Do you struggle to get out of bed, feel constantly drained and rely on pick-me-ups such as protein bars, coffee and sugary treats to get you through the day?
Read: 8 Reasons you’re often always cold
If so, you’re far from alone. Research reveals one in three people admit to being permanently worn out because of the pace of modern life. As a result, sales of supplements such as ginseng, energy drinks and power bars have shot up as part of our desperate bid to battle exhaustion, reported Mirror.
1. You’re not exercising enough
Light exercise can reduce fatigue. It might be the last thing you feel like doing, but avoiding exercise because you’re tired actually makes you feel worse.
In a University of Georgia study, sedentary but otherwise healthy adults who began exercising lightly three days a week for just 20 minutes reported feeling less fatigued and more energized after six weeks. This is because regular exercise makes your heart and lungs work more efficiently, delivering oxygen and vital nutrients around the body.
Next time you’re tempted to flop on the sofa, force yourself up for a brisk 10-minute walk – you’ll feel more alert.
2. You don’t sleep as well as you think
Switch off gadgets before bedtime otherwise you'll have broken sleep. Recent research shows many of us survive on so-called ‘junk sleep’ – the kind when we wake up frequently throughout the night. It doesn’t replenish our energy levels as well as long stretches of continuous sleep.
Junk sleep can be caused by stress, but also by over-stimulating the brain too close to bedtime. For example, by checking emails or using tablets and smartphones that emit a blue light found to disrupt sleep by tricking the brain into producing ‘wake-up’ hormones right when you need to wind down.
To avoid junk sleep, you need to develop good sleep hygiene – which means going to bed at a set time, banning screens for an hour beforehand and developing a wind-down routine that prepares your body for sleep, such as a warm bath, followed by a milky drink and half-an-hour reading something easy-going.
3. Your coffee addiction is sapping your energy
Coffee is bad news for our brain chemistry. Although we think of caffeine as a pick-me-up, it actually makes us feel more tired once the initial surge wears off.
Coffee is also a serious sleep disrupter, with one study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine revealing that drinking it even six hours prior to bedtime meant poorer quality sleep.
Avoiding caffeine will increase energy levels in the long run – but cut down gradually, cup by cup, to avoid headaches and irritability.
4. You have iron deficiency
Dark greens are a good source of iron. Figures show that around a third of women have low iron levels often due to heavy menstruation. Some are even anemic because of the low levels. If you pull down your bottom eyelids and the inner rim looks pale rather than pink, it’s an indicator.
A blood test will pick up any iron problems and you’ll be prescribed tablets to boost levels.
If iron levels are at the lower end of normal, but not anaemic, Healthspan’s Head of Nutrition Rob Hobson says: “Include plenty of iron-rich foods in your diet, such as lean meats, dark green vegetables, pulses and dried fruits, and pair them with foods like citrus fruit high in vitamin C.”
5. You’re missing out on vital B-vitamins
It’s vital to eat foods with B vitamins. Nutritionist Rob Hobson explains: “We all have increasingly busy lives, so it’s essential to provide the body with enough calories and vitamins to get through the day.
“B vitamins are particularly vital as they’re required by the body to convert the food you eat into energy.”
“You can find this group of vitamins in grains such as brown rice, barley and oats, as well as lean proteins such as oily fish and turkey,” says Rob.
6. You are dehydrated
Water is vital for energy levels. Losing as little as two per cent of your body’s normal water content can take its toll on your energy levels. And it's important to note that as you get older you tend to lose your thirst reflex, making it easier to become dehydrated.
Working in an air-conditioned office, going for a long walk or simply forgetting to drink regularly can quickly lead to depleted fluid levels.
This causes the blood pressure to drop which means not enough blood gets to the brain or muscles. This can cause headaches, fatigue and loss of concentration.
Try to drink every two hours. If you’re not peeing regularly or your urine is very dark, it’s a sign you need to drink more. Water is best, but if you find it boring, add mint, basil, lemon or cucumber to liven up the flavour.
7. You’re overdosing on sugar
You can easily crash after a sugar boost.
Nutritionist Linda Foster says: “What many people don’t realise is that they can actually feel more tired by the very foods supposed to give them energy.
“Sugary energy drinks and snack foods such as biscuits, chocolate and crisps cause sharp spikes and dips in blood sugar that can leave you flagging, irritable and desperate for a mid-afternoon nap.”
Swap to low-sugar foods – this includes avoiding white carbs such as bread and pasta which quickly convert to sugar in the body.
Linda says: “Instead choose wholegrain carbs such as granary bread, wholemeal pasta and brown rice which release energy more slowly. And eat them little and often to keep your blood sugar stable.”
8. You’re skimping on protein
Get some protein into your diet. Surviving on fruit and salad might feel worthy, but avoiding protein in the form of meat, dairy and nuts will leave you exhausted, as it’s a vital energy giver.
It also takes more time for protein to be broken down in the body, so the energy is released more slowly and it fills you up for a longer period of time.
Snack on protein to keep energy levels stable. Eating a minimum of a palm-sized amount of protein with meals, and eating seeds and nuts or nut butters can prevent tiredness. Good protein sources are meat, fish, cheese, tofu, beans, lentils, yogurt, nuts and seeds.
9. You’re storing up stress
Take a break! The stress of daily life can be exhausting.
While a little stress helps to keep us on our toes, long-term stress, for example from work or relationship problems, can exhaust the body, as well as being emotionally draining.”
It’s our response to stress that’s much more damaging to our health than the stress itself. So by learning how to diffuse stressful situations, we can reduce their impact.
When stress strikes, instead of going frantic to fix things, try to slow down and take a break instead. Call a friend, walk the dog or do some yoga.
10. Your thyroid is sluggish
See a doctor if you think you have thyroid problems.
An underactive thyroid – which means it’s not making enough of the hormone thyroxine – is a surprisingly common cause of unexplained fatigue, especially in middle-aged women. Other symptoms of a thyroid condition include excessive thirst, weight gain and feeling cold.
Read: Depression doesn't spread: researchers
See your GP who can give you a blood test. If you're diagnosed with an underactive thyroid, a simple once-a-day tablet can correct the problem – and most people get their normal energy levels back soon after starting treatment.