Feeling tired on a regular basis is extremely common. In fact, about one-third of healthy teens, adults, and older individuals report feeling sleepy or fatigued.
Fatigue is a common symptom of several conditions and serious diseases, but in most cases it is caused by simple lifestyle factors.
Fortunately, these are most often easy things to fix.
This article lists 10 potential reasons why you’re always tired and provides recommendations for ways to get your energy back.
Consuming Too Many Refined Carbs
Carbs can be a quick source of energy. When you eat them, your body breaks them down into sugar, which can be used for fuel.
However, eating too many refined carbs can actually cause you to feel tired throughout the day.
When sugar and processed carbs are consumed, they cause a rapid rise in your blood sugar. This signals your pancreas to produce a large amount of insulin to get the sugar out of your blood and into your cells.
This spike in blood sugar levels — and subsequent fall — can make you feel exhausted. Craving quick energy, you instinctively reach for another serving of refined carbs, which can lead to a vicious cycle.
Several studies have found that minimizing sugar and processed carbs at meals and snacks typically lead to greater energy levels.
In one study, children who ate snacks high in refined carbs before a soccer game reported more fatigue than children who ate a peanut butter-based snack.
Luckily, research suggests that some foods may help protect against tiredness.
For instance, both okra and dried bonito broth contain compounds that may decrease fatigue and increase alertness.
To keep your energy levels stable, replace sugar and refined carbs with whole foods that are rich in fiber, such as vegetables and legumes.
Consuming refined carbs can lead to unstable blood sugar levels, which can make you feel tired. Instead, choose whole foods that minimally impact your blood sugar.
Living a Sedentary Lifestyle
Inactivity could be the root cause of your low energy.
But many people say they’re too tired to exercise.
In fact, in one recent study, this was the most common reason that middle-aged and older adults gave for not exercising.
One explanation could be chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), which is characterized by extreme, unexplained fatigue on a daily basis.
Research suggests people with CFS tend to have low strength and endurance levels, which limit their exercise ability. However, a review of studies including more than 1,500 people found that exercise may reduce fatigue in those with CFS.
Research has also shown that exercising can reduce fatigue among healthy people and those with other illnesses, such as cancer. What’s more, even minimal increases in physical activity seem to be beneficial.
To boost your energy levels, replace sedentary behaviors with active ones. For instance, stand rather than sit down whenever possible, take the stairs instead of the elevator and walk instead of driving short distances.
Being sedentary can lead to fatigue in healthy people, as well as those with chronic fatigue syndrome or other health problems. Being more active can help boost energy levels.
Not Getting Enough High-Quality Sleep
Not getting enough sleep is one of the more obvious causes of fatigue.
Your body does many things while you sleep, including store memory and release hormones that regulate your metabolism and energy levels.
After a night of high-quality sleep, you typically wake up feeling refreshed, alert and energized.
According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society, adults need an average of seven hours of sleep per night for optimal health.
Importantly, sleep should be restful and uninterrupted in order to allow your brain to go through all five stages of each sleep cycle.
In addition to getting enough sleep, maintaining a regular sleep routine also seems to help prevent tiredness.
In one study, adolescents who went to bed at the same time on weekdays and weekends reported less fatigue and less difficulty falling asleep than those who stayed up later and slept fewer hours on the weekends.
Being physically active
Being physically active during the day may help you get more restorative sleep at night. One study in older people found that exercising helped improve their sleep quality and reduce levels of fatigue.
Furthermore, napping may help boost energy levels. Taking naps has been shown to decrease tiredness in pilots, who often experience fatigue due to long working hours and jet lag.
To improve the amount and quality of your sleep, go to bed at roughly the same time every night, relax before sleeping and get plenty of activity during the day.
However, if you find it difficult to fall or stay asleep and suspect you may have a sleeping disorder, speak to your doctor about having your sleep evaluated by a specialist.
Inadequate or poor-quality sleep is a common cause of fatigue. Getting several hours of uninterrupted sleep allows your body and brain to recharge, allowing you to feel energized during the day.
Food sensitivities or intolerances typically cause symptoms like rashes, digestive problems, runny nose or headaches.
But fatigue is another symptom that’s often overlooked.
Also, research suggests that quality of life may be more affected by fatigue in those with food sensitivities.
Common food intolerances include gluten, dairy, eggs, soy and corn.
If you suspect that certain foods may be making you tired, consider working with an allergist or dietitian who can test you for food sensitivities or prescribe an elimination diet to determine which foods are problematic.
Food intolerances can cause fatigue or low energy levels. Following a food elimination diet may help determine which foods you are sensitive to.
Not Eating Enough Calories
Consuming too few calories can cause feelings of exhaustion.
Calories are units of energy found in food. Your body uses them to move and fuel processes like breathing and maintaining a constant body temperature.
When you eat too few calories, your metabolism slows down in order to conserve energy, potentially causing fatigue.
Your body can function within a range of calories depending on your weight, height, age and other factors.
However, most people require a minimum of 1,200 calories per day to prevent a metabolic slowdown.
Experts on aging believe that although metabolism decreases with age, older people may need to eat at the top of their calorie range in order to perform normal functions without becoming fatigued.
In addition, it’s difficult to meet your vitamin and mineral needs when calorie intake is too low. Not getting enough vitamin D, iron and other important nutrients can also lead to fatigue.
In order to keep your energy levels up, avoid drastic cuts in calorie intake, even if your goal is weight loss. You can calculate your calorie needs using the calorie calculator.
Your body requires a minimum number of calories in order to perform daily functions. Consuming too few calories can lead to fatigue and make it difficult to meet nutrient needs. 🙂 🙂