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September 21, 2021 2 min read

By Markita Lewis, MS, RD

Do you ever catch yourself yawning in the middle of the day, even though you made sure to go to bed at a reasonable time? Do you need caffeine or sugar to make it through the afternoon? There may be multiple reasons why you are not feeling well-rested and ready to take on the day, but following are some common causes

1. You have an irregular sleep schedule. Your body works on an internal clock called a circadian rhythm, which controls hormones like melatonin that help you fall asleep and wake up every day. Sleeping at unusual times of the day, not sleeping enough or sleeping too much can cause a disruption in your circadian rhythm, making you feel exhausted. The National Sleep Foundation recommends going to sleep at the same time nightly and aiming to get seven to nine hours of sleep a night.  

2. Your sleep environment is uncomfortable or too stimulating. It’s important to have a relaxing, calm environment where you sleep. Your sleep may be poor because your sleep environment is too hot or too cold, or your bed is uncomfortable. Other sleep disruptors include loud noises and exposure to bright lights around bedtime (including screen time before bed and sleeping with the TV on). Get cozy and do something calming before bed, like reading or meditating.

3. You have an unbalanced diet. Having a poor diet can leave you fatigued all day. Eating a balanced diet means eating the right amount of carbohydrates, fat, and protein at every meal and snack. For example, a protein shake made with nut butter and a banana provides the right balance of macronutrients to give you energy throughout the day.
An obvious nutrient associated with fatigue is iron. Iron deficiency may lead to anemia, whose symptoms include fatigue and shortness of breath. Low intake of magnesium-containing foods like spinach or almonds can also increase the likelihood of daytime sleepiness.Drinking too much caffeine or alcoholic beverages can disrupt the quality of your sleep, making you feel tired in the morning — even if you spent 9 hours in bed. If you’re not doing any of the above, you may not be eating enough to fuel your body throughout the day. Make sure you are meeting your calorie needs regularly and aren’t cutting calories back too far.

4. You have constant stress or other emotions affecting your health. Stressful situations cause your body to release cortisol, the fight or flight hormone. Increased cortisol leads to shorter sleep duration, poor sleep quality and increased risk for other health events that can impact sleep.

Adopting stress-management techniques or seeing a mental health professional can be helpful in managing stress.

    If none of the above appear to be the cause of your fatigue and you can’t tie it to another obvious reason, it’s a good idea to see your doctor.

    Feeling well-rested and energized during the day involves more than the hours you’re in bed. Addressing different environmental and lifestyle factors may help you start counting sheep in no time!

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