Mr and Mrs Nutritionist

Why Am I So Tired All The Time Even When I Get Enough Sleep?

Exhausted All The Time?

Have you ever thought to yourself “why am i so tired all the time even when I get enough sleep”? You are not alone, many people suffer
with exhaustion day after day, no matter how many hours of shut eye they get.  Being chronically exhausted can negatively effect almost every aspect of our lives including our careers and relationships with our friends and family.

Don’t accept the fact that exhaustion is inevitable and incurable, because it is not.  By simply adding or taking away certain foods and nutrients from your diet you can drastically improve your energy levels.

Below are some of the most common nutritional reasons why people are always so tired all the time, even when they get the correct amount of sleep.

B Vitamins

Being deficient in certain B vitamins, specifically B12, can cause fatigue.  Up to 15% of the US population can have a either a sub-optimal intake of B12 or have difficulty absorbing the vitamin.  Those who are particularly at risk of having sub-obtimal B12 levels include:

  • People who are aged 50+ have a greater risk of being deficient in B12 due to a decreased amount of hydrochloric acid within the stomach, which is responsible for breaking down B12 so that it is more readily absorbed later in the digestive tract.  Therefor older adults may need to consume more B12 fortified foods and or B12 supplements.
  • Those who suffer from an array of digestive disorders, as well as those who have had weight loss surgery and or gastrointestinal surgery can have a harder time absorbing B12 and therefor require an increased amount of B12.
  • Vegetarians and vegans are also at risk of being deficient in B12 because the only foods that naturally contain B12 are all from animal sources.

Below are some food sources of B12, and fortified food sources for those who do not consume animal products.  However, if you are not able to absorb B12 at all, or very little, supplementation may be needed or a B12 injection.

 

Food sources of vitamin B12

 

Iron

Most people do not realize that a reason they might be tired all the time is due to an iron deficiency or sub-optimal intake.  There is really only one true way to find our for sure if you are deficient or not, and that is to request a blood test from your doctor.

Women, especially women of ethnic minorities, are at a higher risk of being iron deficient with as many as 25% of US women being at risk for iron deficiency.

Vegans and vegetarians are also at increased risk of iron deficiency anemia, and should closely monitor their iron levels.

Iron is needed in order for red blood cells to carry oxygen around the body, and oxygen is required for our muscles to work.  When you are deficient in iron your body struggles to effectively move oxygen around your body, which is why a symptom of iron deficiency is muscle weakness and difficulty when exercising.

However, our brains really suffer the most when there is not enough oxygen because our brain needs about 20% of all the oxygen we ingest.  When our brains do no get enough oxygen our memory and our concentration is diminished and cause feelings of sluggishness and low energy.

If you do find that you suffer with an iron deficiency or sub optimal intake try and consume more iron rich food sources, especially sources of heme iron, which is the more effective iron for our bodies to use.

Sources of Iron

*Check out our post on foods that hinder iron absorption to learn which foods can hurt your iron stores, and an in-depth explanation about the foods that build your iron stores.

Dehydration

Many people do not consume an adequate amount of liquids and are walking around in a state of sub-optimal hydration.  Dehydration has been found to cause low energy, decreased brain function, and loss of muscle strength.

When your body is dehydrated, or has a sub-optimal water intake, blood becomes thicker and loses volume which can then cause weakness and fatigue.

Most people tend to forget to drink water throughout the day, especially when they are really busy.  But, one of the best ways to combat forgetting to drink water is to have a reuseable BPA free water bottle with you troughout the day.

*For a full explanation about the benefits of proper hydration read our post on hydration.

 

Poor Glycemic Control

Glycemic control, also referred to as ‘blood sugar control’ can be a complex entity within itself, but for the purposes of this article we are going to focus on the main reason why your blood sugar may be causing you to be exhausted all the time.

Too much sugar in the diet

Your body has an internal mechanism that keeps the amount of sugar in your blood regulated within a certain range.  However, our bodies

can’t always keep up with a modern Westernized diet that is high in sugar.

When you consume a lot of sugar with one of your meals or snacks, within 30 minutes of eating, the amount of sugar in your blood spikes and you get the feeling of a ‘sugar high’.  When there is too much sugar in your blood your body goes into panic mode, because high amounts of sugar in your blood can be damaging to the body, and therefor the body tries eliminate the excess sugar from the blood.  However, when trying to eliminate the excess sugar our bodies overcompensate and removes too much sugar from the blood, which is what happens when you feel a ‘sugar crash’.

When we put ourselves on the sugar roller coaster where we have many ‘sugar highs’ and ‘sugar crashes’ our energy levels plummet.  Extreme exhaustion occurs when people ride the sugar roller coaster for days, months, sometimes years, and many people find that no matter how much they sleep they are always exhausted.  When we constantly abuse our bodies with too much sugar our internal glycemic control as well as other regulatory systems in our body such as our adrenal glands and our hormones start malfunctioning which causes even more chronic fatigue and exhaustion.

The only way to get off the sugar roller coaster is to cut down or cut out sugar from our diets altogether.  To clarify, this does not mean necessarily cutting out all sugar.  Some of the healthiest foods have naturally occurring sugars, such as fruits and vegetables.  What we recommend is cutting out sugar from processed food products that contain added sugars.

Good vs Bad Sugars

 

Please leave us a comment or question if you or someone you know suffers from exhaustion that even sleep can’t cure.

If you enjoyed this article please feel free to share with your social media friends and family!

 

References:

Killip, S., Bennett, J. and Chambers, M. (2007). ron Deficiency Anemia. American Family Physician, 75(5).

Ods.od.nih.gov. (2016). Office of Dietary Supplements – Vitamin B12. [online] Available at: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB12-Consumer/ [Accessed 12 Apr. 2016].

University of Maryland Medical Center. (2016). Vitamin B12. [online] Available at: http://umm.edu/health/medical/ency/articles/vitamin-b12 [Accessed 12 Apr. 2016].

12 Comments

  1. David

    Maggie – interesting post. My wife has MS and, as such, regularly fights fatigue. She takes a daily menu of vitamins and supplements rather than the NHS prescribed DMDs. Pleased to say that this works for her and, most of the time, she is feeling good, so vits definitely the way forward.

    Reply
    1. Maggie (Post author)

      Hi David,
      I am sorry to hear that your wife struggles with MS and fatigue. But that is really good news that a combination of vitamins and supplements seem to be helping her, especially because Vitamins and supplements usually come with a lot less side effects than prescribed medications. Best of luck to you both.
      Sincerely,
      Maggie

      Reply
  2. Juliu

    That’s a problem that’s extremely close to me. I have decent amount of sleep, but it seems that my diet is definitely not optimized. Too much sugar is probably my main cause.

    Gonna have to follow your advice. Great read!

    Reply
    1. Maggie (Post author)

      Hi Julius,
      I am really glad you may have found the source to your tiredness. Sugar seems to plague more than one persons diet, and can definitely have a negative effect on our energy. Good luck on cutting it out.
      Sincerely,
      Maggie

      Reply
  3. Andy

    Great post Maggie!
    My wife usually feels tired even though we get enough sleep so she recently started taking multi vitamins to help her get the necessary vitamins that are missing from our diet and she is starting to feel less tired. We are also cutting out more sugars.
    I like how you list out the various types of food that contain the vitamins so we know which ones we should eat more of.
    Very useful!

    Reply
    1. Maggie (Post author)

      Hi Andy,
      Best of luck to both you and wife on your journey to cut out sugar. The multivitamin may help if you are deficient in a certain vitamin. However, if it is your iron that is low you will typically need a separate iron supplement and or increase your iron intake from iron rich foods. I’m glad you find the list of foods for specific nutrients helpful!
      Sincerely,
      Maggie

      Reply
  4. Vicky

    Great post. I’m going through a spell now when I’m feeling tired… I feel that I get good rest most nights but just feel tired. This is a great list to go through. Just by looking at the list I know I have lots to improve up on. I think the lack of sun for the last month or so add to the issue as well…

    Thank you for this great post,

    Vicky

    Reply
    1. Maggie (Post author)

      Hi Vicky,
      Thank you for your comment. Best of luck improving your lifestyle/ diet so that you are no longer tired even after sleeping. Yes, a lack of sun can make people more lethargic as well.
      Sincerely,
      Maggie

      Reply
  5. Marcus

    Hi Maggie.

    Very good post and something that I can relate to. I always feel a bit tired even though I have slept for 8 hours during the night. I often have to have a nap during the day anyhow.

    It’s really frustrating and you try to keep your eyes open but you can’t.

    After reading your article I think most of it has to do with my diet. I definitely need to start eating better and healthier. The sugar high also made a lot of sense. Unfortunately I love drinking pop which is probably the worst thing there is.

    I’m currently one week without pop and I already start feeling better.

    Thanks a lot for the good read.
    Marcus

    Reply
    1. Maggie (Post author)

      Hi Marcus,
      A soda habit can be difficult to kick, sugar is such an addictive substance, and therefor it is very difficult for us quit. But you deserve a big congratulations for being off soda for a week, it is not easily done. I hope as you continue cutting out sugar/ soda you continue to feel better.
      Sincerely,
      Maggie

      Reply
  6. Karen

    Maggie, Thank you for this article. It really helps clarify some things I do and how I feel when I eat certain foods. My father, who is 92 is horribly tired all the time. Lately he has been getting forgetful and my mother has just assumed that his mind is going. Now after reading your article, I suspect that what is really happening is that he has fallen into a cycle of inactivity brought on by being tired that doesn’t carry sufficient oxygen through his system. He has other medical problems that result in poor circulation of blood and low levels of oxygen. I think you just explained to me why he is so tired and also, at least in part, that the lack of oxygen in his system is contributing to his memory loss and confusion. I’ll talk with him about this and see if we can get more oxygen flowing through his system and see if this will improve his mental state as well as his extreme fatigue problem. It is certainly worth a try! Thank you very much! You may have just given him a new lease on life! Great stuff!

    Reply
    1. Maggie (Post author)

      Hi Karen,
      Thank you so much for sharing this, dealing with parents who are suffering with health issues can be very challenging both emotionally and physically. It can be very frustrating when the medical community is not proactive, especially with elderly patients, and tend to just medicate or dismiss and blame everything on aging. I am so glad that by reading this article you may have found a new avenue to discover, and one that hopefully can improve the health of your father. His doctor should be able to easily check his oxygen count and through a blood test his iron and B12 concentrations, if his doctors are not very accommodating sometimes just being firm and requesting these tests will usually do the trick.

      I really hope that your fathers health improves and that his fatigue decreases.

      Best of luck to you and your family.

      Sincerely,
      Maggie

      Reply

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