You know getting plenty of sleep is essential for overall health. Snoozing for the recommended six to eight hours a night not only keeps you energized for the day but also can help you lose weight. But even if you go to bed early, get your full eight hours, and wake up at a reasonable time, you could still spend your day feeling constantly tired and lethargic.
It could be chronic fatigue, a complicated disorder that still has doctors stumped: there’s no test for it, and the only symptoms are feeling tired all the time, weakness, and muscle and joint pain. But before your doctor delivers a chronic fatigue diagnosis, he or she must rule out a number of other medical disorders. Here are some of the biggest medical and lifestyle reasons why you’re tired all the time. And to up your energy levels, be sure to avoid the 40 Habits that Make You Sick and Fat.
You Have Anemia
If you find yourself frequently tired throughout the day, it could be from anemia, a blood disorder that occurs when there aren’t enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen from your lungs to cells and tissues. Although some forms of anemia are hereditary, the most common form is iron-deficiency anemia, which can occur when someone doesn’t eat enough iron in his or her diet.
The biggest symptom is fatigue, along with headaches, weakness, and dizziness. If these sound familiar, be sure to visit a doctor for a proper blood test and diagnosis. Fortunately, iron-deficiency anemia is easily treated with iron supplements and diet changes—check out our list of The Best Iron Rich Foods to find out what to stock your kitchen with.
Depression, which affects 350 million people worldwide, is a complicated mental illness that can be linked to a number of genetic and environmental factors, including a family history of mental illness, poor diet, and lack of exercise. Although overwhelming sadness lasting longer than two weeks is the major symptom of depression, this mental disorder also affects people physically, including increased fatigue, aches, and trouble sleeping. If you notice any of these symptoms, visit your doctor or a psychiatrist for a proper diagnosis.
You’re Not Exercising
If you’re tired all the time, it might seem counterproductive to hit the gym. After all, a tough workout can seriously wipe you out. But working out can also give you more lasting, all-day energy—exercise stimulates new mitochondria to be made in your cells, which increases overall energy at the cellular level.
In fact, a study published in the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics found that sedentary adults who performed low and moderate exercise for six weeks had decreased feelings of fatigue. Something as simple as a walk around the neighborhood for 30 minutes can stimulate energy. So lace up your walking shoes and get some regular physical activity to reap all the healthy benefits.
It’s estimated up to one-third of adults in the U.S. with diabetes are undiagnosed, so it’s possible to live with this potentially fatal disease and not even know it. People with type 2 diabetes don’t use glucose properly, leading to sugar building up in the blood instead of being used for energy.
Chronic tiredness is one of the first indicators that someone might have diabetes, along with being thirsty all the time, hunger, and frequent urination. Visit your doctor to get your blood sugar levels tested with a fasting plasma glucose test or an oral glucose tolerance test.
You Have an Underactive Thyroid
Your thyroid, the butterfly-shaped gland in your neck, secretes two major hormones that control major bodily functions (such as how you use energy, regular body temperature, and digest food), and organs (including the heart, brain, liver, kidneys, and skin). So when your thyroid doesn’t work properly, it throws your hormones out of whack and can seriously mess with your energy levels.
If you have an underactive thyroid, or hypothyroidism, it means your body isn’t getting enough thyroid hormone, and your cells don’t get that “get going” signal leading to sluggishness. Chronic fatigue is one of the 10 Signs You Have an Underactive Thyroid, along with weight gain, high cholesterol, and a lower sex drive. Be sure to visit your doctor to get your thyroid checked with a simple blood test.
You’re Not Eating Enough Calories
Although losing weight requires a careful balance of eating healthy, exercising, drinking enough water and getting plenty of sleep, it starts with cutting calories. After all, if you burn more calories than you take in, you’ll inevitably lose weight. But it’s possible to go overboard; your body needs calories for energy to function. One of the telltale signs of not eating enough calories is feeling tired all the time. Jim White, RD, ACSM, and owner of Jim White Nutrition Studios says you should never drop below 1,200 calories a day. For people who lead more active lifestyles, that number should be closer to 1,500-1,800 a day. Not only will cutting calories so drastically leave you feeling sluggish, but it will also slow down your metabolism and sabotage your weight-loss efforts.
You Eat Too Much Sugar
It’s true your body needs glucose for energy, but too much sugar can interfere with your energy levels. If you eat a sugary meal or snack (think: flavored yogurt, blueberry muffin, or sweetened granola), it spikes your blood sugar, leading to an inevitable crash and feelings of sluggishness later. Do this enough and your body will be constantly recovering from each sugary binge. And it’s not just cookies and donuts that can send your blood sugar over the edge—be sure to avoid the 14 ‘Health’ Foods Worse Than a Donut.
You’re Not Drinking Enough Water
If you find yourself constantly tired and reaching for yet another coffee or soda for a pick-me-up, stop. Your body might actually need more replenishing water than caffeine to stay alert. “I find dehydration can quickly sap a person of energy and have us reaching for food and often caffeinated beverages,” Liz Bloom, RD, says. Instead, pour yourself a glass of water and be sure you’re drinking at least 64 ounces a day. Bloom recommends reaching for detox water to keep you sipping all day long. “Choosing foods such as citrus, frozen berries, cucumbers and fresh herbs can add a burst of flavor to water and release some of the nutritional benefits within those foods while providing hydration and therefore sustained energy,” she adds.
You’re Not Eating Enough Carbs
Drastically cutting carbs is a common fad diet people turn to when they’re looking to lose weight quickly. After all, each gram of carb holds on to about one gram of water, so when people cut carbs they lose water weight and think they are losing fat. However, carbs are essential for energy—White says one of the biggest mistakes he sees people make when trying to lose weight is they all but eliminate carbs and therefore have no energy to make it through the day, let alone hit the gym.
But not all carbs are created equal. You should be getting your carbohydrates from complex sources, such as whole grains, vegetables, and fruit. Even if you’re trying to lose weight, White recommends carbs still making up 45-65 percent of your daily calorie intake: somewhere between 100 and 200 grams, depending on your caloric needs. Otherwise, you could find yourself feeling tired, sluggish, and irritable.
You Need More Vitamin D
Slathering on sunblock and protecting your skin from the sun is great to ward off skin cancer and wrinkles, but you shouldn’t shun the sunshine entirely. Fatigue is one of the biggest symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency, and many adults don’t get enough of the sunshine vitamin. But if you live in a cloudy climate or just want to protect your skin from those harmful UVA and UVB rays, you can still take a vitamin D supplement or eat more of the 5 Best Foods for Body-Boosting Vitamin D.