You open your eyes blearily against the rays of sun coming through your bedroom window, and glance at the clock, hoping to get an early start on the day.
But it’s 10 a.m. on a Sunday morning—you’ve somehow slept for 12 hours! If it seems that no matter how much rest you get, you never wake up feeling refreshed, sometimes feeling more tired than before, your fatigue might be something more serious than just being ‘worn down.'
Fatigue is a serious issue for many, but the causes and the symptoms are so varied that it’s difficult to pinpoint how exactly to treat this annoying affliction. Sometimes the vague feeling of fatigue can strike for a week or two at a time, but if you have prolonged symptoms like disrupted sleep, sore throat, achy muscles, headaches, and difficulty concentrating, you should head to the doctor to ensure that you don’t have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
If you don’t have CFS, the cause of fatigue can be lurking in your day-to-day habits. Unfortunately, you may have to experiment with what works for you, but you can finally wake up feeling well rested. We’ve outlined a few possible causes of fatigue and how to treat your body naturally.
You’re not getting the nutrients you need (or you’re getting too many)
At the most basic level, what we eat provides energy for our body. So if you’re not eating enough of the good stuff, then of course you’re going to feel tired and lethargic. It sounds so obvious, but take a look at your eating habits and examine whether you’re eating meals based in whole foods; if you’re not, consider integrating more balanced foods into your diet. According to the NHANES Nurses’ Health Study, almost 50 percent of Americans are deficient in vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin C, and vitamin E. Try to eat veggies and fruits throughout the day, or add a multivitamin into your morning regimen.
If you’re already getting greens at every meal and eating mostly organic, then you may have a food allergy or sensitivity that prevents your from absorbing all the nutrients. Especially in those with Celiac disease or gluten intolerance, nutrient deficiency can happen because the intestinal lining is damaged by inflammation and can no longer absorb anything from the food you eat. If you think you might have a gluten sensitivity, consult your doctor or simply cut gluten from your diet and see how you feel. You should start feeling changes within six weeks.
Your hormones are off
No, you’re not crazy—your hormones might be the answer to your sleepless nights. Adrenal fatigue, a thyroid issue, or a metabolic hormone disruption like high blood sugar could be plaguing you. If hormones are the culprit, ditch coffee and sugar for a while because both can cause stress to your adrenal system. You can try supporting your adrenal system with supplements like ginseng, reishi, and DHEA, or you can eat foods that will make your adrenals repair themselves, like bone broth, seaweed, and fermented foods, which are high in iodine and amino acids.
Anxiety and stress are messing with your brain
Newsflash: If you’re not sleeping, you’re probably going to feel tired. If you have trouble falling asleep at night, stress and anxiety can be to blame, but so can your iPhone. Studies show that screen time before bed can throw off your body’s natural circadian rhythm, so your brain isn’t getting the hint that you’re tired. Close your laptop and turn off the TV at least two hours before bedtime to ensure that when your head hits the pillow, your brain follows suit. Still feeling antsy? Try taking melatonin right before bed—it works by tricking your pineal gland into thinking you’re naturally producing melatonin, making you feel more tired. Use sparingly to avoid becoming dependent on a melatonin supplement for a good night’s sleep!
Uh oh. The toxins emitted from BPAs and other environmental factors can definitely keep you from performing at your best. If heavy metals are your problem, your metabolism will stop working correctly and you’ll certainly start to feel fatigued, fast. Eliminate toxins from your household cleaners, and avoid your exposure to heavy metals by keeping your fish intake down to once a week.
You’re not fatigued, you're just lazy....
Just kidding! But getting a little more active can help boost your energy levels quickly. Exercising at least three times a week will help your body function optimally (and keep you looking good!) and the endorphins that your body produces naturally as you exercise will give you a serious energy spike. As soon as you get into a routine of exercising and releasing endorphins, your energy levels will stabilize.
Your immune system is weak—and you don't know it
Imagine how you feel a few days leading up to a cold: achy, tired, grumpy, and just plain crummy. Kind of like how you feel when you’re fatigued, right? If your immune system is weak–either because your gut flora needs a probiotic boost, you’ve been ill and never got a chance to fully recover, or you’re dealing with chronic inflammation in your body–the fact that your body has to use energy to fight off disease can drain you. Recharge your immune system by upping your intake of zinc and vitamin C, and consider supplementing with a probiotic.
If you’re still dreading waking up in the morning, consult your doctor. General fatigue is a symptom of some more serious diseases like diabetes, anemia, thyroid, and heart disease, and you definitely don’t want to mess around with those illnesses. When it comes down to it, so many components play a role in your overall health that it's important to examine all the aspects of your life to truly measure wellness.
Illustration by Karley Koenig