5 Reasons You Feel Exhausted All the Time

Exhausted all the time? Find out 5 possible reasons for that in this article, plus what you could do to (finally) feel like yourself again.

Young sportive woman exhausted indoor gym taking a break

It’s normal to feel like you’re dragging your ass to work, the gym, and various obligations (think: social gatherings and medical appointments) in the immediate post-holiday season 🥱

But now that we’re squarely in February … well, it may be worth asking if there’s something more serious behind your 24/7 lethargy than the post-festivities blues.

The short answer? There could be. And the long answer? It’s this article; here, we dive into the 5 possible reasons why you feel exhausted all the time.

1: Inadequate sleep (or sleeping too much)

So, it's obvious how failing to get adequate sleep nightly (FYI: anywhere between 7 to 9 hours is good) would contribute to excessive fatigue. The human body needs ample rest to recharge.

But what about sleeping too much? How could you possibly be exhausted all the time when you’re getting, say, 12 hours of sleep daily?

You can thank a group of cells – called the “circadian pacemaker” – clustered in the hypothalamus for that. The hypothalamus is a part of your brain that regulates hunger, thirst, and sweat for the uninitiated.

Here’s what you need to know.

Your circadian pacemaker figures out when it’s morning by relying on light signals from your eye. And once it’s “decided” that it’s morning, these cells send out chemical messages that’ll keep the rest of your bodily cells on the same clock.

Now, imagine what happens when you sleep in.

You might be crawling out of bed at noon, but your circadian pacemaker would have told your body cells to "wake up" at 7 am (once they've detected light); that means your body has already been "awake" for 5 hours – even though you've just cracked open your eyes! No wonder you're always tired!

Psst: if you suspect that this is the root cause of your exhaustion, do check out our previous blogpost on “Secrets To Getting A Good Night’s Sleep". Stop oversleeping. It isn't about your sleep duration but the quality you’re getting.

2: Excessive levels of stress

In addition to wreaking havoc on your sleep cycle, chronic stress can also put your body in a permanent "fight-or-flight mode". In other words, your cortisol and adrenaline levels (i.e., the "stress hormones") are sky-high – all the time.

Okay, but so what? Consider the 2 hormones’ actions on your body:

  • Adrenaline: Increases your body’s reaction time. It makes your heart beat faster, increases blood flow to your brain and muscles, and stimulates your body to use carbohydrates as fuel.
  • Cortisol: Increases your blood glucose levels, enhances your brain’s use of glucose, and increases the availability of substances crucial for tissue repair (e.g., amino acids).

Of course, their actions are warranted in the case of a real, temporary stressor. Examples include getting chased by a ferocious-looking dog or hitting the brakes to avoid running into a pedestrian with your car. Drag the stress period out long-term, though, and the picture changes.

Chronic stress takes a toll on your body’s resources. And that leaves you both emotionally and physically drained – explaining why you’re exhausted all the time.

So, what can you do?

While you can’t eliminate stressors (e.g., financial concerns and relationship conflicts), you can control your response to them by leveraging stress management techniques, including meditation, deep breathing, and various cognitive exercises like the “ABC Technique”.

3: Nutritionally imbalanced diet

What does a usual meal look like for you? Do you typically grab whatever seems convenient to you – and you could care less about the specific nutrients you're consuming?

If so, you're likely falling short on various nutrients crucial for energy production.

Two specific examples include:

  1. Vitamin B12: Research suggests that B12 insufficiency and deficiency are relatively common. But why does falling short on this vitamin make you feel exhausted all the time? Well, that's because your body's cells need B12 to function correctly. So inadequate consumption of the vitamin could decrease your body’s red blood cell production, potentially impairing oxygen delivery – in turn, causing you to feel weak and tired.
  2. Vitamin D: Like vitamin B12, vitamin D deficiency is surprisingly common. Studies estimate that about 1 billion people globally have low blood levels of the vitamin. And as for its link to feelings of exhaustion? Research has consistently linked very low vitamin D blood levels to fatigue. For instance, this 2015 observational study in female nurses highlighted a strong connection between self-reported fatigue and low vitamin D levels.
Bottom line? It's crucial to ensure that you're eating a nutritionally balanced diet. One of the easiest ways to do that is focusing on eating a variety of whole grains, legumes, nuts, lean proteins, fruits, and vegetables.

Make sure there’s plenty of color on your plate, too, as that’s suggestive of the phytonutrients (i.e., plant-based antioxidants) you’re eating.

4: Not moving enough

When you’re tired all the time, exercise may be the last thing on your mind – but it shouldn’t be. Why? Research links leading a sedentary lifestyle with perpetual tiredness.

So, what can you do about it? Answer: move more, of course!

Up your activity level, and you’ll experience a significant boost in energy levels. It’s guaranteed.

Here’s proof: according to this study published in Psychological Bulletin, researchers analyzed 70 different studies on exercise and fatigue involving more than 6,800 people).

And … what did they find?

More than 90% of the studies came to the same conclusion: sedentary individuals who started on – and completed – a regular exercise program reported improved fatigue compared to those who did not exercise. Many later studies have also lent support to this finding.

In other words: the cure for your exhaustion is more exercise.

5: Certain chronic health conditions

It's worth noting that excessive fatigue levels could indeed be a sign of something more serious, like chronic health conditions. Examples include inflammation-related diseases like anemia, diabetes, and hypothyroidism. That said, you shouldn’t be self-diagnosing (“Oh, I think I have hypothyroidism!”)

It's always best to get yourself checked out by a (licensed) medical professional who can recommend a suitable course of treatment for you.

But what if you’re in a clean bill of health – and not dealing with any nutrient deficiencies? Then be sure to tweak your lifestyle, starting with increasing your physical activity levels. That’s where GymStreak comes in. Wink wink. Oh, but what if you’re afraid of stepping into the gym? Read this article.

Then, see how GymStreak could help with your fitness goals:

References

Gana, W., De Luca, A., Debacq, C., Poitau, F., Poupin, P., Aidoud, A., & Fougère, B. (2021). Analysis of the Impact of Selected Vitamins Deficiencies on the Risk of Disability in Older People. Nutrients, 13(9), 3163. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13093163

Masoudi Alavi, N., Madani, M., Sadat, Z., Haddad Kashani, H., & Reza Sharif, M. (2015). Fatigue and Vitamin D Status in Iranian Female Nurses. Global Journal of Health Science, 8(6), 196–202. https://doi.org/10.5539/gjhs.v8n6p196

Puetz, T. W., O’Connor, P. J., & Dishman, R. K. (2006). Effects of chronic exercise on feelings of energy and fatigue: A quantitative synthesis. Psychological Bulletin, 132(6), 866–876. https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.132.6.866

Schmidt, K. T., & Weinshenker, D. (2014). Adrenaline Rush: The Role of Adrenergic Receptors in Stimulant-Induced Behaviors. Molecular Pharmacology, 85(4), 640–650. https://doi.org/10.1124/mol.113.090118

Sizar, O., Khare, S., Goyal, A., Bansal, P., & Givler, A. (2022). Vitamin D Deficiency. In StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK532266/

Tardy, A.-L., Pouteau, E., Marquez, D., Yilmaz, C., & Scholey, A. (2020). Vitamins and Minerals for Energy, Fatigue and Cognition: A Narrative Review of the Biochemical and Clinical Evidence. Nutrients, 12(1), 228. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12010228

Thau, L., Gandhi, J., & Sharma, S. (2022). Physiology, Cortisol. In StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK538239/

Vaze, K. M., & Sharma, V. K. (2013). On the adaptive significance of circadian clocks for their owners. Chronobiology International, 30(4), 413–433. https://doi.org/10.3109/07420528.2012.754457