Tired all the time: is it all your fault?

 Both students and professional often struggle because they are tired all the time.

Both students and professional often struggle because they are tired all the time.

The cure for tiredness is sleep, true, but factors like keeping a consistent sleep schedule, too little light during the day, too much light during the night and even food intake matter. While the causes of tiredness may wary for the individual, the overall picture in our society seems to be fairly consistent. In fact, being tired all the time has been given its own ancronym: TATT (tired all the time).

The phrase “tired all the time” is actually one of the most commonly said or written in common life because of the fast paced lives we lead. According to market analysts Mintel, a study discovered the sales of supplement such as energy drinks and power bars have increased more than 5% in the last year. Good for business, but not a good sign for an increasingly tired population. As stated by the NHS: “one in three of us suffers from poor sleep: with stress computer, and taking work home.” Owing to the fact that sleep and mood are closely connected: poor and inadequate sleep can cause irritability and stress. That’s not news, but it’s a fact.  In addition there have been numerous studies, which indicated that a lack of sleep impairs a number of cognitive functions and behaviour, including lack of focus, mental fog, cognitive speed and haziness. 

So, let’s try to to apply some modern scientific understanding to your tiredness issues.

The obvious suspect is of course your sleep pattern. Most of us probably have at some time or another vowed that we will now go to sleep and get up at the same time, every day even during weekends. Probably after reading somewhere how important it is. However, the issues is of course that modern life has many temptations, both outside and inside the home. Maybe you ran into that old friend and spend half the night chatting. Perhaps the "one more episode" Netflix temptation was just too hard to resist. Does this mean that there is nothing you can do to reduce or get rid of your tiredness symptoms? No.

While most people can name a few factors that cause tiredness, very few know one of the most important ones. Researchers are learning more and more about this phenomenon: Blue spectre light.

For milennia, humans (well, all creatures really) only had two sources of light. The sun and fire. There is a key difference between these two types of light. Sun (daylight) contains blue spectre light. Fire doesn't. So how is this relevant? Well, our brains have evolved during the aforementioned milennia, and our wake and sleep patterns are still completely tuned into the signals from light, no matter how modern we might think we have become. Very simply put, daylight is a signal to be awake and active, no daylight (or just light from a fire, which is not blue spectre) basically tells the brain that it's time to start producing melatonin, our natural sleepiness drug.

Guess what else fills your eyes with blue spectre light.

Mobiles, laptops, TVs even the electric lights in your home. That's right. Netflix (i.e screens) is sabotaging you in two ways. By addictive entertainment AND by inhibiting your brain's production of melatonin. In addition, we spend most of our days inside, which means that we don't even get a fraction of the daylight (nor sunlight) that our brains are wired for during daylight hours. This paints a very bleak picture, and researchers have linked blue spectre light exposure at night to several health conditions, including heart disease and cancer. Research on night shift workers has shown that their blood values are considerably less healthy compared to a control group.

The solution? More technology, in this case. Install the Twilight app on your phone and the Flux app on your laptop. Set these to your time zone, and your devices will naturally make your screen turn slightly red when the sun sets in your time zone, strongly reducing the blue spectre light you are exposed to from screens. In addition, make sure you spend at least 10-20 minutes in daylight quite soon after you get up, or at a minimum get light from an artificial daylight lamp. Also, do some short walks during the day to get more daylight exposure (and movement). Also, when you exposes yourself to less blue spectre light after sunset, you are likely to sleep better and thus you eliminate another cause of tiredness. This solves one possible (major) reason you're tired all the time.

Of course, there are other causes of tiredness.

Ask yourself, are you really exercising enough? If you avoid exercise because you're tired, it actually makes it worse. The exercise itself has a positive effect on the hormones in the body, and it makes it easier to sleep at night, provided you don't work out so late you're still wired when bed time comes around. A study from the University of Georgia found that adult individuals who were relatively sedentary began exercising lightly just three days a week, and only for 20 minutes. Six weeks in, most reported more energy and less tiredness. We are not only talking about the gym here. Our ancestors usually walked between 8 and 16 km every day. You should probably do both to reduce everyday tiredness efficiently. A lot of people report having become more active after they started using a step counter, and setting a target between 8000 and 12000 steps a day. This will motivate you to do things like getting off one station earlier and walking the rest, talking a walk at lunch and to walk home from the train station instead of just taking the bus. That's pretty much all it takes, but it makesa big difference.

A quick summary of other things you might consider:
- No coffee after2pm at the earliest and 6pm at the latest (depending on what you prefer/need).
- Vitamin deficiency: Get more fruit and vegetables, or consider a multivitamin tablet.  Zinc is also important.
- Dehydration: Get enough water, consider hydration tablets if you are chronically thirsty. The primary symptom is darker urine than normal (normal urine should be light yellow).

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