Why Am I Tired All the Time?
Look for habits you can change or hidden medical issues.
Posted September 10, 2021 | Reviewed by Ekua Hagan
- Certain food and drink choices can often lead to a feeling of fatigue.
- Feeling tired all the time may be due to hidden sleep issues, like sleep apnea or nighttime noise.
- One unexpected source of fatigue is being sedentary. Research shows that simply going for a walk can boost one's energy by 20%.
There are many reasons you might be dragging, even if you usually are in bed for seven or eight hours. If you feel tired often, it’s important to figure out the cause.
Is it your mood? This can be hard to figure out—are you sad because you’re tired or tired because you’re sad? Are you anxious because you’re short of energy and can’t quite get everything done or short of energy because you’re anxious? You might need to talk to a psychotherapist or consider medication.
Sometimes you need to tackle a problem that looms so large you can’t bear to look at it, like your marriage, job, or struggling child. The best news: You’ll have more energy once you get started.
But part of the project is identifying other causes for fatigue. So let's take a tour of all the possible causes for feeling tired all the time.
Here are common triggers related to what you eat and drink.
Eating Too Little. Some people go on strict diets or skip meals because they’re busy. You might be trying one of the popular regimes that involve fasting. Just be aware: Lack of food can make you tired. Food is energy.
Eating Too Few Carbs (or Too Many). Again, food is energy and that includes healthful carbs. If you often skip breakfast, try oatmeal and see if you feel better in the mid-morning than you usually do.
Some people overload on carbs like potato chips or bread, which can also lead to fatigue. Your body quickly turns chips into sugar. You may get a boost but crash when you come down.
Exercising Without Fuel. If you skip breakfast and run to the gym, exercising without fuel, you could easily be exhausted afterward.
Dehydration. Do you have diarrhea? You are losing water, which can lead to dehydration. What about coffee? Recent evidence suggests that moderate amounts of caffeine are not dehydrating, but you might be overdoing it. Lots of coffee on top of diarrhea or serious sweating could be a problem.
Low Iron. Having too little iron in your diet can cause fatigue, especially if you end up with anemia, a condition when you have too little hemoglobin or not enough red blood cells. With anemia, your body’s cells become low in oxygen. You might have pale skin, get headaches, get short of breath, or feel dizzy.
Even if you spend enough time in bed, you may end up tired because of poor sleep quality. You want to wake up happy and rested. Here's what contributes to low sleep quality.
Irregular Sleep Hours. The best way to feel rested is to go to bed at about the same time every night and wake up at the same time. If you have crazy hours and rely on catching up on weekends, you are likely to feel tired often.
Sleep Apnea. Do you snore? That’s one sign that you have sleep apnea, a condition in which your sleep is broken up by intervals when you are gasping for breath. You don’t fully wake up—but you end up with shallower, less restful sleep.
We tend to think of sleep apnea as a problem only for very heavy men who snore loudly and fall asleep during the day. But women can get sleep apnea as well, even if they aren’t especially heavy. You might not snore especially loudly. If you are tired all the time, and can’t find another cause, talk to your doctor about a sleep test.
Noisy Bedrooms. Even if you don’t wake up, your body registers noise while you’re sleeping. People exposed to nightly traffic noise are more likely to have heart disease and to take sleep medicine, which doesn’t restore their sleep quality completely. Why? Noise keeps you in the shallower part of your sleep cycle and cuts short the later periods when your pulse and breathing rate slow and you dream. The noise doesn’t have to be loud: Even the hum of hospital equipment can affect your sleep quality, some research shows. If your bed partner snores, try sleeping apart and see if you awake more rested.
Beyond diet and sleep quality, fatigue has other possibly unexpected sources.
Lack of Exercise. You'll be more energetic the more you move. For people who are sedentary, getting up and out there, even just for a walk, can boost your energy by 20 percent.
Hearing Loss. It’s very common to have hearing loss from middle-age on, but most people put off getting hearing aids, typically for a decade. Struggling to hear can be exhausting. Your brain is working harder to interpret the sounds you hear, so you’ll lose focus earlier than you would if hearing were easy.
Sleep Essential Reads
Other Medical Problems
It’s important to speak to your doctor about your fatigue because it may be a clue to something else. Heart disease, hypothyroidism, diabetes, hepatitis, and chronic fatigue syndrome can all cause ongoing fatigue.
Your doctor should also reevaluate your medications. Fatigue can be a side effect of blood pressure medications, statins, and fibrates, acid-reflux medications, antianxiety drugs, antihistamines, antidepressants, antipsychotics, antibiotics, and diuretics. Medication can also trigger depression, which could make you feel tired all the time.
It's worth it to pursue a solution—simply taking action could give you a boost in confidence and energy!
A version of this story also appears at Your Care Everywhere.