Nothing is better than a good night’s sleep and nothing is worse than waking up and wishing you could get a do over. Why are we all so tired? The Center for Disease Control has found that more than a third of Americans are getting less than the recommended seven hours of sleep.
Not only are we not sleeping, but we’re desperately trying to figure out how we can. According to Massachusetts based BCC Research, the worldwide market for the sleep aids and technologies is expected to reach $84.9 billion by 2021 up from $66.3 billion in 2016. To try and ease fatigue, people are spending money on everything from medication and herbal remedies to sleep laboratories and fancy mattresses and pillows.
Except, a comfy mattress alone may not be the answer to putting more pep in your step. If you’re always tired, the solution could be a simple routine change or could mean scheduling a doctor’s visit. Here are seven possible reasons even a double shot of espresso isn’t enough to get you going.
1. Lack of sleep
The easiest answer, of course, is that you’re actually not getting enough sleep. The recommendation from the CDC is 7 hours, but your own individual needs could range up to 9 hours and the National Sleep Foundation even notes that 10 hours may be needed for some adults. If you’ve always prided yourself on operating on 6 hours or less of sleep, but that doesn’t seem to be enough anymore, try getting to bed earlier. The right amount of sleep will be the amount that leaves you feeling alert and well-rested.
Our devices can make our waking life easier, but tend to make our sleeping life a lot harder. The lights from our phones, tablets, and computers are all on the blue light spectrum. During the day those lights help us to be more productive, but at night, those lights keep us up longer and prevent us from getting the best sleep. Harvard researchers found that blue lights suppressed melatonin, the hormone that controls our sleep-wake cycles, and changed the body’s natural sleep rhythm. Of course it isn’t just the light. According to a study on cell phones and sleep in the Journal of Sleep Medicine, 22% of people in the study said they went to sleep with their cell phone ringers on and 10% said they woke up a few times a week because of their phone. Stop using your phone 2-3 hours before bedtime and if you’ll be tempted to look at during the night, try moving your phone out of your bedroom.
Water helps lubricate your joints, regulates your body temperature, and breaks down vitamins and minerals so your body can use them. Without enough water, our bodies don’t function as well. A 2012 article in the Journal of Nutrition points to dehydration as a cause for mood changes in young women and showed evidence that it was harder to complete tasks and concentrate. If you’re feeling sluggish, it may be time to reach for that water bottle. The Institute of Medicine set the standard for water consumption to about 9 cups (2.2 liters) a day. Aim to drink more water every day and see if that makes a difference.
A hangover definitely leaves you fatigued the next day, but even small amounts of alcohol can result in a low energy day. Although a glass of wine to relax before bed can sound like a good idea, alcohol actually interferes with sleep. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, a drink may help you initially fall asleep faster, but it can mess with the second half of your sleep by “disrupting the sequence and duration of sleep states and by altering total sleep time.”
Depression can cause physical, emotional, and mental fatigue. In fact, fatigue is one of the symptoms doctors look for when diagnosing a patient with a major depressive episode. If your fatigue doesn’t feel isolated to some groggy days, consider whether you might also be experiencing sadness that could indicate a more pervasive issue. Also, for those who have been diagnosed and are on antidepressants, fatigue and drowsiness are common side effects. Tell your doctor about your fatigue and see if a different prescription or supplement compatible with your antidepressant might help.
6. Low iron
Long-term fatigue can also be an indication of iron-deficiency, also called anemia. When you’re anemic, your body doesn’t have enough red blood cells to carry all the oxygen it needs. Women are particularly prone to anemia, and some 3 million people have been diagnosed anemia in the United States alone. Don’t just start taking iron pills though, too much iron can be dangerous. Consult your doctor to see if you’re anemic and what they recommend for treatment.
7. Chronic conditions
In addition to anemia or depression, other long term conditions can cause fatigue like chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, or hypothyroidism. Fatigue can also indicate even more serious health issues that affect your heart or liver. Your doctor can diagnose all these conditions and help map out a plan to get you feeling better and less lethargic.
Inevitably, we all have days when laying on the couch sounds more appealing than going for a jog, but sometimes we can treat our fatigue as a fact of life that nothing can change. Try taking some steps to figure out what your body might be trying to tell you. You’ll literally sleep better knowing you did.