Why Am I Always Tired and Have No Energy? How to Stop Feeling Tired
This article will examine the phenomenon of daytime tiredness.
If you ever find yourself asking the question 'why am I always tired and have no energy?' then you're in the right place.
We asked our team of experts for their top tips on how to stop feeling tired.
Read on below to find out what they said...
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What Is Daytime Tiredness?
‘Daytime tiredness’ seems self-explanatory, and it is to an extent. If you suffer from daytime tiredness you feel fatigued in the afternoon, which can reduce your productivity and generally make work less pleasant.
However, the scale of daytime tiredness makes it more of a problem than it first seems: A Healthspan survey in 2017, cited in an article by The Mirror, says that “97% of us claim we feel tired most of the time.” This number seems very high; but, the piece also says that 10% of visits to the GP are related to unexplained fatigue, indicating that fatigue and tiredness are indeed very prevalent health issues.
Health professionals at the Royal College of Psychiatrists say “At any given time, 1 in every 5 people feel unusually tired and 1 in 10 have prolonged fatigue.” It’s probably safe to say that everyone has had at least one spell of afternoon tiredness that slows down their productivity after midday - particularly because we seem to be hard-wired to feel a slump around 2pm according to neurologists.
To attach a number to fatigue: the British government states that around £30 billion is lost every year due to poor sleep and tiredness in the workplace. That's around £460 per person per year as a result of low productivity due to tiredness. Moreover, fatigue can contribute to workplace accidents, which cost between £115 and £240 million a year in total.
Across the pond, Harvard University suggests that the American economy loses out on $410 billion due to tiredness, with around 70% of workers saying they get insufficient sleep. As a result, workplace tiredness is a real concern for both employers and employees in at least America and the UK, thanks to the problems it causes for productivity. Afternoon tiredness can also, as we will soon discuss, be an indicator of an underlying health problem that requires treatment.
Potential Causes Of Tiredness
As mentioned, we seem to naturally get a bit tired around 2 or 3 pm, just because of the way our bodies work. This might be why some cultures have ‘siestas’ in the afternoon, to recharge for a little while before finishing the workday.
However, there are some common things that can cause or exacerbate afternoon tiredness:
Perhaps the most obvious factor, sleeping poorly or having too little sleep the night before will, of course, make you feel more fatigued the next day, and is a prominent contributing factor to afternoon tiredness. Poor sleep might be because of bad sleep habits, sleep apnoea, stress, health problems or many other factors.
Your body weight can influence how tired you feel. Being over or underweight can put a strain on your body, meaning you feel more fatigued as you must work harder to do everyday things. This can make you more likely to feel tired and unproductive in the afternoons, as well as hurt your physical and mental health.
Similar to weight, your fitness levels might impact on afternoon tiredness. If you’re physically unfit, it will be easier to tire you out, and you might be more susceptible to an afternoon slump. Moreover, poor physical fitness can contribute to a multitude of other health problems.
Illness and poor health can be another important factor behind feeling tired in the daytime. Physical illnesses or disorders like anaemia, coeliac disease or an underactive thyroid can cause fatigue while remaining undiagnosed. In addition, mental health issues such as depression or stress can contribute to afternoon tiredness and poor productivity.
Ways To Beat Tiredness
So we know the background and some of the causes. But, what can you do to help yourself feel less tired in the workday and boost your productivity?
It might seem obvious, but one of the best ways to feel less tired is to improve your sleeping habits. The British government recommends improving your ‘sleep hygiene’. They say sleep hygiene “is about creating the ideal conditions for a good night’s sleep,” so don’t bring a bar of soap to bed with you just yet.
Their leading suggestions for helping sleep hygiene include establishing (and sticking to) regular bedtimes, finding ways of relaxing before bed, avoiding heavy meals prior to bed, and staying away from alcohol and caffeine late at night. Another important factor, according to the government, is technology: blue light from tablets, smartphones or PCs can make getting to sleep harder by suppressing the ‘sleep hormone’ melatonin, so disconnecting from tech can both help you relax and increase melatonin levels, making it easier to sleep
The Royal College of Psychiatrists also says that fulfilling sleep is important to combating fatigue: a comfortable bedroom that isn’t too hot, too cold or too noisy is ideal for good sleep. They recommend a supportive mattress and exercise in the late afternoon or early evening as more ways to help you sleep well. In addition, the College suggests that spreading out your chores or work more evenly can reduce fatigue, making afternoon tiredness less likely.
See our favourite natural nootropic to help with afternoon tiredness.
Dr Fiona Kerr, a neuroscientist, believes that a short nap in the middle of the day is useful for improving productivity and mitigating an afternoon slump. This again ties back into the idea of ‘siestas’ helping workers in Southern Europe. Interestingly, a study by Harvard University found that short naps might increase the time spent in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which can improve overall health.
Nutrition is an integral part of our everyday lives and general health, so fuelling your body with the right foods is a great way to help you get over an afternoon slump.
Dr Joseph Mercola, a physician and nutritionist, recommends changes to diet as a way to improve energy throughout the day. Increasing intake of healthy fats and cutting out carbs can, according to Dr Mercola, help keep you energetic and burn fat. In addition, it's important to avoid processed carbs or unhealthy foods: a study found that snacking on sugary foods was associated with a good initial increase to energy, but a crash around an hour later, possibly making you less productive than before!
Rather than eating chocolate or a packet of crisps, trying a healthier afternoon snack like nuts, berries or vegetables could help naturally boost your energy. If you can bring food from home, also consider pre-preparing low-carb meals like eggs, lean meats or leafy greens.
Improving your hydration is also an excellent way to keep yourself fresh. Dehydration can cause fatigue and cognitive impairment, which can ruin your productivity. Even 1-2% dehydration can increase self-reporting of tiredness and headaches, so having plenty of water is often an easy way to help yourself get over afternoon tiredness. The NHS suggests that 6-8 glasses of water per day, around 1.5-2 litres, is a good amount for an average British person. This, of course, increases for people in hotter climates or those who sweat more due to more physically-demanding lifestyles.
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It’s been found that regular exercise can help reduce tiredness. You don’t have to run marathons either: low or moderate-intensity aerobic exercise for 20 minutes a day 3 days a week can reduce feelings of fatigue by up to 65%. The NHS recommends more than this, suggesting 2.5 hours of “moderate aerobic activity such as cycling or brisk walking” every week, but any exercise you can do will help. Even getting up at your desk and standing rather than sitting is good - and a quick bout of exercise can give you a burst of energy, to get through a spell of afternoon tiredness.
Being fitter will help you feel less tired in general, as you will expend less energy in your day-to-day life. Studies indicate that exercise can help cognition, so you may even think more clearly from being fitter. This means you’ll be less taxed both physically and cognitively, which in turn will translate to fewer afternoon slumps, greater productivity throughout the day, and better physical and mental health.
There are some habits you can adopt at work to stave off an afternoon slump, too.
Taking breaks from your computer screen can reduce eye strain or fatigue, helping you remain productive throughout the day. It can also help you to recharge for a moment and regain your focus, which will mitigate afternoon tiredness.
The government recommends taking 5 minutes out of every hour from intensive computer operation, which should be spent idle or doing work as dissimilar to computer work as possible. This is described as “a reasonable precaution to protect the health and safety of workers,” as it can relieve visual fatigue, headaches and other problems.
Switching to a different task can also be a good way of staying alert and productive. A 2011 study from the journal Cognition found that "deactivating and reactivating your goals allows you to stay focused.” Task switching can thus help with daily productivity by re-energising your ability to focus, which reduces feelings of afternoon tiredness. Switching tasks is believed to improve creativity too, again helping you through afternoon slumps. And, the variety it adds can help if you find your previous task a little monotonous!
This article has addressed afternoon tiredness, what it is, what might cause it, and ways you can counteract an afternoon slump. This includes changes to your eating habits, exercise regime and working habits. In addition, food supplements and natural nootropics might be used to support positive lifestyle changes.
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