Why Am I So Tired All The Time?

I'm often tired even though I get eight hours sleep every night. What could be causing this? Would sleeping pills help?

Although 7 to 8 hours is widely thought to be the ideal length of time for a good night's sleep, the amount of sleep individuals need varies considerably, and you may be among those who need more. To determine your own requirements, try going to bed an hour or even 90 minutes earlier for at least 10 days. Keep a diary, noting how refreshed you feel during the day and how your ability to carry out difficult tasks compares with the way you felt and performed before the experiment. You may be surprised to find a little extra sleep is all you need to revitalize your energy and spirits. Our requirement for sleep can change at different times, some questions to consider are:

• Are you pregnant? See, what are the signs of pregnancy before a missed period?
• Have you started new medications recently?
• Have you started a new diet or exercise regime?
• Have you been working new shifts or longer hours?

All of these factors can cause you to need more sleep. BUT, if extra sleep does not relieve your tiredness, you may have a sleep disorder that is undermining the quality rather than the quantity of your sleep (like sleep apnea). Or your fatigue may be a secondary symptom of some other problem like for example:

• A viral infection - like flu or mononucleosis. See, do I have a cold or the flu?
Rheumatoid arthritis - tiredness and joint aches.
• Thyroid condition - see symptoms of thyroid disease.
• Fibromyalgia - see signs of fibromyalgia.
• Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) - see signs of CFS.
• Depression - see effects of depression.
• Postpartum depression - see symptoms of postpartum depression.
• Onset of diabetes - symptoms of diabetes.
• Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) - see does PCOS cause fatigue?

Depression, stress and anxiety are, in fact, the most common causes of tiredness. But whatever the cause, sleeping pills, though they may help in the short-term, are not the solution. They do not give a natural night's sleep and can lead to dependency. To get at the source of the problem, see your doctor, who may ask you to keep a sleep diary for specialist analysis.

What Happens When We Sleep And Dream?

When a person sleeps, they are not a simple state of unconsciousness, but rather they go through a series of stages that occur in regular cycles through the night, each cycle taking around 90 minutes. The stages fall into one of two categories: rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, during which the eyes are extremely active, and non-REM sleep, when the eyes are still. As you fall asleep, your body relaxes and brainwave patterns quieten down, breathing evens out, your pulse and temperature drop and the senses become less responsive. Gradually you pass through four progressively deeper stages of non-REM sleep before starting to come up again through the same stages (in reverse order). Finally, you move into a period of REM sleep, when dreaming occurs. The eyes dart around (but stay closed) and brainwave patterns are similar to those of the waking state. Large body muscles enter a state close to paralysis, perhaps to prevent dreams being acted out and causing injury. Most people go through 4 or 5 sleep cycles a night, but both physical illness and sleep disorders can disturb this pattern or prevent you from reaching the very deepest levels of sleep. Persistent problems may need to be analyzed by a sleep clinic.

Related Questions
Joint and muscular pain: Why do I ache all over?
When a doctor is necessary: Reasons for seeing a doctor.

• Got another question? See: Womens Health Questions

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