Tired of feeling tired? If you're asking yourself, Why am I so exhausted all the time?, you might want to look at your daily routine.
While low energy can be a sign of a health condition, it can also be the result of certain habits.
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Here, experts break down seven common habits that might be draining your tank, and offer tips to reenergize.
1. Drinking Too Much Caffeine
While you might rely on your morning cup of joe for an energy jolt, coffee can also be the culprit responsible for your grogginess.
"A little caffeine can be a performance enhancer, but overdo it, and it will backfire," DJ Blatner, RDN, dietitian and author of The Superfood Swap: The 4-Week Plan to Eat What You Crave Without the C.R.A.P., tells LIVESTRONG.com.
Though caffeine and energy drinks can boost mood, energy and alertness for several hours, once you stop consuming them, you can come crashing down, says Sanam Hafeez, PsyD, a New York City-based neuropsychologist and professor at Columbia University.
Here's why: "Caffeine increases the stress compound cortisol, and too much of it can make you feel energized at first, but then majorly drained," Blatner says.
In other words, you go from a high high to a low low.
And over time, you'll need more caffeine to sustain that same energy level to avoid the rebound effect, Hafeez adds.
Limit your daily caffeine intake to 24 ounces or less (in the early part of the day) and choose sources from natural foods like coffee or tea (which offer beneficial antioxidants) rather than energy drinks, Blatner says.
You can also skip the caffeine altogether and “try something like caffeine-free peppermint tea or smell a citrus essential oil, since these aromas can be energizing,” Blatner says.
Noshing on an apple is another way to get a little oomph in the energy department. “Apples contain at least 13 grams of sugar, which gives you a natural energy boost as the sugar is slowly released throughout the body,” Hafeez says.
Sipping on coconut water can help too. Look for brands that “contain about 569 milligrams of potassium, an electrolyte that helps in muscle contraction and energy production,” Hafeez says.
And if you need a quick afternoon pick-me-up, there’s always the option of doing a few jumping jacks to get the blood pumping, Blatner adds.
2. Logging Too Much Screen Time
"Screen time fatigue is real," Hafeez says. Most people spend too much time staring at a screen, which can cause eye strain, headaches and overall tiredness.
And blue light can have a particularly negative effect on your quality of sleep, Blatner adds.
It's true: Blue light suppresses your body's production of melatonin, a hormone that affects circadian rhythms, according to Harvard Health Publishing. And this can subsequently mess with your body's biological clock and your sleep schedule.
Not to mention some studies appear to link exposure to blue light with an increased risk for developing cancer, diabetes, heart disease and obesity, per Harvard Health Publishing.
“After looking at a screen for 20 minutes, find a window 20 feet away, and look at it for 20 seconds and then repeat,” Hafeez says. “This will give the eyes a chance to relax.”
Also, don’t forget to take regular breaks away from the screen. “Even a couple of minutes of stretching or refreshing your glass of water to give your posture, joints and eyes a break will help increase energy,” Blatner says.
And “cut off screen time an hour before bed to help you wind down from the day of electronics,” Blatner adds. Instead of scrolling through your phone or watching TV, rest your eyes and listen to a podcast or relaxing music .
3. Not Drinking Enough Water
Believe it or not, dehydration can be the reason behind your dip in energy.
"All athletes know that to keep performing at their best, they need to be well hydrated, but the same is true if we want to perform at our best during our workday and stay energized and focused," Blatner says.
Always keep a water bottle nearby as a reminder to drink more H2O throughout the day.
“Also consider adding electrolytes to your morning water for extra hydration, since you’ve just had eight dehydrating hours of sleep,” Blatner says.
Simply toss some fruit into your glass of water for an electrolyte boost.
4. Eating Too Many Processed Foods
"Most processed foods contain simple carbohydrates, which cause a blood sugar roller coaster and can lead to feeling extremely worn out from all those ups and downs," Blatner says.
Indeed, "consuming too much sugar and simple carbs can cause brain fog and fatigue," Hafeez adds.
"Also, many processed foods such as canned soups have very high sodium content, which can leave you feeling thirsty if you are not hydrating adequately," Hafeez says. Remember, dehydration can make you feel tired.
"Plus, your body need vitamins, minerals and nutrients to work at its best, and processed foods lack that optimal, energizing nutrition," Blatner says.
Eat natural, fresh foods whenever possible, Hafeez says.
Consuming minimally processed foods doesn’t have to be hard or time consuming.
“A simple breakfast smoothie packed with fruits and veggies, a quick plant-based lunch bowl and a dinner with a piece of grilled protein and a saucy, flavorful veggie side can all become part of your regular routine with a little practice,” Blatner says.
5. Being Stressed Out
"When your body first experiences experiences stress, it has the reaction of a fireman about to slide down a fire pole: adrenaline is pumping, and cortisol and norepinephrine are released into the bloodstream," Hafeez says.
That's because "stress activates the sympathetic nervous system known as the 'fight or flight' system," Blatner explains. "If you're overstressed, it's like you are in a constant state of getting ready for battle or running full steam, and that's exhausting."
People who are stressed out might experience increased blood pressure, muscle fatigue and headaches, and the longer the stress goes on, the more the body's resources are depleted, Hafeez says.
Meditation and exercise can help stress chemicals clear out of the body, Blatner says. “Extra credit if the exercise is fun and playful, like dance or jumping rope to help you feel more alive and joyful.”
Eating nutrient-dense foods (and limiting sugar and caffeine) can also play a part in managing stress, Hafeez says. Consuming three balanced meals each day will keep your blood sugar steady, which will help regulate mood and stress levels, Blatner says.
Plus, taking a pause in your day to eat healthy foods can help you detach from the stress, even if it’s just for 15 minutes each time, Blatner adds.
Working with a life coach or a therapist can also help you create more boundaries and coping skills to deal with stress, Blatner says.
6. Getting Inconsistent Sleep (Even if You're Logging Enough Hours)
"When your sleep schedule is all over the place, your circadian rhythm (aka body clock) isn't able to give you the right sleep-versus-awake signals, meaning you may get sleepy cues during the day when you really need to have energy," Blatner says.
"Inconsistent sleep can wreak havoc on the body and affect mood, appetite, memory, alertness, energy level, anxiety levels, your immune system and even your sex drive," Hafeez adds.
What's more, people with irregular sleep schedules are more likely to experience symptoms of depression, according to a February 2021 study in npj Digital Medicine.
“Pick a set sleep schedule and stick to it on weekdays and weekends,” Blatner says. “Especially important is getting up at the same time and looking out the window for some light as a signal to your body that it’s time to be awake.”
“To get you sleepy at a consistent bedtime, consider something to help you like a chamomile latte or tart cherry latte,” Blatner says. You can even try taking melatonin, Hafeez adds.
Also, avoid daytime naps as well as alcohol, caffeine and large meals before bedtime, Hafeez says.
And if you continue to struggle with sticking to a sleep schedule, see your doctor to rule out medical issues like sleep apnea, Hafeez says.
7. Over-Exercising Without Proper Recovery
While exercise is energizing, "if you overdo it and don't take time to recover, not only do you risk injury, you 're also setting yourself up to feel totally worn out," Blatner says.
In addition to fatigue, other symptoms of overtraining include feeling depressed, anxious or irritable, trouble sleeping, lack of motivation and getting sick more often (among others), according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Take at least a day off each week from your workouts and make sure to incorporate recovery activities like stretching and foam rolling every day, Blatner says.
Eating three balanced meals each day also helps to repair muscles and replenish energy stores (glycogen), she adds.
If your symptoms of fatigue persist, talk to your doctor or a sleep expert. You might be dealing with a more serious underlying health issue.
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