While many of us accept droopy lids and constant yawning as a daily reality, your lagging daytime energy could be a bigger deal than you think. Whether you feel lethargic during the day or consistently have trouble falling and staying asleep at night, these symptoms of exhaustion could be indicators of a number of health problems, from over-exercising, to a chronic infection, to depression and many more.
Not sure what’s causing your drowsiness? Here are 8 weird reasons why you may be feeling tired all the time.
You could be bored
If you’re bored with your job or your personal life, you’re going to feel tired. It’s amazing how much your attitude towards life will affect how you feel.
Here’s an example, you come home from work and just collapse on the couch because you’re so tired. You have no desire to move and don’t want to do anything. The phone rings. It’s your best friend and he’s just won backstage tickets to a band that you love. How do you feel now? Five minutes ago you were dead tired. Now that you’re getting the chance to do something exciting and new, you’re full of energy again. You don’t even think about being tired anymore. The difference is that you have something exciting and fun to look forwards to now.
So, take a good look at what’s happening in your life. Do you feel like you’re trapped doing the same thing every day with no hope for escape? I used to feel like my whole life was “get up, go to work, come home, make dinner, do a few chores, go to bed, repeat again tomorrow”. When I came home I would just be so tired. Once I realized what was happening and changed it, it was absolutely amazing how much energy I suddenly had. Life is way too short to spend it bored out of your mind. So, what’s happening in your life? Is it time to look for a new job? Do you need to try something new?
You’re low on B12
Your body needs vitamin B12 to make red blood cells and keep neurons functioning properly. Deficiency decreases the amount of oxygen your blood can carry through your body, leaving you with that sleeping-with-your-eyes-open feeling. As you age, you produce less of a protein called intrinsic factor, which helps you process the nutrient.
You’re overwhelmed with stress
Trying to do it all comes with a huge downside. Normally, your levels of the stress hormone cortisol run highest in the morning and dip down at night, helping you maintain a normal daily rhythm. But chronic stress throws this pattern out of whack in either direction, says Marc Bubbs, ND, CSCS, founder of Naturopathic Sports Medicine in Toronto. If your body remains on constant alert, your cortisol levels may never fall off at night, disrupting your sleep. Or, your adrenal glands may eventually fall behind in cortisol production, leaving you sleepwalking through your morning.
You have hidden heart disease
In a study in the journal Heart & Lung, half of women who had heart attacks said they had trouble sleeping and felt unusually fatigued in the weeks beforehand. Weariness and shortness of breath when you exercise, climb stairs, or otherwise exert yourself should also raise a red flag, Dr. Hussain says. Blocked arteries or a weak heart muscle reduce blood flow, preventing your muscles and tissues from getting the oxygen they need to function properly.
Your fix: Get to the doctor, especially if you’ve suddenly lost your get-up-and-go or if you have other strange symptoms, such as chest pain, anxiety, or trouble concentrating. He or she may recommend a stress test or an echocardiogram to screen for heart disease, Dr. Hussain says.
Your iron levels are too low–or too high
Most women know anemia leads to fatigue. But don’t assume popping iron supplements will pep you up. Yes, low iron levels lead to poorly formed red blood cells that deprive your body of refreshing oxygen. However, getting too much iron can wear you down as well. Your body uses vitamins, minerals, and energy to rid your system of the excess, leaving you with little left to run on, says Dr. Sirchio.
You’re not working out
Especially when paired with chronic stress, too much time spent sedentary drains your fuel tank even though you’re merely idling, Dr. Bubbs says. Picture it: A stressful day at work cranks up your cortisol and blood glucose levels, triggering your knee jerk reaction to fight or flee. But when you spend your afternoon and evening barely moving between your computer screen and your couch, you never release that energy and tension. This can keep your engine revved and disrupt your sleep at night–or burn out your body’s cortisol factory so much that you’re dragging the next morning.
You’re exercising too much
On the flip side, you can have too much of a good thing. If you’re sweating every day or doing heavy-duty training for an event like a triathlon, fatigue and trouble sleeping can serve as a sign that you’re pushing your body beyond its limits. Workouts–and especially endurance sports like long-distance running and cycling–also cause a spike in cortisol. If you’re not striking the right balance between activity and rest, you can overload your system with physical stress just as you can with emotional or mental pressure, Dr. Bubbs points out.
You have a urinary tract infection
If you’ve had a UTI before, you know the burning urgency that comes when you pee. But about half of women who show up with UTIs also report fatigue and a general sense of illness, and the rate increases among those 40 or older, says Ashley Carroll, MD, an assistant professor of urogynecology at Virginia Commonwealth University. “Basically, it’s your body’s way of forcing you to rest in order to focus energy on fighting the infection,” Dr. Carroll says.
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