Feeling tired

Most of us have problems sleeping at certain points, and for all sorts of reasons. If we aren't sleeping properly then it's natural to feel tired. There are other reasons we might feel tired too, linked to lifestyle or individual circumstances - for example, if you've had too many late nights, or have spent long hours at work/school and doing homework.

However, tiredness or exhaustion that goes on for a long time is not normal. It can affect your ability to get on and enjoy your life. Unexplained tiredness is one of the most common reasons for people to see a doctor.

Why you might be tired all the time

Before you see a doctor, you may want to work out how you became tired in the first place. It can be helpful to think about:

  • parts of your life, such as work and family, that might be particularly tiring
  • any events that may have triggered your tiredness, such as bereavement, family issues or a relationship break-up
  • how your lifestyle may be making you tired.

A doctor will look at psychological causes, physical causes and lifestyle causes for your tiredness.

Psychological causes of tiredness

Psychological causes of tiredness are much more common than physical causes. Most psychological causes lead to poor sleep or insomnia, both of which cause daytime tiredness. Psychological causes include:

  • Stress
    The strains of daily life can worry most of us at some point. It's also worth remembering that even positive events, such as moving schools can cause stress. Read more about how to deal with stress.
  • Emotional shock
    A bereavement, change in schools or a relationship break-up can make you feel tired and exhausted.
  • Depression
    If you feel sad, low and lacking in energy, and you also wake up tired, you may have depression. Find out more about depression here.
  • Anxiety
    If you have constant uncontrollable feelings of anxiety, you may have what doctors call generalised anxiety disorder (GAD). You can find out more about anxiety problems here. As well as feeling worried and irritable, people with GAD often feel tired. If you think your tiredness may be a result of low mood or anxiety, try this short audio guide to dealing with your sleep problems.

Physical causes of tiredness

Tiredness can be the result of:

  • being overweight or obese – your body has to work harder to do everyday activities
  • being underweight – poor muscle strength can make you tire more easily
  • some illness’s can make you feel more tired.

Lifestyle causes of tiredness

In today's 24/7 "always on" world, we often try to cram too much into our daily lives. And to try to stay on top of things, we sometimes consume too much sugary and high-fat snacks on the go rather than sitting down for a proper meal. You can find advice about looking after yourself here. The main lifestyle causes of tiredness include:

  • Exercise
    Too much or too little exercise can affect how tired you feel. Read more about the benefits of exercise.
  • Caffeine
    Too much of this stimulant, found in tea, coffee, colas and energy drinks, can upset sleep and make you feel wound-up as well as tired. Try decaffeinated tea and coffee, or gradually cut out caffeine/energy drinks altogether.
  • Daytime naps
    If you're tired, you may nap during the day, which can make it more difficult to get a good night's sleep.

You might also find these helpful...

Sleep problems (Young Minds)

We all sometimes have problems with sleeping or bad dreams. If sleep issues are affecting you, this guide from Young Minds can help you to tackle them.

How to deal with stress (NHS Moodzone)

If you're constantly stressed, it can have a physical impact on your health and cause interrupted sleep – find help here