Sometimes, no matter how early a night you get, or how many relaxing deep breaths you do before climbing into bed, you still wake up feeling tired. Sound familiar? It's not uncommon says Gemma Hampson, a Qualified Health Practitioner at GearHungry, adding that as the days shorten (boo), a lack of natural light can impact on how the body functions sleep-wise. Dark days aside, there are also a few other lifestyle choices that can leave you feeling knackered too. Here, she explains what's going on when your alarm sounds and you still crave another 8 hours of kip.
Why do I feel tired all the time?
Many factors can play a role in this, says Hampson, but the main one for many is all down to melatonin (a chemical released within the body that lets us know it’s time to sleep). "Think of melatonin as a warning sign that it’s time to rest, if you miss it, then it’s harder to fall asleep when you want to, which then creates an unwanted cycle of struggling to wake up in the morning," she explains. As with all things in the body, everything is connected.
"As winter arrives we naturally begin to see less light, which plays a huge part in how the body and brain both function," explains Hampson, noting that many feel more tired after summer ends. "When we experience less daylight, our body’s natural internal clock produces more melatonin – the chemical that tells the body it's time to wind down. It works the other way too: the more sunlight, the less melatonin and the more alert you are." Meaning when you get the urge to nod off during your 4pm meeting, it's because your brain has produced melatonin because it thinks it's close to bedtime – when you fight that feeling off, it makes it harder to fall asleep when you actually want to. Urgh!
If you don't think it's mis-timed melatonin making you feel this way, it could also be a Vitamin D deficiency making you feel groggy. "Less Vitamin D – which is produced when the skin is exposed to sunlight and found in some foods – means more melatonin. Getting out more, even on days that aren't blazing sunshine, will help." Hampson adds that stress, not eating enough fruit and vegetables, or not exercising enough can also play a part in how your brain produces its chemicals too. Time to fill up on some wholesome eats and book in a yoga class, then!
How can I feel less tired?
"Because there’s such a clear understanding of what causes our body to feel fatigued, there’s good news – we have a greater understanding of how to deal with it," says Hampson, stressing again that getting your daily intake of Vitamin D is vital. "Step outside and have some fun in the outdoors. Although cloudy days will produce less Vitamin D, it will still be produced, working in your benefit."
"If you’re looking to get Vitamin D from food, my best suggestion is a fatty fish, like salmon and tuna," notes Hampson. "A summer diet can also trick the body into being more energetic during the day too." Aiming to go to sleep and wake up at the same hour every day will help to balance out the melatonin manufactured by the brain, as well as create a structured routine. "Try not to oversleep, as your body will quickly adjust to this, and it’s harder to break out of it than it is fall in this pattern."
If you’re still having trouble maintaining a positive sleep pattern, a workout routine will release endorphins (the happy hormone) into the body which will make you feel more energised throughout the day, resulting in you feeling tired at night. Result!
Should I worry about feeling tired all the time?
It's totally normal to go through spells of feeling run down (stress, partying, staying up too late watching Netflix can all contribute...). As mentioned, seasons can also play a part. "Everyone at one time in their life suffers from feeling overly tired during the winter months, but if you’re worried that it could be something more there are some signs to look out for," advises Hampson. "A lack of energy and a lethargy attitude can be a sign of winter depression, known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which tends to affect one in fifteen people."
Other symptoms of SAD include not only experiencing low energy but also low mood, which can result in anxious or panicky dispositions. "Low self-esteem, or finding it difficult to concentrate on tasks, plus an increased appetite which can also result in weight gain are other factors to watch out for too." If any of this is sounding familiar, book in with you GP.
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