You’re Sleeping Enough, But You’re Still Tired? This Might Be Why

I am always exhausted. 

My reasons are unsurprising. The medications I take for my various ailments knock me out at night and have what feel like never-ending half-lives, so my brain remains foggy until the next day’s late afternoon.

On top of this, I’m a night owl who needs to function the next day. I’ve managed to work my schedule at Monet so I can sleep in later, but even with at least eight hours, I am tired.

 

So, yeah, it was time to look into the other reasons why I could be exhausted despite getting my beauty sleep (and then some). Here’s what I’ve found.

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How Much Sleep Do I Need?

Some people thrive on five hours (early-twenties me), while others need around 9+ hours (current me). Nobody’s sleep blueprint is the same, but there are general guidelines on how many hours you need to hit peak productivity.

The CDC recommends those 18 to 60 get at least seven hours of sleep a night, if not more. Once you hit 61 to 64, it’s seven to nine hours, and at 65+, it’s seven to eight. Again: these are just general guidelines, and circumstances – like specific medical disorders – can affect how much sleep you need.

Now that we’ve covered the “how much,” here are potential “why’s” behind your exhaustion, even if you’re getting your hours in.


You’re not getting enough deep sleep.

 
 
 
 
 
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There are five stages throughout a sleep cycle as you switch from non-rapid eye movement (NREM) to rapid eye movement (REM) throughout the night. These stages include drowsiness, light sleep, moderate to deep sleep, deepest sleep, and dreaming. 

You hear a lot about REM and the necessity of it, but one of the main things you need is to hit the deep sleep stages, which happen during NREM. During the deep sleep and deepest sleep stages, a lot of important processes happen within your body. They include consolidating memories, processing emotions, and balancing blood sugar levels and metabolism. It’s recommended that 13 to 23 percent of your sleep should be in these stages – without deep sleep, sleep deprivation starts, and you feel the effects of fatigue the next day.


You’re not moving around.

You may think exercise only adds to fatigue, tiring you out during the day. But in reality, it can wake you up by breaking the monotony of sitting and working for eight hours. It’s important to move – even if it’s just a few laps around the office throughout the day.

Research supports this. A University of Georgia study found that those who sit around most of the day can reduce their fatigue by 65% if they up their energy levels by 20%. You don’t have to go to the gym and work out for hours on end, but some movement will pump you up, lessening your exhaustion and even improving your mood (Elle Woods can tell you all about exercise and endorphins).

 


You’re not eating what your body needs.

An obvious reason you’re not feeling well: you’re not eating enough. Women need at least 1,200 calories a day to function, and even that is considered fairly low – 1,800 to 2,000 is usually the golden range. By not eating enough calories, you’re slowing your metabolism, while also lowering your nutrient intake – all of which can cause you to nod off in your chair.

Then there’s carbs. I love them so much. I can’t turn down pizza, pasta, bread – my Italian roots won’t let me. But overconsumption can hurt. Refined carbs turn into sugar, which temporarily gives you energy. Your pancreas then releases insulin to keep your blood sugars from spiking. Then, your blood sugars crash, resulting in exhaustion. 

On top of this, food sensitivities can affect your energy levels. I know plenty of people who are gluten-free but can’t give up bread, and my lactose-intolerant friends say “f*ck it, I want ice cream.” Then, they feel tired for the rest of the day. If you’re sensitive to certain foods, listen to your body and try to avoid them. 


You’re sleeping when you shouldn’t be.

 
 
 
 
 
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Yeah, we know, science says napping is good for us. But sometimes you just shouldn’t do it. Napping for too long can cause you to feel even more tired when you wake up, and it can mess with your circadian rhythm. In other words, it’ll be harder to fall asleep at night, which means you’ll get fewer hours of sleep, which means less deep sleep…you see where this is going. It’s a vicious cycle. If you must sleep – like, can’t focus because you’re slumping over — keep it to a cat nap.


You’re not drinking enough.

 

Yeah, food gives you energy, but staying hydrated is SO important. You’re constantly losing water throughout the day, so you have to make up for the hydration you’re missing. If you don’t drink enough, it can lead to headaches and dizziness, and concentrating on anything can feel impossible. Get yourself a water bottle and make sure you’re sipping as much as you need based on your age, weight, and height. (Sixty-four ounces a day is no longer the standard.)


You’re drinking energy-boosters too late in the day.

It’s 4 pm, you have one more hour of work, and you’re struggling. So, you reach for a small cup of coffee. It seems harmless – how much can a few espresso shots do to your sleep? Spoiler alert: they can totally ruin the next day. Rebound fatigue is a real thing, and drinking that energy booster for that final hour can lead to staying awake later than usual, limiting the amount of sleep you get that night. Then, boom – you’re exhausted the next day, and the cycle continues. Quit it!


You have a medical condition.

If you’re living a healthy lifestyle, sleeping enough, and still feeling too tired to function each day, you’ll want to get checked out by a professional. Specific disorders can make nights hell.  

Anemia, either caused by low iron or low vitamin levels, is one medical condition that can cause a dip in energy levels. Underactive thyroid glands can lead to less thyroxine throughout your body, which can cause weight gain and aching muscles on top of being tired. Mental illnesses, like clinical depression and bipolar depression, can also cause brain fog.

Narcolepsy is mentioned a bunch, and most people think it’s simply falling asleep suddenly. But it has a myriad of symptoms, however, that can be just as debilitating. For example, loss of muscle control — and even muscle paralysis — as well as extreme fatigue and hallucinations are common.

One common problem is sleep apnea, where you stop breathing throughout the night and therefore wake up repeatedly – even when you don’t know it. I have a friend with sleep apnea, and they had no idea. Only after a sleep test did they discover that they were waking up every. single. minute. It’s worth having a sleep study done to rule this out, and there is treatment available to regulate breathing.

And then there’s chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), diagnosed when intense fatigue is experienced for longer than six months without an underlying medical condition. Unlike the normal suggestions, physical movement can make it worse, as can mental activities. It’s a complex disorder, and there can be many reasons behind it, from the aftermath of a viral infection to various forms of trauma.


There are many reasons why you may be experiencing tiredness, even if you’re getting a full night’s sleep. We absolutely recommend speaking with your doctor if you notice that you’re chronically tired, as they can prescribe the proper tests and potential medications to help out. You don’t always have to be tired — promise!

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Have you struggled with extreme fatigue? What helped you? Share with us in the comments!


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