A Brief Guide to the Reasons You’re Always Tired

A comprehensive look at the causes of fatigue

Ashley Abramson
Elemental
Published in
8 min readNov 18, 2019

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A young woman yawning at her desk while looking at her computer.
Photo: PeopleImages/E+/Getty Images

FFeeling tired all the time is incredibly common. Dr. Sharon Bergquist, an assistant professor of medicine at Emory University School of Medicine, says that about a quarter to a third of primary care visits are due to fatigue. Feeling tired isn’t an automatic reason for concern — some level of fatigue is normal. “I think people expect themselves to do too much, so they’re just fatigued because they’re mentally or physically exhausted,” she says.

For some people, a few good nights of sleep will do the trick, but for others, fatigue can become an ongoing problem that interferes with everyday life. If tiredness doesn’t resolve even after adjusting activity levels or sleep routine, Bergquist says it’s important to talk to a doctor, who can help determine whether seemingly constant tiredness is due to lifestyle factors or a more serious medical condition.

Here are a few of the most common causes for chronic tiredness.

Poor diet

The body converts food into energy, which is why a healthy, balanced diet is essential for well-being. If you don’t get the right nutrients, the body won’t have the energy needed to function.

“A diet that isn’t dense in phytonutrients (chemical compounds produced by plants) like fruits and vegetables and is inflammatory is literally like putting cheap gas in an expensive sports car. It won’t run properly,” says Dr. Joseph Feuerstein, director of integrative medicine at Stamford Health in Connecticut. “Poor nutrition is like poor fuel, which results in poor performance.”

If you’re feeling regularly tired, start by examining what you eat. If your diet leans more into daily Pop-Tarts and McDonalds than fresh fruits and vegetables, that’s probably a factor for lower alertness.

“To perform well, you need to have phytonutrients as a dense part of your diet, along with lean proteins and judicious use of whole grains and lots of different healthy oils like nuts and seed oils,” says Feuerstein.

Whether you’re not consuming enough nutrients in your diet or your body isn’t absorbing them for some reason, vitamin and mineral deficiencies can cause…

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Ashley Abramson
Elemental

Writer-mom hybrid. Health & psychology stories in NYT, WaPo, Allure, Real Simple, & more.