Science Says This Is Why You Are Tired All the Time
Are you mid-yawn right now wondering how you’re going to make it through the workday? Did you hit the snooze button more than twice this morning before getting out of bed? Do you find yourself dozing off mid-afternoon, wishing you were in that perfectly cosy and warm bed of yours? Unfortunately you’re not alone; in fact, a Centres for Disease Control and Prevention study found that 30%—more than 40 million Americans—aren’t getting enough sleep and are in a constant state of fatigue. But sleep shortage isn’t the only reason for our lack of energy. Scroll down for a few scientific explanations for why you could be tired all the time.
Are you looking after yourself as well as you could? We get it—finding time for yourself outside of your work and family commitments to exercising and eating well can be tough. But it could be the reason why you’re feeling so sluggish all the time. Researchers from Penn State College of Medicine found a link between chronic drowsiness and body mass index. The new study, published in the journal Sleep, showed that “gaining weight and being obese were linked with excessive daytime sleepiness” or “the inability to stay alert during the day.” And it didn’t matter how much sleep the study subjects had either. The research showed obese people may be tired regardless of how much they sleep at night. Lead study author Julio Fernandez-Mendoza told Yahoo Health that “weight loss through diet, physical activity, and behavioral change (such as managing emotional eating), should be a priority to reduce body weight and daytime sleepiness.”
Ever feel like your mind is wandering off and you just can’t concentrate? While sometimes this is just mindless distraction due to boredom, other times it could boil down to pure brain exhaustion. According to Scientific American, “The brain works like a muscle; when it’s depleted, it becomes less effective.” And making tough choices tires your brain, because these thought processes require conscious effort, and a mental trait known as “executive function.” A series of experiments and field studies by University of Minnesota psychologist Kathleen Vohs and colleagues found that “the mere act of making a selection may deplete executive resources.” Instead of doing what was required of them, the "tired" minds of these subjects “engaged in distracting leisure activities” instead. So what’s the alternative? Don’t make too many decisions at once, and stop multitasking—it may diminish, not boost, productivity. So if you’ve just spent a lot of time on one task, or made loads of minor choices, then you “probably shouldn't try to make a major decision”—take a break instead.
It’s a common scenario. Traffic after work makes your trip home an hour longer, you take a quick shower, you eat dinner, and already it’s close to 10 p.m. If you’re a parent, you’ve had to put a child to bed in that time too. But even though your body is tired, your brain is still buzzed from the workday. So you watch some television or check out social media on your iPad; then it’s midnight before you finally get to sleep. But according to new research by Jessica Rosenberg and colleagues at RWTH Aachen University in Germany, people who stay up late are more tired during the day, prone to depression, and can suffer from “permanent jet-lag.”
So what’s the best time to get to bed? Board-certified sleep specialist Michael Breus says the exact time is different for everyone, but the average amount of shut-eye we need is seven and a half hours. And there is a simple formula to help you figure it out. “Work backward from your wake-up time,” he told Yahoo Health. “That’s socially determined by when you have to get up to get to work, get the kids ready, all those external factors.” So if your wake up time is 6:30 a.m., count back seven and a half hours, and your bedtime should be 11 p.m. And if you don’t get to bed until past midnight, these seven health consequences might convince you to change your routine.
From mortgages to credit card debts and student loans, owing money is a brutal reality for many of us today. But it seems the stress of debt is keeping us awake at night. According to a new study, a whopping 62% of Americans are losing sleep from financial concerns. Millennials are some of the worst affected, with $1.4 trillion in student debt owed to the Federal Reserve, which is more than both credit card and auto loan debt in the U.S. If money woes are giving you insomnia, then try personal finance apps and start budgeting—without killing your social life.
We are all guilty of it, but it turns out looking at our screens before bed can do more damage to our health than just disrupt our sleep. New research from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, found reading from an e-reader, laptop, iPad, smartphone, and even some TVs before bed impacts how you sleep and how alert you are the day after. Over the two-week study, participants who read iPads before bed took longer to fall asleep and were “more tired than book readers the following day, even if both got a full eight hours of sleep.” So if you’re feeling like a zombie, it might be time to control your digital life before it ruins your real one, and swap the screen for more traditional options, like reading a book (with pages) or listening to music. If you’re still struggling, then this simple trick might help.
Coffee is the first place most of us stumble to in our sleepy state each morning. Just the smell is enough to make us feel more awake. But do you just stop at one? Or do you find you need another, and another? Well, it turns out there is a scientific reason for that. Quentin Regestein of the sleep clinic of Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston thinks coffee may be making people sleepier. A survey by pharmacologist Avram Goldstein found that “people who drank coffee generally described themselves as sleepy in the mornings.” Which is probably why they were drinking the coffee in the first place, but what the research found is that “when people stop using coffee, morning sleepiness doesn’t get worse, it goes away.” In fact, too much coffee throughout the day “can push the biochemical balance so far to one side that any interruption in the caffeine supply can have severe and debilitating side effects: violent headaches, incombatable drowsiness, and frequent depression.” If this sounds like you, then maybe you should consider swapping that third coffee for a green tea instead. Regestein told Chicago Reader that coffee drinkers should experiment with their intake. “A few cups of coffee a day by themselves aren’t going to kill you, but all coffee’s for is to make you feel better. If it turns out it doesn’t, what’s the point?"
Are you a night owl or a morning lark? While most people generally fall into one of these two categories, research shows there are two new groups that don’t fall into either of these patterns. A study by Arcady Putilov and his colleagues at the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences found there were two other groups outside of the usual categories: a “high energetic” group, who felt energetic in the morning and at night, and a “lethargic” bunch, who described feeling relatively dozy in both the morning and evening. Even in good health, this second group felt sluggish most of the time. The results had nothing to do with sleep, either. Both the “lethargic” and “energetic” groups had about seven and a half hours’ sleep and went to bed and woke up around the same time as the owl and the lark. So don’t feel bad if you’re always tired, because it could be down to your genetic chronotype, which doesn’t even have a bird name yet.
Your gender could be making you tired too. Scientists at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, found women need more sleep than men. In fact, Professor Jim Horne, director of the Sleep Research Centre at Loughborough University, England, found women need 20 minutes more shut-eye because of the “female multi-tasking brain.” getting it may be one reason women are much more susceptible to depression than men. “Women tend to multi-task—they do lots at once and are flexible—and so they use more of their actual brain than men do. Because of that, their sleep need is greater,” he said. The study also found that women’s health is compromised more than men’s from lack of sleep too. They have a higher risk of heart disease, depression, and psychological problems, including extra clotting factors in their blood, which can lead to stroke. If you find it impossible to get enough sleep at night, then sleep expert Dr. Mchael Breus suggests “taking strategic naps” either 25 minutes or 90 minutes long; anything longer than this will make you feel worse when you wake up.