Why am I always tired? This is a very common inquiry these days. If you’re feeling overly tired or have little energy, you’re not alone. Fatigue may be caused by simple factors like a lack of sleep or coming down with a cold or the flu. However, it can also be caused by underlying health conditions.
In most cases, fatigue can be remedied by lifestyle or dietary modifications, correcting a nutrient deficiency, or treating an underlying medical condition. Still, to improve fatigue, you need to get to the bottom of what’s causing it.
Why Am I Always Tired?
You may wonder why am I always tired but be unable to identify the reason. Here are some likely culprits:
1. Not getting enough high-quality sleep
Getting enough sleep is essential for overall health. Unfortunately, many of us don’t get enough, which may lead to fatigue.
During sleep, your body performs a number of critical processes, including releasing important growth hormones and repairing and regenerating cells. This is why most people wake up feeling refreshed, alert, and energized after a night of high-quality sleep.
Importantly, sleep should be restful and uninterrupted to allow your brain to go through three stages of non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep and one stage of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep — the stage in which you dream.
Even though sleep time should be individualized, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society recommends that adults get at least 7 hours of sleep per night for optimal health.
2. Nutrient deficiencies
Nutrient deficiencies may lead you to feel exhausted on a daily basis, even if you’re getting more than 7 hours of sleep. Deficiencies in the following nutrients have been linked to fatigue:
• riboflavin (vitamin B2)
• niacin (vitamin B3)
• pantothenic acid (vitamin B5)
• pyridoxine (vitamin B6)
• folate (vitamin B9)
• vitamin B12
• vitamin D
• vitamin C
Deficiencies in many of these nutrients are quite common. Anemia affects 25% of the world’s population. Iron deficiency anemia is the most common type, responsible for 50% of all anemia. Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of this condition, but it typically improves once iron stores are restored.
Furthermore, studies suggest that up to 20% of people in the United States and United Kingdom ages 60 and over are deficient in vitamin B12. This deficiency is especially common in older adults because the body’s ability to absorb B12 declines with age. B12 is critical for oxygen delivery and energy production, so low levels can cause extreme fatigue.
Although some stress is normal, chronic stress is linked to fatigue. In fact, chronic stress may lead to stress-related exhaustion disorder (ED), a medical condition characterized by psychological and physical symptoms of exhaustion.
Furthermore, chronic stress may cause structural and functional changes in your brain and lead to chronic inflammation, which may contribute to symptoms like fatigue.
4. Certain medical conditions
If you’re experiencing unexplained, chronic fatigue, you should visit your doctor and discuss your symptoms.
They may recommend testing to rule out certain health conditions that cause fatigue, such as sleep apnea, hypothyroidism, cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome, multiple sclerosis, anxiety disorders, kidney disease, depression, diabetes, and fibromyalgia.
5. Dietary imbalances
Your diet significantly affects the way you feel. To maintain energy and get the nutrients your body needs to perform critical processes, it’s important to consume a balanced diet high in nutrient-dense foods.
Undereating — or eating ultra-processed foods low in essential nutrients — may lead to calorie and nutrient deficiencies, which can cause exhaustion.
When you don’t obtain enough calories and nutrients like protein, your body starts breaking down fat and muscle to meet energy demands. This leads to a loss of body fat and muscle mass, which may trigger fatigue.
Additionally, diets high in ultra-processed foods impair energy levels. For example, a diet high in added sugar may harm sleep and lead to chronically high blood sugar and insulin levels, which can result in fatigue.
6. Inadequate hydration
Staying well hydrated is important for maintaining energy levels. The many biochemical reactions that take place in your body every day result in a loss of water that needs to be replaced.
Dehydration occurs when you don’t drink enough liquid to replace the water lost in your urine, stools, sweat, and breath. Several studies show that being dehydrated leads to lower energy levels and a decreased ability to concentrate.
7. Overweight or obesity
Maintaining a healthy body weight is essential to overall health.
Not only is obesity significantly linked to a greater risk of many chronic illnesses like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers, but it may also increase your risk of chronic fatigue.
Obesity greatly increases your risk of obstructive sleep apnea, which is a common cause of daytime fatigue. It’s also linked to increased daytime sleepiness regardless of sleep apnea, suggesting that obesity directly affects the sleep cycle.
What’s more, people with obesity have a higher risk of conditions associated with fatigue, including depression and type 2 diabetes. Plus, poor sleep quality and sleep restriction may cause weight gain or obesity.
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