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Are You Just Tired or Is It Something Else?

Feeling like a zombie isn't always a sign you need more sleep. Follow this guide to find out what else may be sucking you dry of energy.

If you're tired...

1 …But only just before (and the first day or two) of your period
That preflow 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 cramps interrupting your sleep. Keep the cramps under control with anti-inflammatory pain relievers, and make sure you don’t skip the gym. Working out will pump your energy and help get your levels of serotonin back up.

2 ...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 need high-energy foods, like chicken and fish paired with veggies and whole grains, which take longer to digest. Also, aim for four to six smallish meals instead of three or four bigger ones. The more you eat at once, the more energy it takes to digest, and that conks you out.

3 ...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 bit earlier each night, focus on eliminating anxiety by doing things to help you unwind during the day, like tuning in to your iPod for a music break, going to yoga class, and soaking in a steamy bubble bath before you hit the sack.

4 ...And you've been feeling sad and out of sorts for weeks
Depression might be the culprit. When you’re hitting 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 scoring seven to eight hours of restful sleep each night. See your primary-care physician, who can help you figure out if depression is the cause and steer you toward treatment.

5 ...And your brain feels foggy; You keep messing up small tasks at work and forgetting
You’re probably sleep-deprived. When you shortchange 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 shuteye a night. Avoid caffeine after 4 p.m., turn off your gadgets (laptop, phone, etc.) before bed, and lower your thermostat so the room isn’t too warm.

6 ...Every day around 4 p.m., then fatigue lifts at 6 p.m.
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 greasy chips from the vending machine or go on a mochaccino run to try to miraculously revive yourself. Here’s the right way to fight the 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 chicken-and-cheese sandwich wrap.

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