We’ve all stayed up way too late during a Netflix binge or night on the town—and the following day we’ve all experienced the consequences of getting less sleep than usual. It can really throw you off your game. But sleep deprivation isn’t the only reason for exhaustion. There could be other factors behind your 24/7 lack of energy, says James Pinckney, M.D., CEO and founder of Diamond Physicians.
You Sip Coffee Or Alcohol Too Close To Bedtime
A whole lot of us aren’t getting enough shut-eye nightly—and that’s partly because so many of us over-caffeinate to stay awake. “It becomes this perpetual cycle,” says Pinckney, who adds that you shouldn’t be drinking java in the afternoon, because caffeine can stay in your system for up to six hours.
That late-night margarita has a similar effect. “A lot of people drink alcohol before bed because they think it’ll help them fall asleep, but it doesn’t help,” says Pinckney. “It does the opposite.” Alcohol is biphasic—meaning it affects your body in two ways: When it first enters your system, it stimulates; only after a while does it sedate. And a study published in the journal Sleep found that the stimulating effect of booze is actually magnified when you drink it in the evening. Kiss those Zzz’s goodbye.
You’re Stressed Out
When you’re stressed, your adrenal stress hormone cortisol spikes, which can make it difficult to sleep—or even wake you up in the middle of the night, says Pinckney. So, what can you do? Pick up a relaxing hobby, like yoga or deep breathing, says Ryan Whitcomb, R.D., integrative and functional dietitian. (Studies suggest that yoga can help to reduce stress. Not a yogi? Any type of exercise can help you sleep better, says Pinckney.
Your Diet Isn’t The Best…
Sure, junk food tastes great, but it’s called “junk” for a reason. Eating refined carbs and added sugars can cause your blood sugar to rise and then fall like a rollercoaster, explains dietitian Julie Rothenberg, R.D. Those blood sugar crashes leave you pooped.
Staying away from processed foods and added sugars as much as possible can help balance you out. Go for complex carbohydrates like brown rice, quinoa, whole pieces of fruit, beans, legumes, and veggies, which won’t wreak havoc on your blood sugar, says Rothenberg.
Plus, Pinckney says trading soda or other drinks that contain added sugar or artificial sweeteners for water can also help perk you up. “Increase your water intake and you’ll see a huge change in how you feel,” he says. The reason? Being dehydrated can cause fatigue and even mental sluggishness, so guzzling the recommended amount per day is super important. Most experts recommend approximately eight 8-ounce glasses, but if H2O bores you, Rothenberg suggests infusing your water with fruit.
You Have A Vitamin Or Mineral Deficiency
If you’re not getting your fill of certain nutrients—or if you’re not absorbing them (which could be due to conditions like celiac disease or Crohn’s)—you may end up feeling fatigued, says Whitcomb. There are quite a few nutrients that you need to produce energy, he says, including chromium, vitamin B12, vitamin D, and magnesium. While it’s always best to get these from food, says Pinckney, sometimes a supplement may be needed to get up to the proper baseline. If you’re dealing with regular stomach troubles on top of being wiped out, see a doc.
Related: Should You Be Taking A Multivitamin?
You Take Certain Medications
“Some medications are notorious for depleting nutrients out of the body,” says Whitcomb. The most common offenders include antacids (which can deplete vitamin B12, iron, and folic acid), antibiotics (which can deplete iron), and statins (which can deplete Co-Q10). And, as you now know, these nutrient deficiencies can lead you to feeling pooped. If you’re super tired and on a regular med, tell your doctor and get tested for nutrient deficiency, says Whitcomb.
You Have Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea messes with your breathing and disrupts your sleep, leaving you feeling quite the opposite of well-rested in the morning. What’s more, 90 percent of people with sleep apnea are undiagnosed, says Mark Burhenne, D.D.S., dental sleep medicine dentist and author of The 8-Hour Sleep Paradox.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), sleep apnea entails one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breath while you’re asleep. These pauses can last anywhere from a few seconds to minutes—and they can happen a whopping 30 times an hour. When these breathing pauses occur, you move from deep sleep to light sleep—which is why you might feel conked, even if you were technically in bed for eight hours.
Ask your partner if you snore (that’s one of the telltale signs, according to the NIH)—and check your teeth. If your chompers are flat from grinding and clenching, that could potentially mean you have sleep apnea. “Several studies have suggested that nighttime grinding is one way the body reopens the airway during a breathing interruption,” says Burhenne.
You Have Anemia
If you’re exhausted all the time, you could be anemic, says Murray Grossman, M.D., an ear, nose, and throat specialist in Los Angeles. According to the NIH, when you have anemia, you don’t have enough red blood cells to transports the oxygen your body needs to function. (Other symptoms include shortness of breath, dizziness, headaches, cold hands and feet, and pale skin.) Anemia is sometimes caused by an iron deficiency, so again, check in with your doc if you feel exhausted and weak all the dang time.
You Have Celiac Disease
“If a person has undiagnosed celiac disease and eats gluten, this leads to a
breakdown of the lining of the gut—called leaky gut—which prevents the
absorption of nutrients from food,” says Whitcomb. Those with celiac disease may specifically experience malabsorption of vitamin B12, iron, magnesium, and folate—and your bod needs these and other nutrients to sustain your energy throughout the day. Of course, to avoid this, following a gluten-free diet is a must. If you’re frequently plagued by tummy troubles after eating, talk to a doc and consider cutting out gluten and monitoring how you feel after a few weeks.