The first couple of possible factors come down to basic lifestyle choices, meaning a simple change in your day-to-day habits could have a positive effect on your feelings of restfulness.
You should probably consider these easy changes before you start investigating the more serious, medical conditions further down.
Exercising uses up energy and makes you tired, right? So therefore, not doing exercise – say, by spending your days sitting at a desk – must therefore use less energy and make you less tired, right? Not the case.
Having a lifestyle that is too inactive is actually detrimental to your energy levels — sitting too much actually leads to a more fatigued state of being, not the other way around.
Studies have shown that individuals who regularly participate in light exercise a few times a week report feeling more energetic after a few weeks than those who continued to remain stationary.
So if you’re sitting much more than necessary, regular walks or hitting the gym a few times a week could get that pep back into your step!
Some people just cannot function without their morning coffee — and there’s nothing specifically wrong with that. But caffeine works by effectively blocking the neurotransmitter adenosine, which helps make us drowsy.
Which means if you’re drinking coffee too close to bed time, cutting the caffeine may be worth considering — but how close is ‘too close’?
According to researchers at the Sleep Disorders & Research Center in Detroit, caffeine can have a detrimental affect on your sleep quality if you consume it up to six hours before hitting the hay.
So if you head to bed around 10 or 11pm, it’s probably best if your afternoon coffee is the last brew you have for the day. After that, stick to that sweet nectar of life, water.
Medical issues can cause fatigue. Of course, it’s best to leave diagnosing to the experts, so if you think you may be suffering from one of these issues, see your physician.
Anaemia is caused by a lack of enough healthy red blood cells, which carry oxygen. A lack of sufficient oxygen being supplied to your organs invariably leads to fatigue.
This lack can be caused by blood loss, an impaired red blood cell production mechanism, or through other forms of destruction of the cells.
Your doctor can do tests to determine whether or not you do have anaemia, however they won’t begin treatment until they are able to determine which of these are actually casing the condition in the first place — the treatments for one cause could potentially be dangerous if the underlying issue is one of the others.
So if you think you have anaemia, be ready to provide as much medical history as possible – and be prepared to answer a lot of questions.
First thing in the morning, despite having slept through the night, do you feel like you haven’t slept at all? This could be a result of sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea results from disrupted breathing patterns during sleep, and is more prevalent in men, those over 40, and people who are overweight.
Sleep apnea can also lead to morning headaches, insomnia, forgetfulness, mood swings, and a reduced interest in sex — so you’re probably going to want to get this one under control quickly!
The thyroid gland is located at the front of your throat, and produces the hormones that determine how your body uses the energy created by what you eat — controlling your metabolism, and affecting your heart, muscles, bones and cholesterol.
Thyroid disorders can range in effect and severity, however if your fatigue problems do indeed stem from your thyroid, then it would most likely be attributed to hypothyroidism, where the gland is not producing enough hormones.
Hypothyroidism tends to run in the family, so if your relatives have been diagnosed with it, this would be good information to share with your physician.
Thankfully, hypothyroidism is easy to treat — but like anaemia and sleep apnea before it, this is best left to the professionals.
Psychological medical issues
The last two possible contributing factors are due to potential mental health problems — and, like physical medical issues, it’s best to leave these up to experts to diagnose and treat.
If you think you might be suffering from one of the following conditions, fatigue could simply be a symptom of a much bigger issue, so please seek help, or speak to a mental health professional.
Depression is one of the most misunderstood mental health issues. The word ‘depressed’ is so misused that the condition tends to be categorised as simply ‘feeling sad’.
Aside from feelings of fatigue and sleepiness, people suffering from depression will often also experience feelings of guilt, indecisiveness, and disappointment, which can lead to thoughts of self-harm or suicide. Sufferers may find themselves withdrawing from social activities or even from simply seeing friends and family, as well as doing things they would normally enjoy.
If none of these really apply to you — and I hope they don’t — then your sleepiness is probably due to something else (this is a good thing). If, however, you recognise some of these symptoms, along with your tiredness, it might be time to speak to a professional.
Anxiety can be caused by everyday stresses, like work, relationships or financial concerns — things that may not seem big individually can compound into a greater issue if left unchecked.
Carrying the weight of all of these worries around is physically exhausting, which leads to fatigue, causing poor sleeping patterns and lower quality sleep.
Like depression, sadly there is no quick and easy solution for anxiety disorders. If you think you may be suffering from one of these two conditions, be sure to speak to your psychologist or, failing that, your GP, who can recommend an appropriate expert.
If all of this is too much for your lethargic brain to process, and you would rather see a visual representation, check out this video by AsapSCIENCE, which covers most of the factors outlined here, plus a few more.
Or, if you’re not sure you’re actually getting the right amount of sleep, they even have a video about that too.