We all have weeks that are so jam-packed with professional and social obligations that we skimp on sleep. During those stretches, it’s a no-brainer that we’ll fight to keep our eyes open at work and chug coffee until we’re convinced we’re somehow immune to caffeine.
But, what’s seriously frustrating is consistently feeling exhausted despite the fact that we’re vigilant about getting at least eight hours of shut-eye per night. According to a 2013 study, Americans get an average of 6.8 hours of sleep per night. While that’s not a devastating amount, it’s still not eight hours — and that extra hour really does matter.
Although (breaking news!), lack of sleep is the most obvious and common reason for exhaustion, it’s certainly not the only thing that causes fatigue. So, if you’re consistently exhausted despite maintaining a healthy sleep schedule, it’s mostly due to one of the surprising reasons you’re so tired.
Unlike insomniacs, people with the condition semi-somnia do get nighttime shut-eye — but the quality of their sleep is extremely poor. The sleep patterns aren’t restful and therefore they don’t rejuvenate you like solid sleep does. Doctors believe the condition is related to a hectic lifestyle and spending too much time on electronic devices. As a result, the brain remains active even when you’re technically sleeping, so you don’t wake up refreshed.
According to a 2012 study in The Journal of Nutrition, healthy women who don’t replace 1.5 percent of their water weight experience low energy levels and mood swings. So, ensuring that you drink plenty of water is key to improving your energy — and try to minimize your consumption of dehydrating beverages like soda, alcohol, milk, and coffee.
3You’re not exercising
If you’re always tired and you don’t exercise, establishing a fitness regimen could make a world of difference. Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean signing up for a marathon — studies have found that consistent, low-impact workouts can reduce fatigue. A slow, leisurely walk falls into this category, so it can easily be added to your daily routine.
4You’re exercising too much
Conversely, overexercising can also leave you tired all the time. Workouts, especially for endurance sports like running, cause a spike in cortisol. So, if you’re not striking a healthy balance between activity and rest, your body will suffer from physical stress.
5Your diet isn’t balanced
Despite their name, a steady diet of energy bars is a quick way to end up tired all the time. When it comes to our diet’s impact on our energy levels, there are no shortcuts. If you’re not eating a balance of starches, fruits and vegetables, dairy (or dairy substitute), and protein on a daily basis, you’re bound to feel chronically sleepy.
6You’re super stressed
Levels of the stress hormone cortisol are meant to be at their highest in the morning and lowest in the evening — which is key to maintaining your body’s natural rhythm. Chronic stress completely disrupts that pattern — when your body is on high alert due to stress, your cortisol levels won’t drop at night and your chances for restful sleep go out the window. Some people’s adrenal glands fall behind in cortisol production, which makes morning exhaustion unbearable.
7Your iron levels are too high
“Low iron” is practically synonymous with “fatigue,” and it’s certainly a major culprit among chronically tired people. Don’t take iron supplements without consulting a doctor first — if your body naturally produces enough iron, additional doses will wear you down. This is because the body uses vitamins, minerals, and energy to rid your system of the excess, leaving you more tired than you were before you took the supplement. Experts recommend speaking with your doctor and getting blood work done before you take iron supplements — because, if your body doesn’t actually need them, they’ll cause more harm than good.