Sleep—that delicious and sometimes unattainable rest that our bodies so desperately crave. In our fast-paced world, it can seem like we never get enough sleep, even if we have a regular schedule. If you feel chronically tired, the amount of sleep you get may not be the problem.
Occasional exhaustion is normal, be it caused by staying up with a sick child, a bout of the flu, or a week of working late. However, that tiredness fades once the crisis has faded. If you feel chronically tired, there is probably an underlying cause. Some of the common ones can be mitigated by something as simple as taking a walk, while others require medical care.
Vitamin or Mineral Deficiency
Vitamins play a vital role in cell development and in how our cells process energy. Low levels of iron or vitamin B12 or D can cause chronic fatigue and muscle weakness. Women of reproductive age are particularly at risk for iron-deficiency anemia. Vitamin and mineral levels are checked during blood tests, so a visit to the doctor can illuminate if deficiency is why you feel chronically tired. In the meantime, taking a multivitamin with at least 100 percent of your daily requirement of vitamins and minerals can bolster your body’s reserves.
While we think that sitting and resting may help alleviate our tiredness, the opposite may be the case. It is true that we cannot always run around, no break in sight, but too many evenings of Netflix and chill can actually accentuate tiredness, breaking down our motivations. Watching a movie or a show too close to bedtime can also skew one’s internal clock and interrupt sleep cycles. Make sure that you balance your binging with walks around the neighborhood or some simple exercises at home.
Research indicates that people with depression may be four times more likely to experience unexplained fatigue. Treating depression may, then, help chronic tiredness. The schools of thought for this treatment differ, so it is critical for each patient to find what works best for them, be it consistent aerobic exercise, antidepressant medication, or therapy. If depression is seasonally-based—seasonal affective disorder (SAD)—time outside in the sun or in front of a light box may help mitigate it and its associated sleepiness.
Overworked Adrenal Glands
The adrenal glands are the source of adrenaline and cortisol, the hormones active in the fight-or-flight response. They activate to contend with stress, and if that stress is perpetual, adrenal glands may become overworked and can tire out. When this happens, adrenal fatigue (as it is called) can leave a person feeling chronically tired.
The way to give your adrenal glands a rest is to calm down, especially through meditation. Meditating can help slow the production of cortisol for a while, giving the glands an opportunity to rest and reset. Otherwise they will push too hard to produce cortisol during the day (never making the quota), catching up at night and inhibiting sleep. Taking vitamins B5 and C can also support adrenal function.
Diet and Dehydration
If we are what we eat, we better avoid things that hurt our energy levels. This includes snacks that make blood sugar levels sky rocket then plumet. Opt instead for whole grains, fruits and vegetables rich in fiber, and proteins. Avoid processed foods as they tend to exacerbate food sensitivities. Be mindful of foods your body does not process well. For example, lactose intolerance can cause diarrhea, which can result in dehydration, and if there is consistency in low energy levels, it is dehydration.
Our cells—and therefore everything in our bodies—rely on water to function properly. Dehydration lowers the body’s blood pressure, limiting the blood flow to the brain and causing fatigue. If you feel chronically tired, drink more water. Also be wary of relying on caffeine. The stimulant can act as a diuretic and is linked to insomnia.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when muscles in the body’s airways relax too much during sleep and block the airways. This can cause loud snoring or gasping for breath while unconscious, and therefore a night’s sleep that is not very restful. Sleep apnea is especially problematic in people with narrow airways. It must be diagnosed by medical personnel, who may refer patients to a specialist for treatment or a sleep clinic for overnight evaluation. Sleep apnea can sometimes be treated by changing your sleeping position or wearing a sleep mask, though in extreme cases, surgery may be necessary.
The thyroid is a gland that plays a large role in the body’s metabolism. Research suggests that hyperthyroidism, a condition in which the thyroid gland is overactive, is linked to sleep apnea. While the mechanism is still under evaluation, addressing hyperthyroidism may help to alleviate feelings of being chronically tired caused by obstructed breathing during sleep. Thyroid problems have been directly linked to misalignments in the C5-C7 vertebrae, which can be gently corrected with chiropractic adjustment.
Feeling chronically tired is debilitating and leads to diminished quality of life. If none of these seem to fit your sleep troubles, something more serious may be at play. Speak to your doctor about steps you can take to get better sleep.