Have you ever woken up after an eight-hour night of sleep, only to still feel tired? We all have nights where we can’t sleep, whether it’s due to insomnia, hormonal changes, exercising or eating too late, or feeling anxious and restless. Not being able to sleep from time to time is an occasional occurrence for most people, but one that doesn’t cause them much trouble.
On the other hand, there are people who are tired all the time. Being constantly sleepy isn’t normal, and it could be a symptom of a more serious condition. If you’re always sleepy no matter how much sleep you get, here’s what could be causing you trouble — and how to get back to sleeping soundly.
Why Am I Always Sleepy No Matter How Much Sleep I Get?
Everyone deserves to get a good night’s sleep and wake up the next day feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. Unfortunately, this isn’t realistic for people who feel tired all the time. It can be especially frustrating for people who experience tiredness and low energy levels on a daily basis, even when they go to bed early and try to sleep all throughout the night.
The first thing to look at is the amount of sleep you get each night. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Yet, if someone is physically active throughout the day or has additional medical conditions, this can vary.
Sleep problems can also be a result of over-reliance on sleep medications, including synthetic pills as well as more natural approaches like melatonin or valerian. While natural remedies may be safer and have fewer side effects, relying on any type of medication to help you sleep can mask underlying sleep problems.
It may help to invest in a sleep tracker to better understand your sleep patterns during the night. A sleep tracker, like Biostrap, can help you understand how much time you spend in deep or light sleep, how long it takes you to fall asleep, how many times you wake up during the night, whether you snore or move a lot, and more. Such sleep tracker data can provide valuable insights into how much quality sleep you’re getting, and whether or not it’s time to introduce a lifestyle change.
Sleep Disorders and Persistent Tiredness
Quality sleep is essential for optimal recovery and performance, yet many people struggle with it. Are you constantly asking yourself, “Why am I tired all the time?” If so, it might be time to explore additional causes of your tiredness that may be beyond your control. Here’s a look at sleep disorders and medical conditions that may be affecting your quality of sleep and contributing to chronic tiredness.
Sleep apnea is one of the most common medical conditions causing chronic sleepiness. Specifically, obstructive sleep apnea “occurs when your throat muscles intermittently relax and block your airway during sleep,” according to the Mayo Clinic. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) cannot only be serious, but it is the most common form of sleep apnea yet it’s often left undiagnosed.
According to a study published in Science Direct, “OSA affects approximately 20% of US adults, of whom about 90% are undiagnosed.”
The two main symptoms of sleep apnea are excessive daytime sleepiness and loud snoring. Sleep apnea is also a common reason why people who maintain a consistent, healthy bedtime routine still feel tired the next day. High blood pressure, being overweight, smoking, diabetes, and narrowed airways are all symptoms of sleep apnea.
One helpful solution for sleep apnea is a treatment called Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP). This is simply a face or nasal mask that offers a consistent stream of airflow into the nasal passages, keeping the airway open. This is a non-invasive treatment and can help you improve the quality of your sleep. Meanwhile, the common medical advice for overweight people with sleep apnea is to engage in lifestyle factors that promote weight loss.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
When you feel like you’re never getting enough sleep even though you get the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep, it could be due to chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). This condition causes persistent daytime sleepiness regardless of nighttime sleep patterns. It can be exacerbated by intense physical activity and intellectual stimulation. In addition to causing fatigue, it causes loss of memory, sore throat, unexplained muscle and joint pain, and frequent headaches.
While the cause of chronic fatigue syndrome is still unknown, according to the Mayo Clinic, it can be triggered by a variety of factors. These include viral infections, such as herpes and epstein-barr virus. It is also commonly associated with immune system problems and autoimmune disorders. Working with a therapist to take back control of your life and optimize your daily routines can help you address many of the CFS symptoms.
Additionally, a physical therapist can help you reduce your hypersensitivity to exercise and gradually begin helping you get active, which can stimulate blood flow, boost endorphins, and support higher energy levels.
Other Health Conditions Associated With Tiredness
The quality of your sleep is largely impacted by your circadian rhythm. Also known as your sleep-wake cycle, the circadian rhythm dictates influences when you will feel sleepy and when you will be more alert.
Circadian rhythm disorders, however, can disrupt these sleep patterns and create an inconsistent sleep cycle. People’s circadian rhythm can be disrupted by inconsistent sleep schedules, especially for those engaging in shift work and those who work late into the night.
Iron deficiencies are another common reason why people are always sleepy. In fact, feeling very tired is one of the most common symptoms of an iron deficiency. “This happens because your body needs iron to make a protein called hemoglobin, which is found in red blood cells. Hemoglobin helps carry oxygen around the body,” registered dietician Mary Jane Brown said in a Healthline interview.
Additional symptoms of iron deficiency include paleness, shortness of breath, headaches, dizziness, and heart palpitations. Iron deficiencies can be caused by poor nutrition, pregnancy, and inflammatory bowel disease. The good news is that most iron deficiencies are easy to address by increasing your iron intake and maintaining a balanced diet.
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Improving Your Sleep Hygiene
Poor sleep is often a side effect of poor sleep hygiene. For example, a lot of people struggle to maintain a consistent sleep schedule, which makes it hard for their body to adjust during the day. Consuming alcohol on weeknights, exercising too late in the day, using the bedroom for work, and staying on screens while in bed are a few examples of poor sleep hygiene.
Going to bed at the same time each night and setting your alarm clock for the same time each morning can create consistency in your sleep schedule and thus improve your quality of sleep.
This can get your circadian rhythm back on track. Such consistency around sleep is also a great way to train your body when to get tired in the evenings and when to wake up feeling alert.
Removing electronics from the bedroom and staying away from screens before bed is another way to prepare your body for sleep.
Mental Health Management
Mental health is another pillar to consider when you constantly feel tired. Anxiety and stress are two common, yet often overlooked causes of fatigue. This is in part because stress may elevate cortisol levels, which in turn can disrupt a person’s ability to achieve good sleep quality.
Studies show that reducing cortisol levels and balancing the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis can greatly improve sleep disturbances and overall sleep quality. The HPA axis is the body’s system for regulation, helping an individual to stay safe in response to constantly changing environments. This mechanism plays an important role in activating the body’s sympathetic nervous system (flight-or-fight mode), potentially causing further stress.
Taking care of your mental health can help the HPA axis to stay in balance and regulate cortisol levels so that your sleep quality won’t suffer the consequences. Regular stress management practices such as meditation, yoga, creative expression, and physical activity have all been found to help improve sleep and overall well-being, and balance the nervous system.
So, Why Am I Always Tired?
The quality of sleep you get matters. Whether you’re falling asleep at work or waking up groggy every day, it’s important to understand why you’re always tired.
If you feel like you’re sleeping for ample time throughout the night, your tiredness may be due to a sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea. It could also be related to chronic fatigue syndrome or an iron deficiency. Seeking out professional medical advice can help you get to the bottom of your persistent tiredness, so you can get back to feeling your best and stop losing sleep over it.