Scientists Explain What Makes You Feel Sleepy (And 4 Ways To Fix It)

Scientists Explain What Makes You Feel Sleepy (And 4 Ways To Fix It)

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Do you always feel sleepy? You think you’ve slept well, but when you go about your day, you feel your eyelids drooping and start getting more and more tired. Soon, you can barely stay awake at all.

Why does this happen? How can you stop it? There are several potential reasons, and knowing them will help you solve the issue.

5 Reasons Why You Always Feel Sleepy

Here’s how experts reveal 5 reasons why you always feel sleepy and 4 ways to fix it.

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1.    High Levels Of Stress

Did you know that the stress you’re experiencing could be the cause of your constant sleepiness? It can lead to fatigue, exhaustion, and general drowsiness, and these all work together to make you much sleepier. In general, a lack of positive thinking, whether from depression or a bad mood, can also add to that.

Mental health can play a bigger role in your ability to stay awake than you might imagine! According to registered dietician and certified diabetes educator Franziska Spritzler, chronic stress can play a significant role in one’s energy levels. It can make you feel sleepy during the day. Here are some studies that have expanded on these links:

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  • “Stress and coping styles are associated with severe fatigue in medical students,” published in Behavioral Medicine (2009). This study found that stress can contribute to fatigue but that failing to cope with adequately and address stress can make it worse!
  • “Do sleep, stress, and illness explain daily variations in fatigue? A prospective study” published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research (2014). This study linked stress levels and illness to fatigue and sleepiness while also drawing links that show this tiredness can lead to lower perceived health overall.
  • “Reciprocal relationship between acute stress and acute fatigue in everyday life in a sample of university students” published in Biological Psychology (2015). This paper uncovered that stress and fatigue have a reciprocal relationship, requiring both to be positive for optimal health. In fact, they affect each other more than specific cortisol levels!

2.    Bad Sleep Habits

Of course, the no-brainer with sleepiness is that the problem may lie in your sleeping habits. After all, there is a difference between feeling sleepy and feeling tired, and in most cases, sleepiness can be traced back to your bedtime schedule. Here are some ways that the way you sleep could affect your ability to stay awake the next day:

·         Low-Quality Sleep

Just the act of being asleep isn’t truly enough to make you feel rested! A sleep cycle has five stages, and for high-quality sleep, says Spritzler, you need to have all of them, with the most crucial one taking the longest to get to. That crucial stage is called “deep sleep” in layman’s terms and is when you get restorative rest. Without enough of this deep sleep, you’ll lose many of the positive benefits that are supposed to come from resting.

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·         Lack Of Sleep

You need a minimum of 7 hours of sleep per night, and if that’s not cutting it, you can sleep up to 10. The Royal College of Psychiatrists’s Sleep Working Group chair Hugh Selsick says that even just half an hour can make a difference. This means that 30 minutes of sleep more can lead to 16 hours of feeling more alert and awake the next day, he says – which is a great tradeoff!

·         Sleeping At Incorrect Times

When you sleep at uneven and inconsistent times, your body can become confused as your natural circadian rhythm gets off-kilter, says Spritzler. If you sleep at weird times that don’t coincide with that natural rhythm, studies indicate that you can feel like you haven’t slept at all!

·         Sleep Disorders

It’s obvious and easy to spot when you have insomnia, but other sleep disorders are harder to discern. Remember when we talked about getting deep sleep? Some sleep disorders can disrupt your ability to enter that stage, such as sleep apnea, says Baptist Sleep Institute’s former medical director Dr. Roseanne S. Barker. If you’re concerned that you may have a sleep disorder, speak to a doctor for advice and diagnosis.

3.    A Sedentary Lifestyle

It can sound counterproductive to exercise and be active to reduce exhaustion or sleepiness. But what many don’t realize is that exercise makes you tired in the short term but increases your energy levels and sleep quality in the long term.

Studies have long shown links between individuals with inactive lifestyles and increased fatigue levels, more difficulty falling asleep, and overall worsened physical condition. Of course, the problem is that if you’re already in a state of sleepiness, you might feel like you don’t have the energy to be active.

Spritzler recommends trying to replace certain sedentary activities with active ones in subtle ways. This adds to your activity levels without sending you crashing from the get-go. For example, you can use the stairs instead of the lift or ride a bike instead of driving on short travel.

4.    What You Eat

·         Too Few Calories

Calories are energy. They’re what we need to function and run as normal. Too few calories in one’s diet, therefore, easily can be linked to sleepiness, tiredness, and general lack of energy as the metabolism slows down to try and preserve strength, says Spritzler. Even at an older age or with a lower metabolism, most research suggests that people need to eat at the peak of their calorie requirement range.

·         Insufficient B12

Vitamin B12 does a lot for your body and is crucial for metabolism, immunity, and plenty of other functions that can help you stay awake and energized. Registered dietitian Lisa Cimperman states that tiredness and low energy are among the first signs of a deficiency in this vitamin.

·         Too Many Refined Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are a great source of energy for the body, and you do need to eat enough of them to function well. But it would be best if you were aiming for whole carbohydrates, not refined ones. Refined carbs include white rice, bread, and pasta, and most junk foods. These kinds of carbs can tire you out quickly, say studies.

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·         Too Little Protein

Protein is crucial for energy, satiety, and feelings of alertness, says Spritzler. A lack of it can quickly lead to fatigue, and new studies have indicated that protein’s very building blocks may play a role in regulating tiredness and energy levels.

5.    Medical Issues

Lots of common medical issues can present themselves via sleepiness and general fatigue. In fact, this is such a big norm that internal medicine doctor Dr. Sandra Adamson Fryhofer recommends you speak to a doctor if you can’t discern the source of your fatigue. Here are some common medical issues that may include sleepiness as a symptom:

·         Diabetes Type 2

People with diabetes can’t properly process glucose or sugars, which leads to an inability to convert it into energy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believes that around 7.2 million Americans may have this condition without realizing it!

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·         Thyroid Disease

When the thyroid is hyperactive or underactive, it fails to balance its hormone production and makes you tired. New York Thyroid Center co-director Dr. Robert J. McConnell explains that people of any age can have thyroid disease and that fatigue is one of its common symptoms.

·         Anemia

Anemia occurs due to low red blood cell levels, meaning oxygen can’t properly be transported throughout the body, causing you to feel more tired. It can be a result of mineral or vitamin deficiency. The University of California’s adjunct professor of laboratory medicine, Dr. Laurence Corash, explains that this is especially common during menstruation or breastfeeding mothers.

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4 Ways To Fix Always Feeling Sleepy

1.    Determine The Difference Between Tiredness and Sleepiness

Before you begin to try and fix feelings of sleepiness, make sure that it’s actually sleepiness you’re feeling. These two states may feel similar, but the methods needed to address them are quite varied.

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Selsick illustrates the difference between the two. Tiredness involves:

  • Irritability
  • Lack of motivation
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Low energy levels
  • Sleepiness, on the other hand, involves:
  • Drowsiness
  • Nodding off constantly
  • Fighting to keep your eyes open
  • Yawning throughout the day

2.    Make Better Food Choices

Eating healthier, more nutritious, and less damaging foods can work wonders for your health, and with all those positive sides comes the fact that you’ll have more energy and be less sleepy. It’s imperative to eat well if you want to avoid feeling sleepy in the middle of the day, says Jackie Lynch, a registered nutritional therapist and author.

Here are some tips for making better food choices:

  • Eat more whole grains; over half of your consumed grains should be whole!
  • Eat more vegetables and whole fruits and try to opt for a wide variety of them.
  • Opt for healthy protein options, like lean meats, unsalted nuts, and omega-3 rich sources.
  • Reduce your intake of saturated fats.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Always eat breakfast.
  • Eat the right amount of calories for your activity level, age, sex, and weight.
  • Eat at regular times and intervals.

3.    Get Enough Good Sleep

If you’re feeling too sleepy, it’s a no brainer that you should try to work on getting better quality sleep. A lack of sleep can reduce your positive thinking, impact health and immunity, and make you more prone to accidents and mistakes. Here are some tips for getting better sleep, including those from Royal College of GPs chair Prof Martin Marshall:

  • Have a consistent bedtime routine
  • Sleep and wake at the same time daily
  • Avoid stimulants like nicotine and caffeine close to bedtime
  • Reduce exposure to light at night
  • Try not to nap during the day unless you need it
  • Exercise during the day, but not too close to bedtime
  • Don’t eat heavy meals late at night
  • Optimize your bedroom environment for comfort, silence, light exposure, and temperature
  • Keep your phone silent

4.    Get Checked For Medical Issues

We’ve already discussed, at length, the different health conditions that may contribute to daytime sleepiness. It’s a good idea, then, to speak to a doctor if you’re really concerned. Here are some possible medical causes of excessive sleepiness:

  • Anemia
  • Anxiety
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Food Intolerance
  • Glandular Fever
  • Heart Disease
  • Pregnancy
  • Underactive Thyroid
  • Urinary Tract Infection
  • Vitamin And Mineral Deficiencies

always feel sleepy
Final Thoughts On Some Reasons You Always Feel Sleepy And Effective Ways To Fix It

It goes without saying that being constantly sleepy is not healthy. If you’re drowsy all the time, even after you think you’ve had a good amount of sleep, try thinking about the rest of your lifestyle and what may be influencing that state.

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I love being a staff writer at Power of Positivity, but hate that my house can't clean itself! I hold a degree in Accounting and Business Management from the Association of Certified Chartered Accountants (UK). When I'm not writing, I'm busy gardening or picking up after my kids, or running after them! My biggest passion, next to my precious children, is writing and sharing joy with people I meet!

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