You hear the alarm screaming at you, but your eyelids are so heavy your can barely make out where the snooze button is. When you finally do roll out of bed, the bags under your eyes deserve their own luggage tag. And by 2 p.m., you’re ready to take a mid-afternoon nap.
It’s obvious you’re mad tired. But why? If you’re healthy, young, and getting eight hours of sleep a night but still feel exhausted every morning, it’s time to take a look at the daily habits that could be affecting your fatigue levels. Keep scrolling for nine sneaky culprits that zap your energy.
You’re going too hard on the caffeine
Put down the coffee cup and step away from the almond milk latte—your coffee obsession might be the real reason you’re feeling tired and depleted. Even though drinks with caffeine can temporarily boost energy levels and productivity, overreliance on them can zap your body’s natural energy stores. Because caffeine is a mild stimulant, it causes a reaction in your brain that tells your central nervous system to make you feel more alert … even though you’re not really giving your body the proper fuel to power your bod.
Over time, “shocking” your body into alertness (without refueling it with nutrients that will actually help you feel more alert, like vitamins and minerals) makes you feel even more tired. And, you’ll notice that your tolerance for caffeine increases over time, so you need to drink more coffee to feel any benefits.
Consider going without caffeine for a week or two. Yes, it can be painful at first, but resetting your system will restore your natural energy levels and will make you more sensitive to caffeine, so you’ll only need one cup of coffee (instead of three or four) to feel the benefits.
You’re not getting enough quality sleep
Most people know that the government recommends getting seven to nine hours of sleep a night—but if you’re already getting your eight a night and you’re still tired, what’s the problem?
Well, you might not be getting quality sleep hours. That means that you’re never completing a full rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep cycle, and likely only getting through non-rapid-eye-movement (NREM) cycles. According to the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, “Scientists have since found that the brain goes through characteristic patterns of activity throughout each period of sleep, and that it is sometimes more active when we’re asleep than when we’re awake.”
As adults, when we first fall asleep we enter NREM cycles. There are three NREM stages (1, 2, and 3) and then REM sleep begins. If you’re the type of sleeper who wakes up often, tosses and turns, or even if you have a medical issue like sleep apnea, you might never be in deep sleep long enough to make it through a REM cycle. Usually, you wake up feeling groggy and more tired, rather than refreshed and rested.
Try tracking your sleep with an app like Sleep Cycle to see what your res patterns look like.
You’re eating too much sugar
Honestly, you’d think that we’d ditched sugar by now. The sweet stuff causes everything from breakouts to weight gain to hormonal imbalances—and yep, it can mess with your sleep patterns, too. If you’re mainlining sugar on a daily basis, it will throw off your body’s hormonal levels. Because your hormones control pretty much everything, that can easily affect the quality of your sleep.
Plus, it spikes your blood sugar levels temporarily (giving you TONS of energy for a few minutes) and then causes your blood glucose to crash catastrophically. That’d leave anyone feeling fatigue, grumpy, and drained.
Limit your sugar intake to less than 20 grams a day from naturally occurring sources like honey, fruit, and organic dairy products.
You’re not working out enough
Regular exercise is like a magic pill—it benefits almost every aspect of your life, including your daily energy levels. If you’ve been a bit lax on your workouts, you’ll notice that exercising regularly not only boosts your energy during waking hours, but it helps you sleep more deeply at night.
Start out slow, with two to three workouts a week, and strategically increase your workout sessions until you notice a difference in your sleep patterns.
You’re doing the wrong workouts for your body
On the flip side, exercising too much can wreak havoc on your sleep hygiene. Without proper rest and recovery days, your body can’t regenerate properly. That means you won’t truly see the benefits of all the gym time you’re putting in—without recovery time, muscles can’t rebuild and get stronger, hormones will become imbalanced and cause issues like acne and water retention, and your entire body might end up chronically inflamed. Both hormonal imbalances and inflammation screw with your body’s ability to enter deep sleep.
Add at least one rest day into your workout routine. If you’re not seeing results from your exercise regimen, it’s not because you’re “only” working out six days a week. It’s probably because the workouts that you’re doing aren’t effective for your body.
You’re not eating enough
It’s pretty simple—food is fuel and if you’re not getting enough of it, you’re going to be tired. On average, women should eat at least 1,500 to 2,000 calories a day. Anything less than that is considered unhealthy and is borderline disordered eating. If you’re working out daily, you’ll also need to consume more calories to give your body the nutrition it needs to properly recover.
Take a look at how much you’re eating daily—is it enough to propel your body?
You’re skimping on protein
Technically, you don’t need to intake a certain amount of protein daily in order to be healthy—every body has different requirements. But if you’ve recently gone vegan or vegetarian and have noticed your energy levels dip, you might need to up your protein intake. Eating protein causes an increase in metabolic rate in the body; your metabolism is responsible for burning calories, but it’s also the source of most of our energy levels. Firing up your metabolism by eating more protein will help you feel more energetic throughout the day.
If you’re at a healthy weight, eating 0.36 to 0.6 grams of protein per pound you weigh is a great place to start. For women, that’s usually 46-75 grams of protein a day.
You have a thyroid issue
It’s far rarer than the causes above, but if you’re adjusted your workouts, nutrition, and don’t have insanely high stress levels, you might have a thyroid issue. Many things can affect your thyroid, but one of the main side effects of thyroid dysfunction is fatigue. If you think your thyroid might be the issue, head to your doctor to get a blood test.
Thyroid issues are rare, but can strike women at any age. Go get tested by a doctor if you’re worried that your thyroid is the cause of your fatigue.