By now, we’ve all heard the secrets to good sleep: Avoid caffeine and TV too close to bedtime, keep the room cool and dark, sleep at least seven hours per night, blah blah blah. But, what if you are getting a full night’s sleep — responsibly resisting the temptation to binge-watch The Bear until 2 a.m. — and you still wake up tired?
It turns out there may be sneakier, lesser-known reasons for your fatigue. Here are some surprising culprits that might be draining your energy.
A cocktail or glass of wine may be a soothing end to a stressful day, but sipping spirits too close to bedtime can rob you of your ZZZs. While alcohol does help you doze off faster, it also shortens rapid eye movement (REM) sleep — a crucial phase of your sleep cycle for dreaming, learning, and memory.
This means the second half of your slumber is more disrupted and less restful, causing you to wake up during the night and feel more tired the next day.
Iron is a mineral responsible for transporting oxygen in the blood to tissues throughout the body. It also helps the immune system, as well as both muscle and cognitive function. People who menstruate are at greater risk of iron deficiency due to their blood loss with 38% of 19-50 year-old females in Australia having an inadequate intake of the mineral, according to the ABS.
Symptoms of iron deficiency can look like fatigue, a decreased ability to work, shortness of breath and pale skin.
Think you’re iron deficient? Make an appointment with your doc and fill up on iron-rich foods such as red meats, pork, leafy greens, and beans. If you need more of a boost, daily iron supplements such as Ferrogen can help to raise your levels. The supplements contain iron in a one-a-day modified-release tablet to help reduce gastrointestinal side effects such as constipation.
Too much clutter
Battling the afternoon energy slump? It may be time to clean your desk. Too much stimulation in your visual space (like a cluttered work area) restricts your ability to concentrate and process information.
“Multiple unrelated objects in close proximity to each other compete for your brain’s resources,” says Stephanie McMains, PhD, study author and staff scientist at the Center for Brain Science at Harvard University.
Keep clutter to a minimum to avoid sapping your mental energy, and try to group items in a meaningful way.
Skipping your workout
Feeling wiped is a common excuse for cutting spin class, but skipping your workouts may be why you’re so drained in the first place. Exercising boosts oxygen circulation inside your body. This increase allows your body to function better and to use its energy more efficiently.
So while you may be tempted to lay on the couch after a long day, getting your body moving can help (not hinder) your energy levels.
The thyroid, a butterfly-shaped gland in your neck, secretes hormones that regulate a variety of functions, from your body temperature to metabolism and heartbeat. But, sometimes, the thyroid doesn’t produce enough of these hormones, leading to a condition called hypothyroidism. Women are more likely than men to have thyroid problems.
If you have unexplained fatigue, coupled with unexpected weight gain, menstrual irregularity, cold intolerance, constipation, or other unusual symptoms, see your GP for a blood test evaluation.
Even mild dehydration can alter your mood and make you feel mentally sluggish, according to studies from the University of Connecticut. “If we don't drink enough fluids, it makes it difficult for our cells to function properly,” says Jenna Bell, PhD, RD, a sports dietitian and the author of Energy to Burn: The Ultimate Food & Nutrition Guide to Fuel Your Active Lifestyle.
Do you find yourself doom-scrolling on TikTok into the early hours?
Smartphones and other screens emit blue light. This type of light strongly stimulates retinal ganglion cells containing melanopsin. According to one study, stimulation of those cells causes secretion inhibition of melatonin and decreases sleepiness.
This means that using smartphones at night disrupts the normal sleep-wake cycle, sleep delay, and melatonin secretion inhibition.
Turning down the brightness on your device may help — or try using Apple's Night Filter to help lessen the sleep-stealing blue light. Even better: Stick with paperback books at night, or ban the glow of tech gadgets at least an hour before bedtime — even if it's hard.
Please note: the medical information in this article is general in nature. Please always consult your GP to obtain advice specific to your medical condition.
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