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I sleep about 7 hours every night. But I am always sleepy. What can I do in order to stay awake and productive all day long?

Update: I wake up only with an alarm clock and when I wake up I am still sleepy. It has been about 6 years that I haven't been able to feel refreshed and rested as soon as I wake up.

Update 2: I exercise regularly. Play tennis 2 times a week and I go to the gym 3 times a week. I used to have allergy to flowers and dirt but haven't experienced it for years.

Update 3: I eat vitamin supplements (multivitamins in the form of gummy bears, vitamin B-complex, fish oil, potassium) but I have no idea whether or not they get absorbed properly by my body.

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Was there any time that was different? Do you wake up by yourself, or only with an alarm clock? –  Martin Oct 2 '11 at 22:27
    
The same problem. I think, that deal is not only in sleeping. –  Denys P. Oct 2 '11 at 23:48
    
Do you exercise and how good is your diet? Do you have any allergies that you know of? –  Mongus Pong Oct 3 '11 at 13:04
    
Do you consume enough iron and vitamine Bs? –  Roel Oct 3 '11 at 15:47
    
+1 and a star as same problem here. –  Fahad Uddin Oct 4 '11 at 14:23

22 Answers 22

15 reasons of fatigue are:

  1. Not Enough Sleep
  2. Sleep Apnea [2]
  3. Not Enough Fuel
  4. Anemia
  5. Depression
  6. Hypothyroidism
  7. Caffeine Overload
  8. Hidden UTI
  9. Diabetes
  10. Dehydration
  11. Heart Disease
  12. Shift Work Sleep Disorder
  13. Food Allergies

    Some doctors believe hidden food allergies can make you sleepy. If your fatigue intensifies after meals, you could have a mild intolerance to something you're eating -- not enough to cause itching or hives, just enough to make you tired.

  14. CFS and Fibromyalgia

  15. Mild Fatigue

    If you have mild fatigue that isn't linked to any medical condition, the solution may be exercise.

Sleep Disorders - Fatigue Causes and Remedies.

[2] : Note that sleep apnea is any breathing disruption related sleep problem, such as due to excessive weight, aging, or allergies.

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Minor addition to this excellent list: use of psuedoephedrine or other legal "uppers"... or "downers" like some antihistamines, certain pain medications, sleeping pills (obviously), etc. –  barrycarter Oct 10 '11 at 4:58
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Caffeine Overload. I think this is my case. –  Ewerton Oct 26 '12 at 11:52
    
Can tea overload also cause the same problems? –  Fahad Uddin Nov 17 '12 at 14:53
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Tea overload (assuming you are talking a tea with caffeine rather than a tisane) can happen as well, it just takes more cups of tea to get the same amount of caffeine. –  Chris Nov 24 '12 at 2:40

As others have said fatigue can have a lot of causes. But I'll outline some general things which I think most people would benefit from:

  • Improving sleep quantity and quality. I recommend at least 8hours of sleep (for most people) and getting most of your sleep during night time. The latest you want to sleep is around 10-11pm in my experience, much earlier if you have to wake up really early.

You also can improve sleep quality by:

  • Calming down before sleep by switching to more relaxing activities. Such as reading/taking a shower/stretching/meditation.

  • Avoid bright light before bed. If you work on electronic devices you want to turn down the brightness/install a program like f.lux.

  • Look into supplements/herbs that help sleep. I personally take 3-6mgs of melatonin every night and it helps me get to sleep quicker and on time.

  • Avoid caffeine/alcohol before bed.

    • Eat at a caloric maintenance if you want to maintain weight. Otherwise do a slight deficit (~500 calories per day). Also make sure to eat a balanced diet (something like 40/30/30 of carb/protein/fat) from whole, natural foods and eat vegetables with every meal.

    • Make sure to hydrate all day long. Keep a water bottle and just drink from it all day.

    • When you start to feel lethargic. Stop what you are doing and do some kind of physical activity. One thing that helped me in the past was setting up an impromptu standing desk whenever I started getting tired. Walks also would help a lot. Scheduling like 2 x 30-40 minute walks a day, one earlier and one later in the day should help too.

    • Make sure you aren't being overworked/getting stressed. Manage your time and resources so that you are efficient with your work and you actually get things done. Don't overload yourself. Find ways to de-stress/take breaks from work.

Really a lot of it is being introspective and investigating why things are the way they are. Often times all you have to do is keep a log/journal and patterns will start to emerge to why you are behaving the way you are.


Further Reading

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+1 For f.lux. I have set mine to 3800k. :) –  muntoo Dec 9 '11 at 6:51
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Calming down before sleep: personally speaking this is one of the most important thing that will wake you up fresh in the morning –  maz3tt Oct 11 '12 at 12:23
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In addition to f.lux, I'd also recommend replacing your bedroom lights with the low pink ones instead of the bright white ones. They're usually bright enough to read with, but won't make you dizzy. –  Muz Oct 19 '12 at 13:58
    
Melatonin makes me sleep perfectly. But i keep being so tired the next day i can hardly keep my eyes open. For me, it's really not worth it. –  kioopi Nov 26 '12 at 8:42

The amount of sleep needed for a person seems to be very individual, so the absolute duration of your sleeping time (7 h) will be difficult to discuss here, IMHO.

I recently read an article stating that the "built-in biorhythm" can not be changed, which is especially hard for people working in changing shifts.

Concerning your 7 hours: "But I am always sleepy" says that you think 7h should be enough.

  • Are you sure?
  • Did you try sleeping longer at night?
  • Do you wake up yourself in the morning (after 7h), or do you need an alarm clock to get up?

There might be other reasons for a general sleepyness like

  • nutrition
    • quality, quantity
    • check your eating habits e.g. last meal time & quantity vs. bedtime
  • stress / burn out
  • illness

recently I stumbled over an interesting article Tired of being tired (Leo Babauta) which covers the topic and some easy solutions

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The biorhythm can be changed, but will take a very long time. DSPS is an example... –  Tom Wijsman Oct 2 '11 at 23:49

I wake up only with an alarm clock and when I wake up I am still sleepy

What if you wake up naturally? Perhaps 7 hours is not sufficient for you (stress introduces need for more sleep).

I had the same problem as yours, and this is how I fixed it:

  • Go to bed early (~9pm) and wake up (naturally) without an alarm

  • Reduce caffeine intake to once every 2-3 days

Edit: Going to bed early turned out to be a placebo, and I now take 4-5 cups of coffee a day -- often taking the last cup an hour before going to bed -- yet it doesn't adversely affect my sleep at all. Just wake up naturally without an alarm, it is that simple. :-)

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I've had this problem since pretty much forever, and the standard answers were all the things the people above have posted.

Maybe those answers apply to most cases, I don't know. All I know is that it didn't resonate with me.

Only a few weeks ago, I found these two article by the same author:

http://www.humbledmba.com/why-entrepreneurs-cant-sleep

http://www.humbledmba.com/become-a-morning-person-how-to-end-insomnia-f

Everything in these articles struck a cord. I said "YES - That's me". I haven't implemented any of the advice in this because thankfully my current lifestyle allows me to wake late and work late, but it helps to understand the many problems I had while in "standard" jobs over the last few years.

Maybe this doesn't apply to you, but most people don't seem to know about it, so hopefully it will be helpful for someone.

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Are you somehow stressed from work or something else that you're costantly pondering about subconsciously?

My wife went through the same thing. We exercised, we slept at 10pm and woke up at 5.30 am but she still had a hard time keeping focused. Her mind diverted to many things at time.

We never knew what it was until she had to leave her job to follow me to Australia and since then, she's like a new person. And we attributed it to the stress at work. She is now working here in Australia and she's sharp, focused and happier than she ever was.

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Copied from a similar question I answered on the fitness SE:

You mentioned being tired during the day, does this happen even when you are getting enough sleep? You could have sleep apnea, a condition which causes you to stop breathing in your sleep. Sleep apnea constantly goes undiagnosed because sufferers don't realize that it is not normal to be tired during the day.

I started treatment for sleep apnea earlier this year and I cam say with no exaggeration that it has been life changing. No more falling asleep behind the wheel, no more afternoon fatigue, etc. I don't know if this is common, but I've also had an easier time falling asleep since starting treatment.

Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to be overweight to have sleep apnea, although it could be a sign. Sleep apnea tends to cause weight gain just as much as weight gain will cause sleep apnea. If you have a history of depression, snore, or if you are a mouth breather, these are also strong indicators.

If you have a significant other ask them to pay attention to your breathing patterns, if not ask your doctor to do a sleep study. They're usually conducted in hotels, it's easy, comfortable, and won't interrupt your schedule (you'd be in bed either way). When I did mine it was right next to the office, so I got to avoid the morning traffic.

If there is a qualitative (as opposed to quantitative) difference between your tiredness during the day when getting 7 hours/night and how you feel when you haven't gotten enough sleep, this is a strong indicator as well. Talk to your doctor, most sleep conditions can be managed and your quality of life will improve drastically.

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Something that nobody has mentioned is the possibility of ADHD. Specifically, ADHD-Predominantly Inattentive "Sluggish Cognitive Tempo".

This is a new diagnosis of ADHD that lacks the hyperactivity component often seen in ADHD children. You mentioned lacking focus and always being tired.

Check out the Wikipedia for it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sluggish_cognitive_tempo

Here's a sample, see if this identifies you:

those with SCT are drifting, introspective and daydreamy, and feel as if "in the fog" (although in excited states, an SCT patient behaves very similarly to a traditional ADHD patient). They also don't have the same risk factors and outcomes. A key behavioral characteristic of those with SCT symptoms is that they are more likely to appear to be lacking motivation. They lack energy to deal with mundane tasks and will consequently seek things that are mentally stimulating because of their underaroused state, an intense craving for emotional and intellectual stimulation. Those with SCT symptoms show a qualitatively different kind of attention deficit that is more typical of a true information input-output problem, such as memory retrieval and active working memory, and display a wavering "up and down" mental pattern with extremely variable levels of intense thought, hyperactivity, failing memory, and sexual appetite.

It's worth mentioning because there are a lot of undiagnosed ADHD adults out there and not a lot of information as it's still a disorder being actively researched and understood.

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My suggestion would be check ur diet....don't eat too much of carbohydrates...this cause one to be sleepy. Also i would recommend to exercise daily at least 10 mins.

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One of the sleep disorders that hasn't been mentioned here is Narcolepsy. It's often misdiagnosed and has a lot of symptoms. One is always feeling exhausted. Do you have naps during the day that you cannot go without? Then check it out a bit more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narcolepsy

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Do you drink caffeinated beverages during the day like coffee or energy drinks? I've had this same situation on and off for many years. I found it very difficult to link it directly to anything as a cause until recently.

It appears that regular caffeine intake (as little as 1 cup/day in the morning) over time reduces my sleep quality. It prevents me from reaching REM stages, and I begin to fall asleep during the day. I also have other symptoms that go away with cessation of caffeine use and when my sleep returns to normal.

Unfortunately, I've never been able to find anything more scholarly relating the two in such an extreme way, so it may just be unique to my body chemistry. However, I still recommend considering trading the coffee or energy drinks for something more healthy, like fruit, if you need an extra boost.

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I drink tea a lot and try to keep my coffee intake to at most half a mug per day. Although I sometimes use energy drinks (2 or 3 per week) –  Mark Oct 3 '11 at 19:59

I help myself with software + hardware. If You have Android device You should try "Sleep as an Droid":

Sleep as an Droid is an Android alarm clock with integrated sleep cycle tracker for waking you up gently in your light sleep cycle. Common alarm clocks ignore your sleep cycles, they wake you on schedule no matter your are currently in your deep sleep. Waking-up from the deep sleep is very unpleasant, it makes you tired and it may negatively affect your productivity during the whole day.

In contrast Sleep as an Droid tracks your sleep during night and given a time range, it chooses the optimal moment to wake you up (ideally in light sleep). Waking up in light sleep is natural, gentle and it may only be compared to the experience of waking up without any alarm clock.

You can test it for 2 weeks for free. After that it cost 1 Euro. It works fine for me.

Official Page for Sleep as an Droid

If You don't have Android device You could also buy Sleeptracker but it looks quite expensive and I didn't tested it.

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If your nutrition, exercise and everything else are all on point, try taking a magnesium supplement. The benefits are many, but for me the biggest benefit was improvement in quality of sleep which in turn gave me more energy during the day.

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I've had a lot of trouble falling asleep at the computer or when I'm reading. In addition to implementing many of the fine solutions above, I created a DIY walk station. I used my old treadmill and put a desk (old piece of trimmed plywood) on top of it. Started walking at 1.5 mph.

It's surprisingly easy to adapt to it. I read, type, work on my laptop, do everything except draw or write cursive. There are a lot of walk station bloggers on the net and I personally got so excited about the results that wrote about a post about it in my blog. People really get into it.

It helps me keep my focus in part because it actively circulates oxygen into my brain and the slow steady movement is enough to keep me alert but not distracted. I like it much better than standing at a desk. The movement is easier on my feet and legs, and as a nice enhancement, I'm not as hungry.

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Maybe your biorhythm isn't properly?
One thing you should try is to get up at the same hour every day and go to bed when you are tired. Your body has an 'inner clock' and a temperature regulation. In the morning your temperature is at its lowest and it increases during the day to it's highest point in the evening and to cool back down at night. If you don't have a decent consistent sleep pattern your body temperature will be deregulated, which will make you feel not wide awake and less energized.
ps: try it for at least 30 days, your body needs time to adapt.

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I highly recommend reading this well researched article on sleep: http://www.supermemo.com/articles/sleep.htm

One important point it offers for you: Kill the alarm clock! It is highly detrimental to sleep quality/benefit.

Go to bed early enough so that you will wake up well rested by yourself before the time you would have your alarm go off. Keep that rhythm.

Here is advice on first building the habit of getting up at the same time every day: http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2005/05/how-to-become-an-early-riser/
The author first uses an alarm clock but says it is not needed anymore after some time, when you're sufficiently entrained to your regular getting-up time.

I wish you success!

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"Diagnosis"

Most likely you have something called "delayed sleep phase disorder/syndrome".

This refer to that your "sleeping point" (nadir, part of the circadian rhythm) is out of phase, ie. in another point of the day than during your sleep. This is important as if you don't get "through" this sleeping point you will never feel rested no matter how much you sleep at other times. Usually people wake up naturally a couple of hours after this point - during the point you would feel a bit colder, and very tired if you stayed awake instead. This is a typical experience for night-shift workers.

People suffering for this are often categorized as B-persons (not to be confused with Type B personality), persons with a biological clock longer than 24 hours. Now, most people have a biological clock of 25 hours, but this one hour is too small to cause any problems for most.

Treatment

The way to treat this is by light-therapy and/or chronotherapy, as well as the use of melatonin tablets, to adjust the nadir/sleeping-point.

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Here is some tips;

  1. Wash your face with some cold water to reduce your sleepiness.
  2. Get more lights into your room, so you won’t feel sleepy and you would feel active again.
  3. After woke up, do some stretching exercise.
  4. Avoid drinking coffee too much
  5. Avoid taking large meals. I suggest, prefer getting 3 times in a day with real meal, divide a lot of times and try to eat appetizer.
  6. Take a hot bath to make your sleep more comfortable at night (It works on me perfectly)
  7. Get some B12 vitamin and supplement rich in iron.

But your problem looks seriously. All answer in here, really can help you. Asking in here "What is wrong with me" is good, but I think you must get some professional help from doctors.

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My recipe is drinking (sometimes) and playing MMO games (or whatever you like better). Do what you like. But always try to organise your life to do it better. Strange problems with a sleep anyway. If you want to sleep - lay down and sleep. If you want to wake up rested and cheerful stick with day regimen. Doesn't matter how much your sleep, what matters is regularity. If you feel you need sleep more, then lay earlier, but not wake up later. After couple of weeks you will not need alarm clock at all!

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A couple suggestions not mentioned here that have been helpful to me:

  1. Rhodiola rosea: an herb that grows in severe cold climates, Rhodiola is a potent adaptogen that reduces stress and increases energy.
  2. You may have an under-active thyroid gland. A naturopath can diagnose and then may have you use simple, over-the-counter iodine supplements.
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I remember that one week, I went to bed every single evening at 9pm and woke up at 7, every day of the week, I declined everything on the agenda that week to try to recharge for real cause I was tired of being tired. It worked. In the end of the week, I remember I woke up being super energised, happy to wake up... it had been a while I did not feel that way!

As an alternative, you have the option of trying power naps maybe? Hope this helps!

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A lot of good practical advice on sleeping better, thanks for those! My tip is practical to but more about positive preparation before going to sleep. It really helped me out! Before going to bed you take with you positive thoughts frmo the day. Do it like this:

  1. Stand before a mirror (it's always more true for yourself if you see yourself)
  2. Go though all the good and positive things that has happened during the day (it's not about going though everything, just focus on the good things and quickly forget the negative, if any)
  3. After filling your self with kick-a** good energy =) you go straight to bed and put the head on the pillow (when I say straight, I mean straight - no phone, no facebook, no work, no nothing except perhaps snuggling with your partner =))

It helped me getting to sleep fast, and waking up more focused and overall in a happier mode. Even though some nights I didn't get more sleep than a few hours.

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