Occasional tiredness and drowsiness: causes and cures

Occasional tiredness and drowsiness: causes

Many people lead a hectic lifestyle, and among the hundreds of everyday tasks to complete we rarely have the luxury of feeling tired or not being as productive as we need to be.

When daytime drowsiness rears its ugly head, it’s worth taking a long, hard look at our lifestyle. After checking with a doctor to eliminate the possibility of it being caused by an illness or sleep disorder, we need to try and understand what we need to change in our everyday life to make sure that occasional tiredness and drowsiness are no longer an obstacle.

How to recognize the symptoms of tiredness and drowsiness

Think of the body as an organism that is very well balanced but needs fuel to function; the fuel our body needs is energy, which we get through our daily diet and use in concentration, commitments, attention, moving our muscles, and so on.

These bodies of ours, just like an engine, need enough time to “cool down” after intense effort. The amount of time we need to recuperate enough energy varies subjectively, but it’s easy to notice when the engine has stalled and our body turns on the low fuel warning light.

We feel sleepy, perhaps dizzy, with tired legs and brain fog… it feels difficult to study, to exercise at the gym, and even to simply carry out all our daily chores with the same attention and care as usual.

All of these signs of lethargy are our body telling us that something isn’t right.

What causes tiredness and drowsiness?

The causes of tiredness and drowsiness can generally be traced back to organic causes like low blood pressure or intense physical exertion; these physical and psychological states can also be influenced by seasonal changes or mental health issues like depression. But in many cases, when it comes down to it, we’re simply not recognizing the needs of our body.

We’ve all spent a sleepless night in our student days reviewing for an exam between gulps of coffee, and you probably noticed that the lack of sleep caught up with you the next day to ask for overdue credit. Though it might seem like a good idea to stay up studying, unfortunately this means you are not giving your body the time it needs to process and memorize the information you learn.

Then there are those of us who want to feel super pumped for that gym session we managed to fit in after trudging through our work, only to find ourselves dragging our body from one machine to another in the throes of fatigue and sleepiness, feeling too weak even to lift up our water bottle.

And what about those people who have spent the day juggling with their own commitments and those of their children, getting home in good time but with nothing left in the tank?

It is normal to blame our tiredness on all the energy it takes to be productive at work, with studying, keeping fit or looking after household chores, especially during times that require particular physical or mental strain. It is easy to fall prey to tiredness, drowsiness and muscle aches… but perhaps it is a good idea to put our foot on the brake and reflect on what we’re doing wrong - an energy drink is not a long-term solution!

Tips to help you combat tiredness and grogginess

There is a variety of possible reasons why you might find yourself suffering from time to time from tiredness and drowsiness, but fortunately there are also some simple tips and tricks you can try out to combat this feeling.

  • Watch what you eat: refined sugars and carbohydrates offer your body energy but only in the short-term, and you’ll use it up quickly. Much better dietary choices are whole grains, protein and fruit, which release energy slowly and sustain your energy for longer. What’s more, eating too little in this era of dieting fads could also be counterproductive! The best idea is to consult with a nutritionist who can help you to eat the ideal amount of healthy foods.

Be careful when consuming stimulating substances like coffee and energy drinks: you might feel as though they help you to combat sleepiness right after you drink them, but they can also significantly impact your sleep, which will only add to your feeling of excessive tiredness and sleepiness during the day, causing a vicious cycle. Don’t forget to stay hydrated, because a lack of water can cause stress on your body, making you feel tired and drowsy.

  • Get plenty of exercise: research has shown that a sedentary lifestyle can enhance the feeling of tiredness and drowsiness. Slipping an aerobic exercise session into your daily routine, even just a light one, can help to reduce the feeling of chronic tiredness. The only thing to bear in mind is not to do any intense exercise in the hours before bedtime, because it may overly stimulate your body and cause restless sleep.
  • Be mindful of the quality and quantity of sleep: not sleeping enough or sleeping badly (or both!) can have a negative effect on your day. Your body hasn’t been able to recover the energy it needs to tackle all your daily tasks, and it will let you know by making you sleepy after eating or even by making you feel completely drained of energy throughout the day. To avoid this risk, we need to establish a stable routine, adopting healthy rhythms and restful habits, to help our body synchronize: allowing enough time to sleep is key and it is never time wasted.

To make sure that you also enjoy a high-quality sleep, your bedroom shouldn’t be too hot, you should look to avoid annoying sounds or light, and you shouldn't use your cell phone or laptop just before bed. If you still struggle to fall asleep, you can try out meditation, a hot bath or a muscle relaxation technique.

If the damage is already done, you can try to remedy your sleepiness during the day by sneaking in a little nap: just 15 minutes can be enough to cut your brain and body some slack, so you can recover that energy you thought you had lost forever. The important thing to remember is not to let your nap run on too long, which could lead to deep sleep, affecting your ability to sleep well when night falls.

  • Dietary supplements are not intended to substitute a varied and balanced diet and should be taken as part of a healthy lifestyle.
  • Melatonin contributes towards reducing the time it takes to fall asleep.


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  • Orbeta, Rebecca L., et al. "High caffeine intake in adolescents: associations with difficulty sleeping and feeling tired in the morning." Journal of Adolescent Health 38.4 (2006): 451-453.
  • Puetz, Timothy W., Sara S. Flowers, and Patrick J. O’Connor. "A randomized controlled trial of the effect of aerobic exercise training on feelings of energy and fatigue in sedentary young adults with persistent fatigue." Psychotherapy and psychosomatics 77.3 (2008): 167-174.
  • Consensus Conference Panel, et al. "Recommended amount of sleep for a healthy adult: a joint consensus statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society." Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine 11.6 (2015): 591-592.
  • Milner, Catherine E., and Kimberly A. Cote. "Benefits of napping in healthy adults: impact of nap length, time of day, age, and experience with napping." Journal of sleep research 18.2 (2009): 272-281.
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