Whether it’s from a late night or two to catch up with work/family commitments, excess worry about recent life changes or because of an emerging trend to binge on the latest Netflix series, we are all probably familiar with feeling tired, fatigued and or just plain exhausted at times, which leads to the big question, why am I so tired!
There are many physical and/or psychological factors that can contribute to poor sleep quality and/or sleep disturbance. Tiredness, fatigue and/or exhaustion is an important symptom to raise with health professionals, for example a General Practitioner and/or Psychologist.
It may be to rule out medical reasons such as thyroid problems, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, blood disorders (e.g. anaemia/haemachromatosis) sleep apnoea, auto-immune diseases etc, or to highlight the link between tiredness and/or fatigue from poor sleep and mental ill health.
Tiredness and fatigue is common in today’s society and the link between poor sleep and mental illness is well-documented. Most people tend to undervalue the necessity and/or importance of sleep until they develop fatigue or feel completely exhausted.
You’ll often find you’re asking, why am I so tired, due to fatigue resulting from overworking, chronic stress, under or over-stimulation, physical activity, mental health problems, disease, diet, toxins, and poor sleep hygiene.
Physical fatigue can occur when your body is unable to maintain optimal performance; for example, running a marathon from little training and preparation. Mental fatigue entails a decrease in cognitive performance more likely from prolonged periods of cognitive strain; for example, studying for exams, not scheduling regular breaks at work or when driving long distances.
Why am I so tired? Sleep
The average requirement for adults is 7-8.5hrs a night; however some people report they can function with much less.
When people do not get enough sleep they may experience difficulties with attention, memory disturbances, concentration difficulties, increased irritability and emotional reactivity, mood disturbances, impaired judgment and other issues that can impact on quality of life. It can often be alleviated by rest and improving sleep quality.
Factors to consider for good sleep hygiene
- Get a Routine – stay regular, go to bed at the same time everyday
- If you can’t get to sleep restart your getting to bed routine (after 20 mins), get up, read the phone book or something boring, do something to wind down or relax
- Sleep when sleepy in bed, put the iPhone down, turn the screens off
- Avoid stimulants (for example coffee and alcohol at least 6hrs before bed)
- Ensure that your bedroom is well-ventilated and neither too hot or too cold – keep a window slightly open if you can
- Avoid too much alcohol – it may appear to help sleep, but too much can lead to shallower sleep
- Avoid large meals at least 2 hours before bedtime
- Use the bed for sleep and intimacy and avoid using the surplus bed space for office work, eating and watching TV or using social media
- Good healthy diet (plenty of fruits and vegetables) and exercise early in the morning or afternoon (avoid exercising right before bedtime)
- Relax and develop rituals to wind down and process the day before getting into bed
- Avoid daytime naps
Sleep is very important and the effectiveness of the sleep is vital to reduce daytime lethargy, irritability, cognitive impairment and mental ill health.
It is also important to talk to your GP about the necessity for a sleep study or further investigations, especially if your sleep activity is affected (for example, snoring, nightmares, waking up in the middle of night, morning irritability and headaches, etc.)