A common phrase that I’ve always loved was, “I only have so many spoons in a day.” When I was younger, it seemed as though the spoons were infinite. I always had energy no matter how busy I was. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that every single thing in my life has its own spoon…work, kids, homework, extracurriculars, doing the dishes, and so on. I’ve also realized that there are days when I don’t have enough spoons to even do everything I need to accomplish.
Have you ever felt like that? All out of spoons…exhausted and even when you take those moments to rest…to replenish those spoons, you are still tired. You might feel like you are all alone in this feeling, but…
You are not!
In fact, 3 out of 5 U.S. adults feel exhaustion on a regular basis, with many of them saying they feel more exhausted in 2022 than they have at any other time in their lives. Furthermore, 55% of respondents in a recent survey felt that no matter how much rest they took, they were still exhausted. Additionally, roughly 72% of the adult population in the U.S. spends at least half the week feeling sleepy.
I’m sure you’ve thought, “I’m tired of being tired!” And while that thought is easy…coming up with a solution often seems unrealistic or unattainable. After all, life is busy and trying to find the balance to add extra hours for sleep or to refill your spoon drawer with activities that nourish you can be difficult. Instead, you probably do what the majority of adults do…up your caffeine intake to more than it really should be.
Is being tired just a reality you need to learn to accept?
Absolutely not — but to deal with the problem, you have to identify what’s causing it. For some, eliminating exhaustion requires a simple fix (get more exercise, drink more water!). But others are genetically predisposed to exhaustion (not being able to sleep, lower amounts of mitochondria, etc.). For these individuals, the problem can be a little more complicated.
Do Genetics Really Affect How Tired I Am?
As we continue to map the human genome, researchers are finding that a lot of things that affect us actually have links to our genetics. And, surprisingly, being tired has been linked with our genetics in a few different ways.
Number One: Low energy is linked to the same gene affecting high cholesterol levels
Did you know that low energy and high cholesterol levels overlap on the same genes. That means that if you experience high cholesterol, or find that you have chronic low energy, you are at risk of developing the other condition. In addition, obesity is often linked to this gene as well.
Number Two: Genes affect your vulnerability to stress
This is a very interesting study as we often look at stress as an outward influence on us. And we often don’t link stress with being tired, which, of course, a lot of stress is going to make you feel run down and tired! However, with genetics, studies have linked our ability to cope with stress to our very genes. If you are more vulnerable to stress because of your genes, it will lead you to feeling more tired.
Number Three: Genes can affect your sleep patterns
Finally, genes are very good at affecting your sleep patterns. For instance, if you have trouble shutting your brain off at night, your hyper-stimulated nervous system is likely causing a problem with sleep initiation. Being a driven, task-oriented person is admirable, but it's problematic when you become so hyper-focused that you can’t turn your brain off.
This not only affects how fast you fall asleep, but also lowers your quality of sleep. When your body isn’t able to rest deeply, the effects carry over into the next day, leaving you mentally and physically tired.
Your ability to switch the central nervous system into a more calming, less-stimulated state is affected by your genetic predisposition. Some people genetically struggle to transform glutamate (hyperactive-stimulating neurotransmitter) into GABA (the neurotransmitter that calms the brain).
When this genetic predisposition is then triggered by a lifestyle factor, such as a busy schedule, the hyperactive- stimulating neurotransmitter heightens, making it really tough to fall asleep.
As you can see, while there can be a lot of outside forces affecting how tired you feel, our genes can play a big part on how tired we are.
How Would I Feel If I Wasn’t Tired?
Believe it or not, some people (even busy, successful people) feel rested. In a well-rested state, you should have sustainable physical and mental energy throughout the day to do “all the things” you need to get done. You shouldn’t experience a mid-day crash or have to drag yourself from one chore to the next. No matter your tasks, you should have enough energy to get them done with clear mental focus.
The goal isn’t euphoria — it’s sustainability.
So why do we feel tired? Why aren’t we all living a life full of sustainable energy?
Typically, there's something we’re doing with our body, putting into our body, or our environment that’s causing the “I’m tired of being tired” feeling. Additionally, as mentioned above, there may be a genetic cofactor that’s making it worse.
Ready to learn how to stop feeling tired? It’s all about figuring out what impacts your energy. Here’s what’s going on:
Output: What Are You Doing With Your Body That Lowers Energy?
1. Abnormal Sleeping Patterns
When we think of sleeping patterns, we think of not sleeping enough, but many people will sleep 7, 8 or even 9 hours and still wake up tired. Why?
The answer is in sleeping patterns. While you may feel you are asleep, you may suffer from things such as sleep apnea or frequent periods of light sleep. This can have as great an effect on feeling tired as staying up late and not getting the recommended 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night.
Inadequate sleep is one of the main reasons people are tired. Most people assume they need more sleep in terms of quantity, but not everyone needs eight hours to feel rested. I feel best after about six hours. Some people do best with five hours, while others need ten. The point is everyone is different. There's no magic, one-size-fits-all number.
Adequate sleep is about quality over quantity. The key is resting deeply and resting when you’re tired. If you ignore rest to power through the night and meet a deadline, you make the problem worse. You're left with an exhaustion hangover and begin a cycle of poor sleep.
The body must have rest time to do certain metabolic processes. When these processes don't happen, the body functions at a sub-optimal level, leaving you without the energy you need.
Instead of worrying about how many hours of sleep you get, and, instead, focus on how deeply and when.
2. Sedentary Lifestyles
Movement is essential. The more you move, the better you sleep. Sometimes that means setting an alarm an hour or so earlier so you can get some movement in before the day begins.
There’s a difference in mental and physical exhaustion. Sitting in front of a computer all day will lead to mental exhaustion, but this doesn't help your body expend enough physical energy to feel tired. This makes it even harder to fall asleep at night. If you stay up late (and sleep in), you get into a vicious cycle.
Instead, create body rhythms — go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time. The body likes this predictability and learns to make it sustainable.
One important tip for setting this rhythm is to actually set your wake up time and stay with it. If you get up at 6am every morning, you’ll find that you’ll get tired sooner in the evening and can adjust your bedtime much easier. While you will be tired the first few days of doing this, it is easier to wake up early than to force your hyperactive brain to go to sleep.
Input: What Are You Putting in Your Body That Inhibits Sustainable Energy?
3. Poor Nutrition
Nutrition can play a huge part in whether you’re feeling tired or not. In fact, if you find sleep is not an issue, but you still feel tired, you’re eating habits might be the culprit.
For example, eating too many refined carbs and sugars can cause fatigue and sluggishness, especially if it causes a blood sugar spike. When we eat bad carbs, it increases our glucose. When our blood sugar drops, we feel tired and need to eat it again to regain energy. This takes us on an endless rollercoaster of continually eating bad food to keep our energy up.
If you’re hungry, don't eat a Snickers! That’s the opposite of what your body needs. Instead, maintain a balanced whole-foods diet throughout the day to sustain your energy. Choose healthy fats, clean proteins, and vegetables. As for fruit, keep it to a minimum. It’s still fructose, and the body doesn’t always differentiate between natural sweeteners and refined sugars.
Finally, make sure you are getting the right nutrients on a day to day. Where your diet is lacking, you should take a high quality multivitamin that meets your daily requirements.
4. Fighting the Calorie Count
Often, we don’t think about calories or our caloric intake, but that can be a common reason for why we are tired. Sometimes people overlook the possibility of missing calories because they’re so focused on not eating too much. This is another quality over quantity issue. We don’t recommend counting calories. However, we do recommend making sure you get enough healthy, clean food.
Strive for a balance in what you eat, making sure proteins, good fats, and healthy carbs far outweigh the sugars and refined carbs.
Food is fuel. We eat because we need energy — what you choose to eat should be a question of “Is this going to fuel me or harm me?”
5. Water Intake that Doesn’t Meet Our Needs
When cells are dehydrated, they don't perform optimally. Drinking water hydrates the muscles and keeps your body operating as it should. Cells need water to work effectively and complete their biochemical processes on a daily basis. We recommend drinking half your body weight in ounces on a daily basis. However, it is important to note that activity level, season and temperatures will affect if you need more or slightly less water during the day.
6. Drinking Excessive Caffeine
Ah, coffee! Nothing starts a day quite like a great coffee. However, when you use coffee, and other sources of caffeine, to help boost your energy, it can have the opposite effect.
Whenever you depend on stimulants to keep yourself mentally and physically focused, it’s an issue. Caffeine triggers the release of glutamate (the hyperactive neurotransmitter) to release in the brain. And if you already genetically struggle to convert glutamate to GABA, it makes falling asleep even more difficult at the end of the day.
Environment: How Do Your Surroundings Affect Energy?
7. High-Stress Environment
So, I want to shift this a bit. We’ve looked at a lot of input when it comes to looking at how tired you are; however, a huge part of the equation is with your environment. In fact, when you combine input, output and environmental factors, they can create the perfect storm for decreased energy. With enough time, a simple rainstorm can become a hurricane and the very center of your lifestyle — and not the lifestyle anyone wants.
With that in mind, you are probably wondering, where do I start where I can actually feel less tired.
Start by becoming aware. A great way to realize how you feel is to journal:
- What time did you wake up?
- What did you eat?
- What time did you go to sleep?
- Was it easy to go to sleep?
- Did you stay asleep? If not, how many times did you get up?
Take it step-by-step, making one realistic change at a time. Crawl before you try to walk. If you try to change too much too quickly, it probably won’t last.
While all your sleep problems won’t be solved overnight, you’re not doomed to a life of exhaustion. If you’re in the “I’m tired of being tired” category, don’t lose hope! Sustainable energy isn’t a pipe dream. By knowing your body and integrating new sustainable habits, you can achieve all the sustainable energy you always wanted.