Feeling like a zombie isn’t always a sign you need more sleep. Find out what else may be sucking your energy dry

You’re tired…

…but only just before (and the first day or two of) your period

That pre-flow dragginess may be caused by a hormone-induced dip in levels of the brain chemical serotonin, leaving you feeling sluggish and blah. It might also be the result of stomach cramps interrupting your sleep. Keep any pain under control with anti-inflammatory pain relievers, like ibuprofen, and make sure you don’t skip the gym. Working out will pump your energy and help get your serotonin levels back up.

Description: “Going to the gym will pump your energy”

“Going to the gym will pump your energy”

…but the exhaustion only strikes within an hour after you eat lunch

You’re in a carb coma. White-flour breads and other starchy lunch staples get turned into sugar by your digestive system really quickly, which causes your blood-sugar levels to spike. Minutes after you eat, you’ll feel a boost of energy – then crash hard, half an hour to an hour later, as your blood-sugar levels plunge. You should be eating high-energy foods, like chicken and fish, paired with veg and whole grains, which take longer to digest. Also, try to aim for four to six smallish meals instead of three or four bigger ones a day. The more you eat in one sitting, the more energy it takes to digest, and that conks you out.

…and you’ve been feeling sad and out of sorts for weeks

Depression might be the culprit. When you’re hitting rock bottom, your body can feel all-out drained, as if you have zero focus or energy for anything. This I’m-so-exhausted-I-can’t-even-microwave-a-bag-of-popcorn mentality happens even if you’re getting seven to eight hours of restful sleep each night. See your GP, who can help you work out if depression is the cause and steer you forward the right treatment.

…and your brain feels foggy; you keep messing up small tasks at work and forgetting things

You’re probably sleep deprived. When you short-change yourself more than a few nights in a row, your brain isn’t able to recharge its neurotransmitters, so you can’t think clearly. Stay alert by aiming for seven to eight hours of uninterrupted quality shut-eye a night. Avoid caffeine after 4pm, turn off your gadgets (laptop, phone, etc) before bed, and open a window so that the room isn’t too warm.

Description: your brain feels foggy

and your brain feels foggy; you keep messing up small tasks at work and forgetting things

…plus you have an annoying eyelid twitch

The twitch is a weird but sure tip-off that you’re seriously stressed. Instead of trying to turn in a little but earlier each night, focus on eliminating anxiety by doing things to help you unwind during the day, like tuning into your iPod for a music break, going to yoga or soaking in a steamy bubble bath before you hit the sack.

…every day around 4pm, then the fatigue lifts by 6pm

The human body normally hits a wall for about two hours in the late afternoon, and the sloth-y feeling gets even worse when you instinctively down a bag of crisps from the vending machine or go on a cappuccino run to try to miraculously revive yourself. Want the right way to fight fatigue? Get up from your chair and stretch, take a 10-minute walk outside for a fresh-air fix, and/or have a glass of cold water or a high-protein snack, like a handful of nuts or a piece of cheese. You’ll be full of bounce before you know it.

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