Feeling tired all the time is basically a rite of passage for adulthood. Between waking up early, working all day, 'trying' to be exercise and staying on top of the digital life admin, there's barely enough time to go to grab a cuppa let alone catch some sleep.
No wonder we're pretty much exhausted all of the time. And we're certainly not the only ones.
A recent poll of 2,000 adults, by Furniture Village, found they say "I’m tired" out loud three times a day - with one in 10 saying the phrase five times or more.
General stress (42%), work (29%), money worries (24%) and relationship issues (19%) were the top things keeping them up all night.
And more than one in 10 (14%) constantly feel weary.
It's little wonder, therefore that feeling worn out is so common that the NHS says it has spawned its own acronym; ‘TATT’, or ‘tired all the time’.
So what's fuelling this exhaustion epidemic?
Dr Sohère Roked, hormone doctor, GP and author of The Tiredness Cure, says it isn’t uncommon for a state of exhaustion and burnout to exacerbate at this time of year.
"There are a number of lifestyle and medical causes for tiredness including environmental and dietary influences; anaemia, vitamin B12 deficiency, thyroid disorders, diabetes, glandular fever as well as mental illness such as depression and anxiety," she explains.
"It is important to see your doctor to test for the aforementioned medical illnesses, however, in most cases the results come back negative, leaving your doctor unable to come up with an obvious cause and solution."
For this reason, Dr Roked describes tiredness as a lifestyle problem: "It has a major impact on a person’s life and wellbeing but doesn't show up on conventional medical blood tests or investigations," she explains. "The symptoms are certainly real yet there is no conventional treatment."
Lack of sleep can also have a huge impact on hormones, including:
Cortisol - Poor sleep can increase cortisol which makes you feel irritable or more stressed throughout your day. "It can also cause you to crave sugary or salty foods," Dr Roked explains.
Oestrogen and progesterone - Sleeping badly can disrupt hormone production and cause irregular, heavy or painful periods, and can accentuate PMS symptoms.
Insulin, leptin and ghrelin - These are all affected by poor sleep and as a result can cause you to eat more, not feel full as efficiently and spike blood sugars.
Melatonin - We need melatonin to get a good night’s sleep and it’s made between 10pm-2am in total darkness. "You won’t be making enough melatonin if you’re sleeping with your lights on, using your phone before bed or sleeping late," Dr Roked adds.
Thyroid hormones - Sleep is needed to make good levels of these hormones in sufficient quantities.
Growth hormones - We make growth hormone at night so if you’re not sleeping enough, you may not be producing enough of this hormone which is needed to help you regenerate.
The good news is that small lifestyle changes can make a massive difference to your energy levels.
"A daily combination of five portions of fresh fruit and vegetables, supplements including vitamin D, omega-3, probiotics and multivitamins paired with gentle exercise and relaxation practices can help boost your energy levels in the long term," she says.
The 'tiredness cure'
Up the fruit and vegetables
Dr Roked says diet plays an essential role in terms of fortifying the body with enough healthy protein and fats, and nutrients from fruit and vegetables are very important for hormone balance.
Consider supplements including vitamin D, omega-3, probiotics and multivitamins
Research suggests there may be links between vitamin D deficiency and fatigue. "When it comes to energy and nutrients, Omega-3 not only helps brain function, attention levels, memory and alertness, but are also an anti-inflammatory, helping to renew cells and energy levels," Dr Roked explains.
Probiotic supplements may help support the microbiome by targeting symptoms of chronic fatigue and helping to boost energy.
"They aid in repopulating the microbiome with beneficial microbes, restoring the balance between harmful and helpful," Dr Roked continues.
A multivitamin can also benefit tiredness, especially if a diet lacks enough vitamins and minerals (one of the most common causes of tiredness and fatigue). "The body needs a host of nutrients to turn the food we consume into cellular energy, and deficiencies can have an impact on energy," Dr Roked adds.
Evidence suggests that getting at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity daily can help improve quality of sleep. "Even light exercise, like walking for 10 minutes a day, improves sleep quality," Dr Roked suggests. "It can take several months of regular activity before the full sleep enhancing effects kick-in so it’s worth being patient and building an exercise habit that sticks."
Introduce relaxation practices
Mindset is as important as anything else when it comes to energy levels in the long term. "It’s possible to feel like you’re doing everything right for your health, eating right, exercising, taking the supplements, and still, you don’t feel good," Dr Roked explains. "I start my day with some affirmations, breathing, gratitude and visualisations. When things go wrong, I stop and breathe and try and put myself back in a positive mindset.
"We have to get better with change and get flexible," she continues." It’s not easy, but daily training can help to strengthen your mind to roll with the punches and stay positive."
Sleep: Read more
The five signs you're not getting enough sleep (Yahoo Life UK, 6-min read)
10 expert-approved ways to sleep better, as millions of adults complain of being 'tired all the time' (Yahoo Life UK, 10-min read)
How much sleep you need at different ages, from childhood to the later years (Yahoo Life UK, 7-min read)