Why am i so tired??
July 14, 2006 7:04 AM   Subscribe

Why am I so tired?????

I'm 23 years old, just graduated college and am working a full-time job. I eat right, excersize, get at least 7.5 hours of sleep each night. My desk job isnt stressful and I consider myself to be in good health. SO WHAT'S WRONG WITH ME???? I feel extremely sluggish throughout the day and literally cannot function without at least two cups of coffee at work. Sometimes I'll come home from work and just pass out on my bed exhausted. What can I do to increase my energy throughout the day? I'm too young to be feeling like an 80-year-old man.
posted by deeman to Health & Fitness (42 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
First step, increase the amount of sleep you're getting to at least 8 or 8.5. See if that makes a difference first?

Also, it may take some time to adapt to a work day schedule - how long has this exhaustion been going on?
posted by canine epigram at 7:08 AM on July 14, 2006

I suggest a doctor's visit and bloodwork.
posted by orange swan at 7:10 AM on July 14, 2006

Yes, you may just need more sleep (I function best with about 9hrs, anything less and I have a groggy day). And FYI there is such a thing as chronic fatigue syndrome.
posted by persona non grata at 7:11 AM on July 14, 2006

Maybe wean yourself from the coffee, Why should I stop drinking coffee from earlier this week had some good mentions about the effects of coffee has on your adrenal glands (Check out the newstarget link from iurodivii describing the symptoms of "Caffeinism").. with you being so reliant on 2 cups to function, if you cut back drastically, it would allow your glands to begin to function normally again.
posted by Lizc at 7:15 AM on July 14, 2006

I'd say its the adapting to being "on" for 7-8 hours a day. There's a lot of down time in college, from walking to class, hanging out with friends, etc. My first full time job, I used to come home and pass out at 7:00 at least two days a week. Even now (four years later), I sometimes find myself sleeping until noon or even 2:00 on the weekends because I'm so worn out.

Also, the coffee might be making it worse since you become dependent on it (there's some research that drinking it actually perpetuates the sluggishness the next morning). Try cutting back a little each day. (on preview, Lizc)

Maybe try breaking your meals down into smaller meals more often, which will provide calories throughout the day instead of a bunch at all once (which could make you feel sleepy) and make sure you are taking a multivitamin.
posted by ml98tu at 7:16 AM on July 14, 2006 [1 favorite]

Was college really stressful? Did you have a chance to recuperate from that before jumping into the work world? Maybe you're finally settling into a regular schedule and your body is saying, "Awesome, we finally get to catch up on sleep!" Most of my friends who have graduated recently have said that it's taking them 6 months to a year to really recover from the constant stress and sleep deprivation of school.
posted by heatherann at 7:25 AM on July 14, 2006

I agree with ml98tu above that it could be the transition to working full time - I remember it being tough for me, too.

At the same time, if you're feeling like you could sleep starting at 7pm every night, there's probably more at work. As many others will tell you, get a general check-up and tell your doc.

Also, without knowing more about what else you do, there could be many factors. How much do you drink? How quickly do you fall asleep? When do you exercise? What kind of sleep do you get on the weekends? Is there something outside of work that's making you depressed or stressed out?
posted by bibbit at 7:25 AM on July 14, 2006

Drinking lots of cold water every day helps keep my energy up (I don't drink coffee or any other caffeinated drinks).
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:26 AM on July 14, 2006 [1 favorite]

Increase you water intake. I went through the same problem about a year ago. I was getting enough sleep and I was working out regularly. I was only drinking about a liter of water a day. I increased that to about three liters. (The amount varies on your diet and body type). Within a week I noticed a HUGE difference. After about a week and a half I could actually sleep less and feel more alert.

A formula to use:
8oz when you wake up
8oz ever two hours throughout the day
8oz before you go to bed

From what I understand the body is only capable of absorbing 8oz every two hours. Anymore is just jettisoned. So drinking all of it in 1 hour has no real benefit. If you continue to drink that amount of coffee you will need to drink even more water. Try drinking a natural apple juice in the morning instead of coffee. It is proven to give you more energy with less of a crash.

Hope that helps!
posted by birdlips at 7:34 AM on July 14, 2006

Try drinking more water. You could be de-hydrated, especially with that much coffee everyday. I had the same problems as you are having and drinking water and cutting out cofffee seemed to do the trick.
posted by gus at 7:36 AM on July 14, 2006

Ask your doctor about sleep apnea! Do it. Please.

I don't have it, but have several friends and relatives with it. One was drowsy all the time and falling asleep in meetings. He finally saw a doctor about it when he fell asleep behind the wheel on his way in to work and got into an accident. No one was injured, but that was just dumb luck.

Once he got checked out, they put him on a CPAP machine and he hasn't had a problem since.
posted by revgeorge at 7:40 AM on July 14, 2006

What's your exercise program like? Chronic fatigue is one of the signs of overtraining, so it's conceivable that you just need to cut back for a while and recover.
posted by dseaton at 7:40 AM on July 14, 2006

Allow me to make what might be a slightly different suggestion. Before you head off to the doctor freaked out about having chronic fatigue consider this: you might be struggling with something psychological in nature rather than physical.

The one thing you didn't mention is that you feel happy. Now I'm not suggesting that you're in the grips of a full blown depression (trust me, you'd know if that were the case). But you're entering into a time of major transition, and there's probably a good deal of stress in life at this moment.

Before you add to the stress by getting worked up that there is something wrong with you, consider that the mind and the body are intricately linked in ways that most of us are simply unaware of. If you find yourself strugglinmg with unexplained fatigue, or other mild physcial symptoms, it's possible that your brain is trying to tell you something. Take some time to do a serious emotional inventory and think about the things that concern you - are you nervous about the future? Are you satisfied with the relationships in your life? Are you confident that you are moving in the right direction? If you're convinced that everything's ok then by all means, consult a medical doctor. But if you find yourself stopped by some of these questions, you may want to consult someone who can help you take a look inside yourself. A counselor, therapist, or minister perhaps.

No one else can answer these kinds of questions for you, and they are not the sorts of things that 23 year olds tend to think a lot about (in my experience). But it's important to consider these sorts of things no matter what your age.

Again, let me stress that I'm not suggesting that you're in the grips of some major psychological illness. But don't be afraid to take a look inside, it's often the best thing you can do for yourself.
posted by perelman at 7:42 AM on July 14, 2006

I forgot to ask if you actually *like* your job. You mention that it's a non-stressful desk job, but do you actually like what you're doing or are you excited about it/the organization? If not, maybe that has something to do with the sluggishness? (on preview, what perelman said).

Also, his comments triggered the memory that the summer I was working full time and was all sluggish? I had some major problems with depression by that fall. To be honest, I guess I had sort of blocked that out from my memory. Funny how that works. But he's right, you should at least consider it.
posted by ml98tu at 7:47 AM on July 14, 2006

One of my all time heroes, Eve Van Cauter has done research that suggests most people need 9 hours.

Exercise increases the need for sleep. If you sleep 9 for two weeks and you are still tired, you might be overtraining, but I doubt it.

Also there is a quality of sleep issue to consider... you need to get up at the same time every day for those two weeks where you are trying to escape sleep debt. So the criteria are 1) you sleep nine hours or more each night; and 2) you wake at the same time each morning.

To accomplish this,
Week 1: Set an alarm for the same time. Get up when the alarm goes off no matter what, every day of the week (no sleeping in). Try to go to sleep so you'll have 9 hours until the alarm.

Week 2: Go to bed earlier and earlier if you continue to wake up to the alarm, or are still tired, or both.

Weeks 3-4: Turn off the alarm, but continue to go to bed at the 9 hour time.

Van Cauter also points out that research indicates that people can't accurately gauge the impact of sleep loss. So, you are tired, but you don't know how much it's affecting you. More sleep should make you happier, healthier... and less tired.
posted by ewkpates at 7:50 AM on July 14, 2006

If other options fail, Provigil is a good pharma solution for some people. Fewer side-effects than coffee, too.
posted by alms at 8:10 AM on July 14, 2006

In addition to all the above possibilities, it could very easily be something environmental - Have you recently moved to a city with more pollution than you are accustomed too? Do you have allergies? Are you living with someone else's pet now?
posted by mzurer at 8:13 AM on July 14, 2006

Are you on any medications?
posted by neilkod at 8:14 AM on July 14, 2006

Drink a lot more water. Also, try increasing your potassium and sodium intake. Eat raisins, prunes, and some salted nuts. Besides being exhausted do you also have the impression of being thirsty? If so, then it's likely a diet thing. If not, it might be something else (fatigue) and you might want to talk to a doctor.
posted by nixerman at 8:20 AM on July 14, 2006

Transitioning from active college life to boring working life (or from not working to working a non-physical job) is extraordinarily difficult, or at least it was for me. I've felt the (seemingly) irrational exhaustion you describe each time I've started a new job.

I wouldn't spend too much time worrying that there's something physically wrong with you, although getting a physical is never a bad idea. Get more sleep, make sure you exercise vigorously every day and take a few walking breaks during the day---fresh air for ten to fifteen minutes twice a day always does me right.

Most importantly, be easy on yourself. It's a tough time--this is when people can struggle with short bouts of depression, anxiety and uncertainty. If you're very worried about THAT issue, definitely talk to someone about it. On the whole, I think what you're describing is very common and very conquerable.
posted by kosem at 8:20 AM on July 14, 2006

I've been in this situation before. If you just started working (the last year) then it's entirely possible that, as mentioned above, it's simply the transition to work that's doing it.

When I started working after my undergrad degree I was also running competitively (80+ miles a week) and felt utterly exhausted all the time - similar to what you described. However, I did develop little strategies to deal with things. Amongst them were (some already mentioned):

- maintaining a consistent schedule (sleep hours same each night, even on weekends if possible)
- eat very well
- limit caffeine to 2 cups a day
- lots of water
- don't take work anxiety home with you (long time to work this one out)
- exercise earlier in the day rather than later. wakes you up, keeps you alert throughout the day, makes sleep easier at night)

Conventional wisdom amongst my older club mates was that it took a year to a year and a half to transition to training and working full-time and function well at both.

I don't know if you're doing as much exercise, but it still holds.

However, I also suggest blood work. I got mono at 25, and felt like walking death while I was going through it. I'd come home and hit the couch and sleep a few hours after work. You want to rule medical reasons out.

Good luck.
posted by jimmythefish at 8:33 AM on July 14, 2006

Alternatively, I get really tired when I don't exercise enough. You say you exercise, so it's probably enough, but if you're not doing something aerobic at least 2 times / week, that could be part of it.
posted by salvia at 8:40 AM on July 14, 2006

I'm around the same age you are and have a similar issue. I haven't solved it or figured out the cause, but I have noticed a few things that help:

1. Cut back on carbs. If I have pasta for lunch I'm basically out of commission for the afternoon. Replacing carbs with protien (we're not talking Atkins here, just more balance) helps tremendously.

2. Lots of light. I've been told that flourescent lights can make people tired, yet that's what offices usually use. I find it easier to stay awake when I'm surrounded by plenty of bright, preferably natural, light.

3. Excercise. But you say you're already doing this, so maybe other comments are right and it's time to see a doctor?
posted by chickletworks at 8:49 AM on July 14, 2006

I second the chance it is mental. Many people suffer from depression, yet can feel happy. It presents itself in the form of fatigue for a lot of people.

So, do as others have said - see a doctor, get bloodwork done.

For physical - are you taking in enough water? I am 22, just graduated, running my own business, and I find myself very tired if I do not have enough water each day.

Good luck!
posted by criticman at 9:01 AM on July 14, 2006

I'm going to nth the suggestion for more sleep. I'm around your age and I'm definitely at my best after maybe 8.5 hours of sleep. (Also, try it for a week, it usually takes me a few days of solid sleep to feel better if I've been under-sleeping) Good luck!
posted by robinpME at 9:01 AM on July 14, 2006

Do you eat a lot of iron-rich foods or take a multivitamin? Anemia could make you pretty tired. It's probably a good idea to combine the advice of the above - go to a doctor for a general checkup and bloodwork as well as reevaluate your mental state. Did you have an irregular sleep schedule in college? Your body might be used to odd hours and changing to the steady office job could affect your sleep.
posted by coffeespoons at 9:01 AM on July 14, 2006

Another possible culprit is vitamin and mineral deficiency. How's your diet? Are you eating adequate veggies, or are you still on a typical college diet of frozen pizza? The few times in the recent past I've lapsed into unhealthful eating for more than a few days at a time, I've noticed a huge decrease in my general energy level. I've also noticed that multivitamin pills provide temporary relief, but they're not as good a long-term solution as a balanced diet.
posted by markcholden at 9:11 AM on July 14, 2006

Heh, cross-post with coffeespoons.
posted by markcholden at 9:12 AM on July 14, 2006

Bloodwork bloodwork bloodwork. You are probably fine, but fatigue can be a symptom of very serious illness. I know this on a personal level. Make an appointment today.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 9:16 AM on July 14, 2006

Actually, yes on the bloodwork.

Anyone with health insurance should have blood and urine done every couple of years. No reason not to.
posted by ewkpates at 9:36 AM on July 14, 2006

I had a horrible time transitioning from grad school to work life, and I too was tired constantly. I couldn't figure out why, since between school and my part-time job I was easily doing more than 8 hours of work a day.

I think it's just doing eight consecutive hours of mentally taxing work. You need to get used to it. Also, if you're rising earlier than you did in college that'll take some getting used to as well.

If you graduated in May, you've only been working at your job two months, at most. Give it time. You get used to it.
posted by christinetheslp at 9:39 AM on July 14, 2006

its interesting no one has mentioned that a possible lack of iron in your diet can cause this type of fatigue.... review your iron in take, and try increasing intake if you come up short.
posted by crewshell at 10:13 AM on July 14, 2006

Second the sleep apnea, I asked about my constantly blocked nose here on Metafilter and on the strength of the various opinions went to see an ENT guy. I hadn't really connected the fact that I was sleepy all the time with that, but the doctor said I'd essentially been in a constant 'near-state of choking' due to permanently scarred and enlarged tonsils, meaning I would surface into light wakefulness 2-300 times a night. All in all, I was getting maybe a couple of hours sleep a night, and I tended to stay up late anyway, so I was always wrecked.

So, yeah, if you've been having trouble breathing in bed, have a blocked nose a lot or are slightly overweight, go and see your doctor.
posted by Happy Dave at 10:34 AM on July 14, 2006

I second the recommendation to talk to your doctor about sleep apnea. If you usually don't share a bed, it will be almost impossible for you to figure out yourself if you have it. If you have a partner, ask them if you snore and if it ever sounds like you stop breathing at night.

Here's some more info on it.
posted by lynda at 10:36 AM on July 14, 2006

Talk to your doctor, and maybe go through a sleep study.

After college I went through several years struggling to stay awake at work, sleeping as soon as I got home, drinking tons of coffee, and convincing myself that I was somehow just not getting enough sleep. Finally a friend with sleep apnea convinced me to talk to my doctor, and after a sleep study I was diagnosed with narcolepsy. While I'm not saying that's what is wrong with you, I think it's a good idea to rule out any sleep disorders, including apnea.
posted by thejanna at 11:21 AM on July 14, 2006

What time do you get up for work? Do you have an asshat boss that demands you arrive at the office no later than 8am? I had a boss like that once, and it made my life miserable. Getting up at 6am just so you can fight rush hour train crowds to get into the city and be at work by 8am is awful.
I got a new job that lets me show up much later, and as a result I've been WAY less tired in general. I am usually hard core dead asleep until 8am now, and I get up and to work by 9-9:30 am. (I avoid traffic now too, which is also nice)

Hey, it might have something to do with it. It sure did in my case.
posted by drstein at 11:24 AM on July 14, 2006

Could be a thyroid problem. Could be anemia. Could be sleep apnea. Could be overtraining. Could be a kidney problem. Could easily be that you just need more sleep. Could be a lot of things, many of them easily fixable. Please see a doctor. There's a routine battery of tests they'll run you through.

I wouldn't be too concerned about chronic fatigue syndrome. It's really not all that common a cause of fatigue, for one thing, and one of its hallmarks is post-exertional malaise. If aerobic exercise doesn't cause you to utterly conk out, you probably have something else going on. I have CFS, and I can tell you that for me, the post-exertional effect is obvious and dramatic.

Be aware: if preliminary bloodwork comes back negative, odds are good that your doctor will be looking to diagnose you with depression, especially since you're going through a life transition. He or she may do this without a whole lot of training in identifying depression or investigation into whether or not you are indeed depressed. I wasted a lot of time with a depression misdiagnosis and did not enjoy my experience with useless-to-me antidepressants. I understand this is not uncommon. If you are diagnosed with depression, and you have reason to believe that you aren't depressed, I urge you to seek a second opinion from a mental health specialist. Depression can be a serious illness; if diagnosed with depression, I'd urge you to talk with a mental health specialist in any case.

After several years of having CFS, I've learned to deal with it pretty well. Some of what I do might work for you. In addition to budgeting my energy, getting the sleep I need, and taking my vitamins, I get a lot of mileage out of just being a moderate health nut: I generally avoid sugar, eat a ton of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, drink lots of water, avoid alcohol, and restrict my caffeine to one small, beloved cup of coffee before noon. I recognize that you eat right, but you may find ways to improve your diet; it can't hurt.
posted by sculpin at 11:42 AM on July 14, 2006

I'll second the allergies suggestion - every Summer I go through a month of feeling like I haven't had any sleep but it's just a pollen allergy.
posted by lekvar at 12:11 PM on July 14, 2006

Does anyone in your family have thyroid problems? Once I was diagnosed as being hypothyroid and started taking thyroid hormones, I started feeling a lot better. Check to see if you have any of these symptoms and make an appointment with an endocrinologist. Blood tests can diagnose you. (Out of curiosity, where do u live?)
posted by radioamy at 2:04 PM on July 14, 2006

Depression? Anemia?
posted by onepapertiger at 4:08 PM on July 14, 2006

Get your thyroid checked. It's just a blood test. Hypothyroidism is unusual in a man your age, but it's possible.
posted by Violet Hour at 9:11 PM on July 14, 2006

Thirding the suggestion to go see a doctor. I had your problem, and I tried all this stuff about sleeping/exercising more, cutting out caffeine, etc. It didn't help, because as it turns out I had cancer. Not to, you know, freak you out or anything, but see a doctor. Seriously.
posted by myeviltwin at 8:01 AM on July 15, 2006

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