It’s one thing to want to hit the snooze button five times in a row because you were out too late the night before. (Guilty as charged.) It’s something else entirely when your energy is so low that you can barely make it up the stairs, or continuously feel sluggish no matter how many cups of matcha you down.
As it turns out, lack of sleep is just one cause of exhaustion—and you may be surprised by the others. From a hormone imbalance to taking your workouts too far, there are plenty of other factors that could have you feeling tired before the day has even begun.
Keep reading for seven sneaky fatigue culprits—and advice on how to get your energy back.
The hormone-releasing glands (found on top of your kidneys) may be small, but they play a major role in your energy levels. When you place extreme amounts of stress on the body—everything from emotional stress to the aggressive AC at your office—the adrenals can get overworked and depleted. The solution depends on the symptom, but the key is to slow down and listen to your body. Ignoring it will get you nowhere.
You probably already know that high stress levels are detrimental for your gut. (It’s not a coincidence if you have digestive issues the same week a big project at work is due.) When you pull that fifth straight night of overtime or say yes to way more projects than you can handle, stress hormones mess with blood flowing to the gut, meaning that digestive enzymes and bacteria (the good kind) aren’t being produced. This goes hand-in-hand with adrenal fatigue. Put down your umpteenth cup of coffee and make yourself some maca hot chocolate instead—the adaptogens will help your insides de-stress.
Just because you’ve gotten used to rolling out of bed in time to make it to that 6 a.m. boot camp class doesn’t mean you’re getting enough sleep. Even if you don’t feel tired (yet), your body may be sending you other signals. If you can’t focus or your skin is acting out, lack of zzz’s may be the cause. Emotional and cognitive signs of fatigue hit before obvious physical signs (cue the yawns and droopy eyes). So put your Netflix marathon on hold and crawl into bed earlier. The extra rest will do you good.
Don’t worry, your #fitfam isn’t going anywhere. A post-workout high is amazing, but if afterward you feel exhausted all day, it’s time to ease up. Your muscles could use the break, and your mind could too. “You can go from a state of endorphins—being uber happy when you’re working out—to a state of depression,” says Bespoke Treatments Physical Therapy founder Daniel Giordano. So whether your muscles are feeling depleted or you can’t shake emotional exhaustion, taking a short break from your regular spin class may do the trick.
“Alcohol does help you fall asleep initially, but it often prevents you from getting high-quality sleep. As your body breaks it down, alcohol can wake you up or cause you to sleep less deeply,” explains Frank Lipman, MD. If you’re waking up in the middle of the night consistently, your nightcap may be to blame. So if you’re feeling sluggish throughout the day, it might be time to replace the glass of vino with a cup of chamomile. Yeah, it might not be as exciting, but more time in dreamland makes for more time actually feeling awake when the sun comes up.
Even if you’re faithful to your smoothie bowl and an expert at steaming veggies, your digestive system may not be functioning at peak performance level. If you’re feeling fatigued or frail (or you’re bloated or your skin is inflamed), digestive enzymes may be to blame. Without proper digestive function, your body can’t properly absorb all the nutrients it needs to keep your energy up. A supplemental digestive enzyme may help you out.
If you’re feeling the exhaustion hard, but are also feeling over-stimulated and wired, your body’s cortisol (aka the stress hormone) levels may be off. It’s definitely worth looking into because a hormone imbalance can also affect your fertility and your libido. Seek out information from your doctor if you’re not sure where to start—it’s just a phase, if you give it the proper attention.