Lately, you’ve been dragging not just your feet but your soul. You suspect that you’re not sleeping enough. That may be true, but a lot more than sleeplessness can make you feel worn out. Below are causes behind fatigue that may surprise you.
1. Sugar snacks.
“When you eat processed foods like sugar, white bread, and chocolate, your blood glucose”–the fuel created from the food you eat–”peaks in a half hour to 60 minutes,” says Sharon Bergquist, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Emory University in Atlanta. “Then your blood sugar drops leaving you fatigued.”
Eat complex carbohydrates like whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables, and proteins like low-fat yogurt, egg-white omelets, and nuts, which release glucose slowly, stoking steady energy.
2. Overeating before bed.
Overeating—and drinking alcohol—close to bedtime can make you drowsy, but can also keep you awake, or trigger heartburn, the flow of stomach acid into the esophagus. If you’re hungry before bed, have a small snack of carbohydrate and protein like cereal and milk, Those are more apt to settle you for sleep.
3. Lousy shut-eye.
Most people need 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night, says Bergquist. If you wake up tired, you may have a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea, a potentially dangerous condition that interrupts breathing during sleep. If you suspect a sleep disorder, talk to your doctor about getting a sleep evaluation.
Your sleep may also be disturbed if you are under stress. Put work away and try to relax for an hour or so before bed. Or take a hot bath: the rise in body temperature can make you feel drowsy and relax your muscles. Deep breathing–breathing in and out, focusing only on your breath–can also help clear your mind for sleep.
4. Too much caffeine.
Sure, you love your morning Joe–and your afternoon one. “But caffeine stays in your blood for six hours. So don’t drink coffee, or anything with caffeine, after three p.m.,” says Bergquist.
5. An exercise flaw.
“Exercise releases [the hormone] cortisol, which increases alertness,” says Bergquist. “So, if you exercise within three hours of bedtime, it can interfere with falling asleep. But exercising earlier is one of the best ways to improve energy and sleep.” Exercise helps breathing and endurance, boosts metabolism, and reduces stress, says Bergquist: All of these lift energy.
6. Your medications.
Certain medications—antihistamines, pain medications, muscle relaxers, and some depression and anxiety drugs—can sap your energy, says Bergquist. Ask your doctor if the meds you are on could be affecting your get-up and go.
7. You’re thirsty.
“Your muscles need enough water to have maximum endurance,” says Bergquist. “Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink fluids. A good gauge is the color your urine. If it’s dark yellow, you’re dehydrated.”
8. You’re depressed.
An early sign of depression is not having the energy or desire to get out of bed, says Bergquist. If you suspect that you’re depressed, lean on friends and family. “And exercise, exercise, exercise,” says Bergquist. “It releases chemicals called endorphins that elevate mood.”
9. A medical condition.
Many medical conditions, such as anemia, an underactive thyroid, diabetes, and heart disease, can sqaunder energy. “If you have tried to get adequate sleep, healthy foods, and exercise, and you’re still tired, or if there’s a sudden change in your energy level, see your doctor to get a medical evaluation,” says Bergquist.
Energy allows you to be your best self. Beat fatigue and soon you’ll be firing through your day.