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I Sleep For 8 Hours Every Night, So Why Am I Always Tired?


I have a confession that is going to make me wildly unpopular, particularly among parents: I consistently get 8 hours of sleep every night.

By 10pm, I’m so exhausted that as soon as I get into bed, I’m pretty much guaranteed to be asleep by 11pm. Most days, depending on my office and gym schedule, I set my alarm for around 7.15am. On rest days when I also happen to be working from home, I can get away with waking up at 8.30am. I can hear the collective groans of every sleep-deprived mum reading this.

But while you’d imagine all that sleep leads to a productive day of ticked-off to-do lists, I am still tired all the time. I genuinely can’t remember the last time I felt full of energy (is this just called ‘being in your 30s’?) and the 3pm slump pretty much lasts all afternoon.

Before you say anything: yes, I eat well, exercise regularly and try to limit screen time after dinner. I’m not meditating and namaste-ing my way in to bed every night, but my sleep hygiene is generally pretty good. A recent blood test also didn’t show any deficiencies. The math ain’t mathing – and I’m not alone. A quick poll of my colleagues shows a majority can relate to feeling constantly knackered despite getting enough sleep, while a YouGov poll found that 1 in 8 UK adults are ‘tired all the time’. In fact, being tired all the time is so common, the NHS even gave it its own acronym: TATT. So, what gives?

“Getting 8 hours of sleep each night is often considered the ideal amount that most adults need to feel fully refreshed the next day – but the ‘8 hour rule’ is a myth” says Edward Gorst, sleep coach at Panda London. “Some adults feel absolutely fine getting considerably less than 8 hours’ sleep, while others may need closer to 9. But persistent tiredness can stem from a variety of factors beyond just the quantity of sleep.”

Here are several potential reasons you (and me) might still feel tired during the day despite getting enough sleep:

You’re stressed

High levels of stress and anxiety can affect your ability to sleep deeply during the night. Chronic stress keeps your body in a heightened state of alertness impacting both your ability to initially drift off and to stay asleep.

Your mental health is suffering

Mental health issues such as depression and anxiety not only affect your ability to sleep but also your overall energy levels. Even with sufficient sleep, mental health conditions can make you feel persistently tired. In depression it’s very common for some people to sleep way too much, i.e. significantly more than 8 hours, and still feel overly tired.

Your sleep schedule is inconsistent

Irregular sleep patterns, such as varying your bedtime and wake time significantly from day to day, can disrupt your body’s internal clock. This can result in poor sleep quality and persistent fatigue. This is very common in shift workers.

You have an underlying medical condition

Various medical conditions like thyroid disorders, chronic fatigue syndrome, anaemia, and hormonal changes can cause persistent tiredness. These conditions affect your energy levels and overall well-being, making you feel tired despite possibly getting adequate sleep.

You’re not getting enough nutrients (or water)

Poor nutrition and dehydration can lead to feelings of fatigue. Consuming a balanced diet and staying hydrated are crucial for maintaining energy levels. Nutrient deficiencies, particularly in iron, vitamin D, and B vitamins, can also contribute to tiredness.

You’re not eating enough

Similarly, dieting and restricting can lead to feelings of fatigue due to not eating enough. Diet culture often tells us – particularly women – to exclude entire food groups, such as carbs, which are actually essential to keeping our energy levels up. If you’re ignoring your hunger signals or not fuelling your workouts properly, you’ll likely feel tired during the day.

You need to move more

A sedentary lifestyle can lead to decreased energy levels and feelings of fatigue. Regular physical activity improves sleep quality, increases energy levels during the day, and enhances overall health.

You’re not taking rest days

In the same vein as the nutrition point, there is also such a thing as overexercising, or not taking a proper rest between sessions. Overtraining can lead to drained energy levels, impair your body’s ability to recover, and increase the risk of injury. If you’re worried you’ve been overtraining, take some time away from high-impact exercise and give yourself time to fully recover.

You need a better sleep environment

Your sleeping environment also plays a role in how well you sleep. Factors such as room temperature, mattress and bedding quality and noise levels can all impact sleep quality. Having a cool, quiet and comfortable sleep environment can be helpful for restful sleep.

You need to go easy on alcohol

Alcohol, nicotine, cannabis and certain medications can interfere with sleep. While alcohol works as a sedative and might help you to fall asleep faster, it can significantly disrupt sleep later in the night. Nicotine, certain drugs and some medications can act as stimulants, making it harder to fall and stay asleep.

You have an undiagnosed sleep disorder

It’s important to note that feeling tired during the day is not the same as feeling sleepy. If you’re feeling sleepy during the day that means you experience drowsy feelings, such as heavy eyelids, and could potentially fall asleep given half the chance. Sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, and insomnia can severely impact sleep quality and lead to sleepy feelings during the day due to the sleep deprivation they cause.

If you’re worried about tiredness or fatigue, speak to your GP as soon as possible. For more information, visit NHS.uk.



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