Why am I so tired all the time and have no energy? I’ve noticed lately that when I ask friends how they’re doing, half the time their response is either “tired,” “exhausted,” or “beat”—it’s almost as though being worn out is just another part of our busy, modern-day lives that we’re somehow supposed to get used to.

But I believe that when our bodies and minds are in sync and healthy, we should feel amazing and energized even when our schedules are full. If we’re getting enough rest, exercising, and eating foods that fuel us, we should feel strong, satisfied, and alert. But as most of us know, that’s easier said than done, and there are several reasons why you may be feeling mysteriously tired.

Scroll on to find out some of the most common causes—then make some lifestyle changes (or get to your doctor ASAP) so you can rediscover the energy you need to feel your very best!

Dehydration

Even slight dehydration has been shown to cause moodiness and fatigue in women; other signs can include headaches and inability to concentrate. It’s an easy fix: just drink more fluid throughout the day! Women should consume, on average, 2.7 liters of fluids (or about 11.5 cups) a day, more if it’s hot outside or you’ve been exercising. I try to keep a big bottle of water on my desk while I’m working or in the car when I’m driving, so I can continuously sip throughout the day.

Not getting enough sleep

Before you roll your eyes at how obvious this one is, think about it: are you really getting seven to eight hours every night? Because that’s the amount the National Sleep Foundation recommends most people need. Well actually, that’s the suggestion for people over age 64—they advise seven to nine hours for people between the ages 18 to 64. And if you’re not getting that much, then it’s probably the main cause of your fatigue. Make an effort to get to bed earlier, and stick to a regular nighttime routine that encourages a restful nights’ sleep.

Sleep apnea

Sometimes people think they’re getting a good night’s sleep, but if you suffer from sleep apnea, you experience short bursts of wakefulness through the night caused by brief interruptions in your breathing. It’s also not a condition that should be taken lightly. The Mayo Clinic states that sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder because your breathing repeatedly stops and starts. If you snore loudly and feel tired even after a full night’s sleep, you might have sleep apnea. Since people often aren’t even aware that they have it, a doctor may order a sleep test to diagnose.

Not fueling your body with the right food

Eating too little is an obvious issue, but eating the wrong foods can also be a major drain on your energy levels. Data shows that eating less fiber, more saturated fat, and more sugar throughout the day is linked with lighter, less restorative sleep. In one study, researchers tracked diet, and sleep for a group of healthy adults over the course of five nights and found that indeed, food choices during the day did affect sleep. So, including protein (eggs, fish, meat, lentils), healthy fats (avocado, nuts), and good-for-you-carbs (fruit, slower processed grains like quinoa and oats) will give you long-burning energy. Simple carbs and sugar will make you crash and burn.

Anemia

In particular, iron deficiency anemia is one of the common reasons for fatigue in women and is more common during pregnancy. While initially, it can be so mild it often goes unnoticed, once the body becomes more deficient in iron and anemia worsens, the signs and symptoms intensify. Some of these symptoms include extreme fatigue, weakness, headaches/dizziness, cold hands and feet, and more. See your doctor for some blood tests on your iron levels then take a high-quality supplement, and incorporate iron-rich foods into your diet.

Not getting enough exercise

It may seem counterintuitive, but anyone who regularly works out will tell you that breaking a sweat actually gives you more energy throughout the day. And The Mayo Clinic backs it up: “Exercise delivers oxygen and nutrients to your tissues and helps your cardiovascular system work more efficiently.” It just makes sense—when your heart and lung health improve, you have more energy to tackle daily chores. I try to get my heart rate up every morning, and even better if it’s outside (sunshine is one of the most effective natural energizers!) On days where I skip my AM workout, I definitely feel more sluggish by the time the afternoon hits.

Hypothyroidism

Your thyroid controls how fast or slow your body converts fuel into energy, and hypothyroidism (a condition in which your thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough of certain crucial hormones) means that it’s under-active which can lead to obesity, joint pain, infertility, and heart disease. Fatigue is also a side effect of this condition. Head to the doctor for a blood test if you think you may need to get your thyroid checked.

Food allergies or sensitivities

If you have an undiagnosed food allergy or sensitivity or suffer from environmental allergies, you could be in a cycle of inflammation and fatigue also known as brain fog. Allergist and immunologist Mark Aronica, MD told Cleveland Clinic that this disconnected feeling is fatigue, and it’s caused by the inflammation that results when your body tries to counteract your allergy symptoms. Try eliminating certain foods to test your intolerance levels (a simple elimination diet is a good start), and see if your fatigue improves. You can also see a functional medicine doctor (Dr. Will Cole has a whole book on inflammation) who can run a full spectrum of tests to help you pinpoint any sensitivities.

Depression

Many people don’t realize that depression has physical symptoms as well as emotional ones. If you’ve been feeling down and tired for a few weeks, especially combined with a loss of appetite or headaches, consider seeing a doctor or speak with someone that can help. SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service. Call: 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

This post was originally published on July 26, 2016, and has since been updated. 

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Comments (18)
  1. 1
    Hillary Flinn July 26, 2016 at 6:56 am

    Thanks so much – this is really thorough and helpful. I knew that getting enough sleep and exercise was a factor in feeling restful, but I hadn’t thought of hydration! Definitely a focus to improve my afternoon slump.

    Hillary | http://www.flinntrospection.com

    Reply
  2. 2
    M July 26, 2016 at 8:52 am

    Vitamin D deficiency is another possible reason. My doctor had me tested for my Vitamin D levels (through blood work) and I found out I was severely deficient so I was prescribed a supplement. I also tried to get more sun exposure in the morning (without sunscreen for AM exposure, but I do apply sunscreen later), and eat more fatty fish and eggs. I taper off my daily supplement in the spring and summer but have to up my dose in the fall and winter (all under dr.’s supervision, my vitamin D levels get checked yearly). My doctor shared that Vitamin D deficiency is more common than we think particularly for those who live above the Mason Dixon line.

    Reply
    • Camille Styles July 26, 2016 at 8:16 pm

      That’s so interesting, Mia. Thanks for sharing! I have noticed that when I do my morning workout outside in the sun, I have way more energy (and feel happier) than when I workout inside. I bet that the early dose of Vitamin D is a big reason!

      Reply
  3. 3
    Nicole George July 26, 2016 at 9:52 am

    I was just thinking about that this morning. I was wondering if dehydration caused fatigue, so I guess it does. Thanks for sharing this! I should drink more water despite that, but even more so now that I know that.

    XO
    Nicole | http://www.bynicolegeorge.com

    Reply
    • Camille Styles July 26, 2016 at 8:15 pm

      Good luck and report back to let us know if you notice a difference!

      Reply
  4. 4
    Emma July 26, 2016 at 12:00 pm

    This relates to my life so much! I am constantly tired since I’ve turned 30 and it seems to be worse certain days of course. Water, I know, is something I need to work on! Especially with the heat in Charleston at the moment!

    Reply
    • Camille Styles July 26, 2016 at 8:15 pm

      Definitely agree that water makes a huge difference — but if you feel like you’re really tired all the time even if you’re getting enough sleep and water, think about having a chat with your doc!

      Reply
  5. 5
    Fariha July 26, 2016 at 5:03 pm

    I recently made it a goal to drink a lot more water and exercise more. It’s helped so much. It’s something so simple, but makes a huge impact! Thanks for sharing these tips.

    Fariha | blog.farihawajid.com

    Reply
    • Camille Styles July 26, 2016 at 8:14 pm

      Thats so great to hear — thanks for sharing Fariha!

      Reply
  6. 6
    Amy July 27, 2016 at 3:01 am

    I had been feeling tired all the time until I went on vacation. I’m in the middle of 3 weeks off of work to rest and I’ve been able to sleep until my body is ready to wake up, eat healthy scheduled meals and get plenty of exercise. It really does help. Im thinking of this vacation time reset my body and its doing wonders both physically and mentally. Awesome post!

    Amy | http://www.yankified.com

    Reply
    • Camille Styles July 27, 2016 at 5:31 am

      Amy, thanks for sharing — this is an amazing idea for beating fatigue and regaining your energy levels. We should all take a cue from you!

      Reply
  7. 7
    Kelly July 28, 2016 at 12:27 am

    I found my self in it! I know that I not drinking enough water and suffer from lack of sleep. Stress and late projects are second reason. Thank you for those tips! It makes me think about changing things!

    Reply
  8. 8
    Christy m July 30, 2016 at 10:37 am

    I think hormonal disorders can be a big part of fatigue. I was diagnosed about a year and a half ago with fibroids and the anemia from the all the blood loss can definitely do a number on ones body. I’m surprised hormonal imbalances weren’t mentioned.

    Reply
    • Camille Styles July 30, 2016 at 1:09 pm

      Thanks for sharing Christy, that’s a great point… I’m actually interviewing an expert right now about an upcoming post we have about hormonal imbalances, so I’m really looking forward to sharing more about that — and learning more about it myself!

      Reply
  9. 9
    Beatrice August 3, 2016 at 3:23 am

    I found this post through Bloglovin, and I actually feel like many of these could apply to me and finally I felt like being tired all of the time isn’t weird. I don’t drink a lot of water, I don’t exercise a lot, and I honestly should go see a doctor to do a health check. Thanks for motivating me and making me see things clearly!

    Reply
    • Camille Styles August 3, 2016 at 5:32 am

      Amazing!! Thanks for sharing Beatrice, and I hope that you’re able to find the source of your fatigue quickly and regain your energy! Best of luck to you! xoxo

      Reply
  10. 10
    Pauline Talbot August 9, 2016 at 7:52 am

    Very helpful and extremely helpful

    Reply
  11. 11
    the sleepless one September 19, 2016 at 9:59 pm

    Low thyroid function can also have a detrimental effect on sleep .

    Certain medications (such as those taken to control blood pressure, as well as asthma medications) can adversely effect a person’s quality of sleep.

    Having ADD, can also make it difficult to a consistent night ‘a sleep,
    due to overproductive adrenal function, which disrupts REM sleep.

    Longterm exposure to ongoing external stresses, can also
    Impair a person’s quality of sleep.

    Hormonal imbalance (menopause, or petimenopause) can also make
    make sleep elusive.

    Reply