Why You're Always Tired (and how to fix it)

Do you ever find yourself feeling sluggish or tired throughout the day, even though you feel like you're doing everything right? You may have gone through the basic checklist: no caffeine before bed, 8 hours of sleep, and some exercise, yet you still feel tired.

You're not alone. Much of our society seems to be in that permanent state of tiredness. While the tips about caffeine, sleeping time, and exercise are helpful, they're missing some key details to be fully valuable.

We'll fill in the blanks today. Here are three key reasons that you're always tired and how to (really) fix them.

1. Too much caffeine (DO NOT underestimate this one!)

It's often said that your last cup of coffee should be no later than 5 to 7 hours before you sleep... But that doesn't give you the whole picture.

First of all, 5 to 7 hours is the half-life of coffee, meaning that there's still about half the caffeine in your systems after 5 to 7 hours. It also means that there's still a quarter of the caffeine still in your system 10 to 14 hours later, probably when you're sleeping!

Second, you might be having more than one cup of coffee without noticing. Remember that one cup is only 250 mL... it's not that much! Try measuring next time you pour yours. If you're filling up one of those big mugs, you're actually having quite a lot of caffeine that will last a long time in your system.

Hours after coffee (250 mL) Caffeine in your system (mg)
0 94.8
6 47.4
12 23.7
18 11.85

There are two ways to help with this.

Firstly, try to have your caffeine whether it's from coffee, tea, or soda as early in the morning as possible. That way, you minimize the amount of caffeine that's still in your system by the time you go to bed. Based on the table above, you'll want to have your last hit of caffeine before noontime, tops.

Second, I recommend switching to decaffeinated beverages. Before I personally switched, a lot of people told me that decaf coffee tastes horrible but in my experience, you just have to experiment a bit to find one that you like. Kicking Horse Decaf is delicious (not an affiliate link, I just love the coffee πŸ˜ƒ).

For tea, try switching to a version that doesn't have caffeine. It doesn't have to be boring, there's decaf English Breakfast tea, herbal tea, cinnamon tea, and even chocolate tea! For sodas, Sprite and Ginger Ale don't have caffeine, so they can be a better choice than Coca-Cola or Pepsi in the evening.

2. Not enough sleep opportunity

We all know the old rule that you should get 8 hours of sleep each night, but are you really getting 8 hours of sleep?

Laying down in bed is not the same as sleeping. You might be stressed out, thinking about stuff, chatting with your spouse, or just staying up in some way. Then when you try to actually sleep, it'll take your body some extra time to wind down. It could take 15, 30, or even 60 minutes to fully fall asleep!

You need to give yourself more sleep opportunity. Start laying in bed earlier than 8 hours before you have to wake up. That way, you're giving your body extra time to wind down. If you feel stressed out or need to think about something, give yourself extra time for that too. The key is to make sure that you have 8 hours of real sleep.

You can also have some pre-bed activities that help you wind down. I personally find it helpful to read a book before bed and turn off all digital devices. It's relaxing, you learn things, and it doesn't keep you awake like the blue light from your cell phone or laptop. Plus it turns into a routine where laying in bed with a book signals to your body "hey, time to sleep soon!"

3. Not enough regular exercise

It's intuitive to think that when you exercise a lot then you'll become more tired; that's partially true in the short term. But in the long-term, the opposite is true.

When you do regular exercise, your body eventually raises its baseline of energy that it's able to expend throughout the day. It gets used to being more energetic because it literally has to be to maintain the exercise. That's also why I tell people "if you workout more you get to eat more food" as motivation to exercise more. Your body will literally need more fuel, so if you love to eat then exercising is in your best interests!

The key part of this is to make sure that your exercise is regular. If you're hitting the gym 5 days a week, but the rest of your day is split between sitting at your desk and on the couch, you're really not giving your body the movement it needs. Remember that our ancestors used to walk around and generally move for much of the day. Sitting most of the time is unnatural.

To help with this, you can make it a habit to walk around for a few minutes every hour. I find that it helps to set an alarm for this, otherwise, I forget. Using Bluetooth headphones is also helpful because then if you're in a meeting you won't be tied to your desk, you can walk around while listening. Anything to get more regular movement will help to energize you throughout the day.

Final Thoughts

Being fully awake with energy is one of the best feelings ever. It makes your entire day more productive and fun. It doesn't have to be complicated either. Today, we discovered three key reasons why you're always tired and how to fix them:

  1. Too much caffeine – have it earlier in the day or switch to decaf
  2. Not enough sleep opportunity – make sure you get 8 hours of actual sleep and not just 8 hours of laying in bed
  3. Not enough regular exercise – not only the gym but also do some walking and general movement throughout the day

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