15 Explanations For Why You're Always Feeling Tired

Everyone has had those days where they just can't wake up. Maybe you had a bad night's sleep, stayed up too late scrolling on TikTok, or had one cup of coffee too many (via Sleep Health Foundation). However, if you find yourself constantly yawning, daydreaming about a daily three-hour nap, or generally feeling drowsy and exhausted, you may be suffering from chronic fatigue. 

Fatigue can be a common symptom of a variety of medical conditions, but it often cannot be explained. There is also no cure for chronic fatigue. According to Mayo Clinic, the goal of chronic fatigue syndrome is simply to relieve the symptoms associated with feeling tired all of the time, such as depression, anxiety, stress, or physical pain. Persistent exhaustion, in addition to its related symptoms, isn't just annoying to deal with, it can cause significant dangers to your everyday life. 

If you have been feeling extra sleepy or noticed your fatigue is preventing you from living your life as normal, take a look at these 15 explanations for why you might be experiencing elevated feelings of tiredness.

You're not eating a balanced diet or getting enough exercise

If you suffer from chronic fatigue, you may want to take a look at the food you're eating and the amount of exercise you're getting. When properly fueled, energy levels in the body increase and allow it to function properly (via PsychCentral). According to University Health News Daily, people who eat a poor-quality diet are more likely to feel fatigued regularly. Diets low in fruits and vegetables as well as diets full of high-fat, high-glycemic, and high-inflammatory foods can also play a significant role in low energy levels throughout the day.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics at Eat Right recommends balancing your plate with a mix of lean protein, whole grains, fiber, and low-fat dairy to ensure your body has the food it needs for sustained energy.

Increasing the amount of physical activity you get is also key to improving energy levels. The Mayo Clinic explains that regular exercise helps strengthen muscles and boost endurance by delivering oxygen and nutrients to the muscles. The stronger your muscles are, the more efficiently your cardiovascular system works, and the easier it is to perform daily tasks that normally wipe you out. Furthermore, exercising can help promote better sleep. It not only helps you fall asleep faster and deepens your sleep but improves the overall quality of sleep. Aim for a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity and at least two days of strength training per week.

You might have a vitamin or mineral deficiency

A vitamin or mineral deficiency may also contribute to feelings of constant fatigue. Common deficiencies include vitamin D, vitamin B12, and iron. According to Harvard Health Publishing, an iron deficiency, also known as anemia, occurs when the body doesn't have enough red blood cells to meet the body's oxygen needs. This normally results in fatigue as well as lethargy, general weakness, shortness of breath, and irregular heartbeats (via Mayo Clinic). A blood test is required to diagnose anemia, but the symptoms can be reversed with a diet rich in red meat, eggs, and beans.

The body also requires vitamin B12 to produce healthy red blood cells. According to the NHS, a vitamin B12 deficiency may cause declining cognitive function and memory, irritability, depression, muscle weakness, and fatigue related to anemia. The body cannot make vitamin B12 on its own and must obtain it from food. Eating beef, shellfish, tuna, salmon, dairy products, and fortified cereals can help introduce the vitamin back into the body.

Vitamin D is vital for strong bones and muscles. According to Healthline, more than 24% of adults in the United States suffer from a vitamin D deficiency. This is because the body makes vitamin D when it is exposed to sunlight, and it isn't always possible to get enough safe exposure to the sun year-round. In addition to supplements, eating wild-caught salmon, egg yolks, and vitamin D-fortified foods can help keep levels where they need to be.

You're under a lot of stress

The events of the past few years have caused a significant rise in stress levels for the average person. In 2020, the American Psychological Association found that 2 in 3 U.S. adults suffer from severe stress, with housing costs, the economy, and general financial distress serving as major contributing factors. Additional factors like the country's political climate, the COVID-19 pandemic, changes in technology, and shifting family dynamics are also reportedly adding to people's stress levels. Stress is also affecting young people more than older generations. Gen Z adults ages 18-23 report stress levels of 6.1 out of 10, while millennials ages 24-41 report their stress levels at 5.6.

Stress is a normal part of life to a certain degree. However, chronic stress can take a toll on the mind and body's normal functionality. It can cause difficulties with short-term memory, the inability to concentrate, moodiness, and irritability, all of which contribute to stress-related fatigue and the bone-deep weariness that is so hard to shake. According to HealthCentral, chronic stress can also affect the body's digestive system, cause headaches and migraines, and weaken the immune system.

To cope, it's important to identify the parts of your life that are causing the stress. Practicing mindfulness techniques, setting aside time each day to meditate, and incorporating gentle exercises like yoga into your daily routine can also help lower stress levels and improve sleep.

You suffer from chronic depression or anxiety

Mental health conditions like chronic depression, anxiety, and other behavioral or emotional disorders are major contributors to feelings of exhaustion and fatigue. These conditions are quite common in the United States, with 1 in 5 adults experiencing them in some form (via the National Institute of Mental Health).

According to CalmClinic, anxiety is a physically and emotionally exhausting condition. It can cause severe post-muscle tension throughout the day which leads to feelings of physical tiredness and the need to nap for long periods of time. The constant stress and worry produced by an overactive brain are taxing on the body's cognitive abilities and cause an increase in long-term emotional distress. All of these factors can make the body feel drained and send signals that it needs an abnormal amount of rest.

People with clinical depression experience feelings of sadness, loss of pleasure in activities, hopelessness, and disappointment in a way that interferes with their daily lives (via Sleep Foundation). The majority of people who have a depressive disorder experience sleep issues in the form of insomnia, sleep apnea, and hypersomnia. All of these sleep disruptions not only lead to feelings of fatigue and tiredness but can actually worsen existing depression. A doctor or mental health professional can prescribe treatments for anxiety and depression such as therapy or antidepressants. Together, these methods can help address issues causing mental health struggles and help guide you toward recovery.

Your allergies are acting up

Most people think of allergies as an annoyance in the form of itchy eyes or sneezing. However, allergies can also play a role in disrupted sleep and chronic fatigue. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, more than two-thirds of people in the U.S. experience year-round allergies from a variety of sources such as dust mites, mice, mold, and pet dander. 

It is also important to rule out seasonal allergies as a cause of constant tiredness. Seasonal allergies, also known as allergic rhinitis, are the body's immune system responding to outdoor stimulants like pollen, grass, or ragweed as intruders. Symptoms can include a stuffy, runny nose, itchy, watery eyes, coughing, sneezing, and a tickling in the throat (via Yale Medicine).

Although generally not life-threatening, allergy symptoms can be a miserable experience that makes it difficult to sleep well. Depending on how long the symptoms last, people may experience weeks of poor sleep, leading to fatigue and dull cognitive function. Over-the-counter antihistamines are the most common course of treatment, as are cough medicines and decongestants that help relieve common symptoms. Working with an allergist to figure out what allergens are triggering you specifically can also help you understand how to treat or avoid them to stop the symptoms altogether.

You're dehydrated

If feelings of low energy and persistent tiredness are a new experience for you, try upping your water intake. According to Women's Health, fatigue is one of the first signs of dehydration with even slight drops in water levels leading to impaired thinking and mineral imbalances in the body. Although the majority of the body is made of water, it is constantly lost through sweat, urine, and even breathing (via Harvard Health Publishing). Without adequate fluids, the body struggles to carry important nutrients to cells, remove waste products, protect tissues, cushion joints, and more.

Drinking more water can be accomplished by starting your morning with a glass of water and carrying a water bottle with you throughout the day. According to Coury & Buehler Physical Therapy, eating more fruits and vegetables is also ideal for hydrating. These foods have a water content of between 80 and 98% (via Rolling Strong). Incorporating cucumbers, watermelon, tomatoes, broccoli, grapefruit, and bananas is a surefire way to get the vitamins you need and maintain appropriate hydration levels that can fight drowsiness and fatigue.

You're not getting enough sleep

Reducing constant feelings of exhaustion can be as simple as adjusting your sleep schedule. While this may seem like an obvious solution, more than one-third of adults in the U.S. are not getting the recommended seven hours of sleep each night (via CDC). People who routinely get less than that are at an increased risk of medical conditions like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and high blood pressure. It can also have a direct impact on weight management and mental health.

More than 35% of adults are also affected by insomnia, a sleep disorder that makes it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night (via Sleep Foundation). There are a number of potential causes for insomnia, including stress, physical pain, irregular sleep schedules such as jet lag or working odd shifts, neurological disorders, and medications. Whether experienced over a few days or several months, sleep deprivation caused by insomnia can lead to excessive sleepiness with potentially dangerous side effects.

Both insomnia and exhaustion from lack of enough sleep can be addressed with proper sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene aims to improve the quality of sleep by adjusting the environment you sleep in and your nighttime habits. Training your body to go to bed at the same time every night, avoiding naps during the day, keeping your room cool and clutter-free, and refraining from caffeine four to six hours before bed can help enhance and improve sleep (via Centre for Clinical Interventions).

You have a sleep disorder

Insomnia is one of the better-known sleep disorders, but it isn't the only one. Sleep disorders like obstructive sleep apnea and restless legs syndrome can contribute to chronic fatigue.

According to Cleveland Clinic, sleep apnea is a disorder that causes you to stop breathing while you sleep. This can occur due to an airway blockage or a lack of communication and control from the brain. When this happens, the brain jumps into survival mode and forces you awake enough to resume breathing. However, this reflex interrupts the body's natural sleep cycle and puts stress on the heart. People of all ages can have sleep apnea, and the condition ranges from mild to severe. It can cause mood changes, night sweats, headaches, daytime sleepiness, and lingering feelings of exhaustion.

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is the irresistible urge to move your legs due to uncomfortable sensations, per the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. These sensations include itching, throbbing, or a creeping ache. They can occur when a person is inactive for long periods of time, but normally it happens to people when they are lying in bed. The discomfort can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep because you feel the urge to move or walk around. Side effects of RLS include difficulty concentrating, poor mood, work performance, and impaired cognitive function. In many cases, sleep apnea and insomnia worsen RLS symptoms, sending people around in a vicious cycle.

You struggle to maintain a healthy body weight

Being overweight or obese can have a direct impact on the quality of sleep a person gets. Conversely, the amount of sleep a person gets can contribute to weight gain (via Start Sleeping). Although the steady increase in obesity rates is largely the result of the American diet and lack of physical activity, a large portion of adults aren't getting enough sleep to lead healthy, active lives.

In addition to chronic health conditions like heart disease and diabetes, being overweight increases the risk a person will develop RLS, obstructive sleep apnea, or insomnia. According to the AHA Journals, more than 70% of people who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea are overweight. Similarly, people who are overweight are more likely to report having insomnia and insomnia-like symptoms.

Regardless of the cause, the consistent lack of sleep has detrimental effects on the human body. For example, the poor sleep quality caused by sleep apnea can result in grogginess, drowsiness, and sleepiness that inhibits a person's ability to perform physical activity that will help them lose weight. Lack of sleep can also increase the body's cortisol levels, which increase cravings for high-fat, high-sugar foods, an excess of which can cause more weight gain. If you are concerned that a lack of sleep is causing you to gain weight, make an appointment with your doctor for recommendations and treatment options.

You may have an underactive or overactive thyroid

The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped endocrine gland located in the neck (via British Thyroid Foundation). The thyroid makes two hormones, T3 and T4, which are vital for making the cells in the body work properly. According to Medline Plus, they affect everything from weight and proper digestion to mood and breathing regulation.

When the thyroid secretes too many of these hormones into the bloodstream, the body's cells have to work harder and faster than they should. Hyperthyroidism, or overactive thyroid, can lead to an increased heart rate, diarrhea, and an accelerated metabolism (via Endocrine Web). Hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid, causes the metabolism to slow down. This occurs when the thyroid gland doesn't produce enough hormones to meet the body's needs.

Both types of thyroid disease are known to cause low energy, ongoing fatigue, and sleepiness. Thyroid conditions require blood tests and an official diagnosis by a medical professional.

You drink too much caffeine

Caffeinated beverages are a staple in the diets of most adults who crave the kick-start the stimulant provides. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, caffeine in moderation is a normal part of a healthy diet. They recommend a maximum of 400 milligrams per day, which equates to around four cups of coffee before negative side effects occur. However, drinking more caffeine than the body can tolerate can lead to a number of medical conditions, ranging from dehydration to weight gain, which affects both the quality of life and the quality of sleep.

A 2016 study published in Nutrition found that although small amounts of caffeine can improve performance after sleep deprivation, it can have disruptive effects on sleep when taken at night (via National Library of Medicine). The study also found that nocturnal use of caffeine increases anxiety and sleeplessness, decreases sleep duration, and makes it harder for people to fall asleep. The resulting sleep deprivation causes people to ingest larger amounts of coffee and caffeinated beverages. This endless, seemingly unbreakable cycle causes feelings of dysphoria, insomnia, jitters, and headaches.

If you are used to drinking copious amounts of coffee or caffeinated beverages and it is causing fatigue or difficulty sleeping, it is crucial to cut back slowly. Going too fast will lead to unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Begin by incorporating decaf coffee into your daily allotment, increasing the amount of water you drink, and eating healthy, nutritious meals.

You have a medical condition like diabetes, cancer, or kidney disease

A number of medical conditions, including diabetes, cancer, and kidney disease, include fatigue and drowsiness among their symptoms. According to Diabetes.co.uk, regular tiredness after meals is a common side effect of diabetes. This is due to high blood glucose levels generated by insufficient or ineffective insulin, which is needed to transport glucose into the body's cells for energy.

Fatigue is a common symptom of people with cancer, per the American Cancer Society. People with cancer often experience feelings of listlessness and extreme weakness. This fatigue can be so great they have trouble moving, eating, or thinking. Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation treatments can also have a severe impact on a person's ability to feel energized and alert.

Chronic kidney disease is when the body's kidneys, which filter toxins, wastes, and excess fluids out of your blood, gradually begin to fail. According to the National Kidney Foundation, a decrease in kidney function causes a buildup of toxins and impurities in the blood which causes feelings of weakness, tiredness, and general difficulty concentrating. It can also lead to poor sleep at night. As these physical symptoms can be attributed to other medical conditions, it is necessary to talk to a doctor if you are concerned your kidneys are contributing to your chronic fatigue.

You take certain medications

If you are experiencing an abnormal amount of exhaustion or fatigue, prescribed medications may be to blame. Blood pressure medications, while needed to lower the pressure inside your blood vessels, can also slow down the pumping action of your heart leading to feelings of listlessness or fatigue (via AARP). Blood pressure medications that act as a diuretic will often deplete the body of needed electrolytes, which can also contribute to feeling tired.

Antidepressants like Serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), and tricyclic antidepressants can cause you to feel sleepy or drowsy (via GoodRx Health). Most people experience this side effect in the first few weeks of treatment, and continued feelings of exhaustion are related to the prescribed dosage. These medications are effective for treating anxiety and depression, as well as migraines and chronic pain. However, the sleepy side effects are potent enough that many people are prescribed certain antidepressants as a treatment for insomnia.

Medicines used to treat high cholesterol, antipsychotics, antihistamines, and benzodiazepines all have drowsy and sleepy side effects, according to GoodRx Health. Even certain antibiotics such as amoxicillin and azithromycin can cause extreme fatigue or unusual weakness in some people.

You've recently quit drinking, smoking, or drug use

Quitting drinking, smoking, or drugs is a phenomenal feat. However, it is likely that detoxing will affect your sleep habits.

According to Banyan Treatment Centers, many people who partake in excessive drinking feel that doing so didn't interfere with their sleep at all. The reality is that alcohol, particularly when consumed before bed, is more likely to delay the onset of sleep by up to an hour. It also causes sleep disruptions throughout the night. When going through alcohol withdrawal, the body is forced to adjust to life without the depressant, leading to increased feelings of unpleasant fatigue.

People going through nicotine and THC withdrawal report feelings of weakness, sleepiness, and physical exhaustion. The UK organization With You explains that cutting out weed can cause sleep problems in the form of sleepless nights and vivid or disturbing dreams which can lead to lingering feelings or exhaustion for a short period of time. According to the CDC, the first few days of nicotine withdrawal often lead to difficulty concentrating, feelings of restlessness and irritation, and trouble sleeping through the night.

You have an autoimmune disorder

More than 20 million people in the United States suffer from over 100 different autoimmune diseases. According to the Autoimmune Association, a large majority of people with autoimmune disorders, including multiple sclerosis, lupus, celiac disease, fibromyalgia, and graves disease, reportedly struggle with sleep deprivation and fatigue. A lack of motivation and energy are also common side effects. This persistent exhaustion can feel debilitating to those that have it and get in the way of normal, everyday activities such as climbing stairs or walking across a parking lot.

A 2019 study published in Frontiers in Immunology found that the main complaint from people suffering from autoimmune disorders was profound fatigue (via National Library of Medicine). The reason for this fatigue varies, although a number of physiological processes including inflammation are responsible for fatigue in autoimmune disorders. The study also found that fatigue had drastic impacts on people's moods and social lives. Although the majority of autoimmune disorders are chronic and symptoms like fatigue are difficult to treat, talking to your doctor about your symptoms and medications are important first steps on the road to feeling less tired.