5 Reasons Why You Are Always Tired
And What To Do About It
It's 10 am, and I’m already yawning. How can I be tired already? The day is just starting to begin.
Being honest with myself being tired has been my normal state of existence.
I get decent sleep, around 8 hours, exercise a few times per week, and eat pretty healthily.
Nevertheless, I could not shake this feeling of being lethargic and drained of all energy.
Yet, after doing some research, I found that more reasons could explain your tiredness that many people seem to overlook.
Waking Up At The Wrong Time
Have you heard of the term ‘sleep phases’?
Well, it turns out that we humans have a natural sleep cycle that has been ingrained in us since the dawn of time. Your circadian rhythm dictates your feelings of wakefulness throughout a 24hr period based on how light the day is.
This explains why humans are most alert when the sun is shining and tend to sleep when it's dark outside. Most people feel the strongest desire to sleep from 1pm to 3pm and 2am to 4am. However, these times are different for each individual.
As you sleep, your brain cycles go through four stages of sleep.
Stages 1 to 3 are considered non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, also known as quiet sleep.
Stage 4 is rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, also known as active sleep or paradoxical sleep.
NREM Stage 1
When you enter sleep mode, your body begins to transition from wakefulness to sleep. This happens as soon you lie down on your bed, where this state usually lasts from 5 to 10 minutes. You will tend to lose awareness of your surroundings and time as you fall deeper into this stage.
During this stage, your body:
- Decrease in body temperature
- Release of melatonin (the sleep-inducing hormone)
- Your brain slows down
- Your heartbeat and breathing also slows
NREM Stage 2
You will spend 50% of your sleep cycle in this phase which lasts 20 minutes.
- You are less aware of your surroundings
- Your body temperature drops, and your eyes droop
- Your heartbeat and breathing starts to regulate
This is also the stage where your brain consolidates the information you learned throughout the day.
NREM Stage 3
This is called the delta stage, where your brain waves become slower as you enter deep sleep.
Getting enough deep sleep allows you to feel refreshed the next day.
- Your muscles will start to relax
- Your blood pressure drops
- Your breathing slows
- You will progress into your deepest sleep
REM sleep is the fourth stage in your sleep cycle. In this stage, your body is temporarily paralyzed, but your mind is still aroused with mental activities, like when you are awake.
REM sleep happens after 90 minutes after falling asleep.
- Your brain lights up with activity
- Your body is relaxed
- Your breathing is faster
- Your eyes move rapidly
- You dream
What Can Interrupt Your Cycle
Interrupted sleep is the term used to describe sleep that is not continuous throughout the night. When this happens, your sleep cycle can be disrupted. An in-progress sleep stage may be cut short and a cycle may repeat before finishing.
There are several issues that can interrupt your sleep cycles. Depending on which one is at play, this may occasionally happen or on a chronic basis.
Some factors that are associated with interrupted sleep and, therefore, may affect your sleep stages include:
- Older age: Sleep naturally becomes lighter, and you are more easily awoken.
- Nocturia: Frequently waking up with the need to urinate
- Sleep disorders, including obstructive sleep apnea (breathing that stops and starts during sleep) and restless leg syndrome (an intense sensation of needing to move the legs)
- Pain: Difficulty falling or staying asleep due to acute or chronic pain conditions, like fibromyalgia
- Mood disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder
- Other health conditions, including Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, obesity, heart disease, and asthma
- Lifestyle habits: Little/no exercise, cigarette smoking, excessive caffeine intake, excessive alcohol use
The Four Chronotypes
A chronotype is a person’s circadian typology or the individual differences in activity and alertness in the morning and evening.
Knowing your chronotype may help you understand how your internal clock works and how you can synchronize it with your daily activities and duties to use your time most efficiently.
In particular, your chronotype defines your peak productivity times, allowing you to plan your day wisely.
Which One Are You? See if you are a Lion, Bear, Wolf, or Dolphin chronotype.
What’s my chronotype?
You can find more about your chronotype by taking a quiz:
- The Power of When Quiz. This one is based on Dr. Breus’ book, “The Power of When.”
- MEQ Self-Assessment. The Morningness-Eveningness Questionnaire (MEQ) is another inventory you can take to help determine your sleep type.
- AutoMEQ. You can also use the automated version.
Lions are morning hunters, and people who are the Lion chronotype are the early risers of the world. Lions are optimistic, naturally disciplined (including their sleep routines), practical, and goal-oriented. Lions are generally good sleepers with a medium sleep drive. It’s rare to find a Lion who struggles much to stick to a regular, early bedtime.
Lions have a natural tendency for routine and moderation in their daily habits, and this shows in their overall health picture: Studies show that morning types with early bedtimes have a lower risk for cardiovascular disease, less obesity, and may have lower risks for mental health disorders, including depression, anxiety, and others. Lions leap into their days full of energy; the morning and early afternoon are when Lions are at their most productive.
About 15-20 percent of the general adult population are Lions.
Bears are all-day hunters, and Bear chronotypes are go-with-the-flow types with middle-of-the-road sleep-wake preferences. Of the four chronotypes, Bears adhere most closely to a solar schedule. Bears are most alert and productive during the middle of the day, from late morning through early afternoon.
Bears are easygoing and social, fun-loving team players. They have a high sleep drive and tend to sleep deeply. But many Bears carry a sleep debt—they don’t get enough sleep to meet their needs. Bears are prone to inconsistency in their sleep routines. They often under-sleep during the workweek and sleep extra on the weekend to compensate for their insufficient rest. Inconsistent sleep habits can put the Bear circadian clock chronically out of sync. Bears are the most common chronotype—about 50 percent of the adult population are Bears. Because it’s the most common chronotype, Bear time has a dominant influence over our broader social time. Six o’clock is the standard dinner hour because that’s when Bears are ready for their evening meal.
Wolves are nighttime hunters, and the Wolf chronotype has a strong preference for evenings. Wolves are the people who drag themselves out of bed before 9am and don’t start feeling really tired until midnight or so. Wolves are creative, impulsive, and emotionally intense. They love to seek out new experiences and are natural risk-takers. Wolves have a medium sleep drive, with productivity peaks in the late morning and again in the late evening. Because of their strong preference for evening hours, Wolves often struggle with living according to the schedule society demands of them. Things like work and school get going too early, and social fun ends too soon. Wolves typically perform at their best with around seven hours of sleep. Getting that much sleep can be challenging for Wolves because their biological rhythm is so at odds with society’s timetable for daily life. About 15-20 percent of the population are Wolves.
The dolphins of the mammalian world are uni-hemispheric sleepers. That means they sleep with one-half of their brain at a time, with the other half awake and active. That’s a pitch-perfect analogy for this fourth chronotype of restless, light sleepers. Dolphins are “wired and tired” types—chronically tired during the day and wired with restless, nervous energy at night. Dolphins are light and restless sleepers with a low sleep drive, who tend to wake frequently during the night. Their minds are active in the evening, with often racing thoughts, and they feel physically keyed up. There are biological reasons for Dolphins’ nighttime restlessness and agitation. It turns out that Dolphins have circadian biology that is turned upside-down. In contrast to other chronotypes, Dolphins’ brain activity increases at night in areas of the brain that promote alertness. And also, unlike other chronotypes, Dolphins’ blood pressure and cortisol levels rise in the evening, which leaves them in a state of physiological arousal at bedtime. In come morning, when other chronotypes are experiencing elevations to blood pressure and cortisol that are fueling their morning alertness, Dolphins’ levels are plummeting. Personality-wise, Dolphins are highly intelligent, cautious, detail-oriented (perfectionism is a common Dolphin trait), and often anxious. As I’ve said, about 10 percent of the population are Dolphins.
What to do: Knowing what types of your body best functions will allow you to use your energy productively.
Lack Of Sunlight
Did you know lack of sunlight exposure can lead to feeling more fatigued?
The lack of sunlight causes your brain to produce more melatonin, the hormone that makes you sleepy.
This can also contribute to a vitamin D deficiency, particularly if you work all day indoors.
Getting more sunlight will increase your serotonin levels, decrease depression and anxiety, and prevent Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
What to do: Go outside and get some sunlight.
Over-Reliance On Energy Drinks
Many drinks promise quick energy like coffee, energy drinks and other sugary beverages.
A study in sleep-deprived adults found that taking an energy shot led to small improvements in mental function and alertness.
However, while these energy drinks will give you a short boost in energy, they lead to a fatigue rebound.
Drinking caffeinated beverages in the afternoon can interfere with sleep quality and may impact your energy levels the following day.
What to do: Cut back on energy drinks.
You may be dealing with high levels of stress.
According to several studies, having chronic stress levels can lead to feelings of fatigue and overwhelm.
Likewise, how you respond to stress can influence your tiredness.
One study found when university students tried to avoid stress, it led to higher levels of fatigue.
However, while you may not be able to avoid all stressful situations, there are strategies to manage it like body-mind practices and mindfulness.
What to do: Check your mental health. Identify which stress level is your default level. See my previous blog: ' The Science Behind Stress: Part 2 – Neuroplasticity'. And start the e-learning training program.
Living A Sedentary Lifestyle
Most of us spend more time sitting at our desks than walking around.
Many of us think that exercising will make us more tired when it's actually the complete opposite.
Many studies show that physical activity can reduce fatigue and other illnesses like cancer.
However, another reason could be Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), which is extreme fatigue daily.
Research suggests that people with CFS have low endurance and strength levels, limiting their ability to exercise. However, you should speak to a health professional if you believe you may have the syndrome.
What to do: Replace sedentary activities with more physical movement.
To summarise these are the five reasons you feel more tired than usual.
- You are waking up at the wrong time
- You are not getting enough sunlight
- You are relying on energy drinks
- You are chronically stressed
- You are living a sedentary lifestyle