Why Are You Always So Tired

The eminent scientist James Clear summarizes the basics you need to know about sleep and offers practical recommendations on how much sleep you need to have enough energy to fully enjoy your day. Let's see how we do it.
Last Updated
May 29, 2020

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Tired People


How much sleep do we need?

To answer this question, let's look at an experiment conducted by scientists from the University of Pennsylvania and the State University of Washington.

Researchers gathered 48 healthy men and women who slept on average between seven and eight hours per night. Then they split them into four groups.

The first group pulled the short straw. They had to spend three whole days without sleeping at all. The participants in the second group slept four hours a night, the third-six hours, and the fourth group slept by eight, waiting a night.

Here's what happened:

Participants who slept eight hours a night did not show any drop of mental abilities, gaps in attention or lower motor skills during the 14-day study period. Meanwhile, the condition of groups who only received four and six hours of sleep was deteriorating every day. The worst thing was the people who slept four hours, but the six-hour band wasn't much better either. In particular, scientists observed two remarkable results.

First, not being a process of accumulation.

In the words of the scientists, the Induration "has a neurobiological price that accumulates over time." After a week of 25 percent of the people who slept six hours, they began to fall asleep at occasional moments during the day.

Two weeks later, people with six hours were doing as bad as if they hadn't slept for two whole days at all. So if you sleep six hours of sleep a night for two consecutive weeks, your working capacity decreases as much as if you stayed awake for 48 hours without interruption.

Second, the participants did not notice a decline in performance.

When they had to self-assess themselves, they were convinced that their working capacity had fallen for a few days and then recovered. In fact, their presentation continued to deteriorate with each passing day.

In other words, we cannot recognize the declines in dealing with the tasks. In the real world, well-illuminated offices, conversations, caffeine, and a host of other factors can make you feel fully awake, although your actual performance is below the optimum.

You may think that your abilities are intact even with insufficient sleep, but that is not true. Even if you are satisfied with the level of performance you have when you deny yourself sleep, this is not your best performance.

How does the dream work?

The sleep-and-wake cycle determines the quality of your sleep. In this cycle there are two important elements.

To summarize: Deep sleep helps you recover physically, while REM sleep helps you to recover mentally. The amount of time you spend in each phase tends to decrease with age, which means that the quality of sleep and the ability of the body to recover also decreases with age.

How to recover if you are not getting enough sleep?

Scientists from the Harvard Medical School have only one recommendation: try to take a nap during the day for about 20 – 30 minutes. This can be a successful strategy to accumulate enough sleep in total for a period of 24 hours.

It turns out that our organism is very good at catching up with the short-term lack of sleep. He will just spend more time in each of the sleep phases of the second night to compensate for the first one in which you slept undercooked.

But this recovery has a limit. Your body will do the best that it can, but it will never turn the deficit into a surplus. If you want to recover after a night in which you have slept a little, you need to compensate it with more sleep than usual.

How to sleep better

If you have trouble falling asleep, eliminating caffeine will lead to a rapid victory. If you can't without your morning coffee, a good rule would be "no caffeine after lunch". This gives sufficient time for the action of caffeine to blow over before the moment of bedtime.

Tobacco use is associated with many health problems and bad sleep is one of them.

Does your sleeping room help you sleep better? The ideal sleeping environment is dark, cool and quiet. Do not turn your bedroom into a multifunctional room. Eliminate televisions, laptops, any electronics, and unnecessary items. There are simple ways to improve your room layout to make sleep easier and more difficult to distract. When you get to the bedroom, go there to sleep.

The benefits of regular exercise are countless. When it comes to sleep, exercise will make it easier for your body and brain to "turn off" at night.

Most people sleep best in cool rooms. The ideal range is usually between 18 and 21 degrees Celsius.

A quiet and peaceful place is the key to good sleep. If it is difficult to ensure peace and quiet, try to control the noise in the bedroom, creating a "white noise" with a fan. Or use earplugs.

The body loves rituals. The whole circadian rhythm is a big habit. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.

Light from computer screens, televisions, and phones can interfere with the production of melatonin that is needed to enter the sleep phase. The development of a relaxation ritual, in which you disconnect all electronic devices an hour or two before sleep, can be of help.

If you work late in the evening, this will keep your mind agitated and stress levels high, which also prevents your body from calming down and sleeping. Turn off the screens and take a book instead. This is the perfect way to learn something useful and to reduce your pace before sleep.

Scientists believe that at least 50 percent of cases of insomnia are emotional-based or stress-related. Find ways to reduce stress and better sleep will follow. Among the proven methods is daily writing in a diary, deep breathing exercises, physical exercises, and keeping a diary, about the things you are thankful for every day.


Drink a large glass of water after waking up

Your body has just spent between six and eight hours without drinking fluids. If you feel lethargic or exhausted in the morning, you may often find yourself slightly dehydrated. Drink in slow sips a large glass of cold or warm water.


Start the day in the sun

Sunlight is the new coffee. Getting enough sun in the morning is vital to stabilizing your circadian rhythm and waking your brain and body.

Concluding thoughts about sleep

Accumulated sleep deprivation impairs mental performance and is a barrier to your peak performance. Our productivity-obsessed culture greatly underestimates the benefits of getting enough sleep. Ignore this culture and rest more. This is a simple solution to a number of interrelated problems. Worth a try.

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