When I ask friends how they're doing, "tired" is often part of the response. A 2015 YouGov.com poll found 38 percent of Americans were poorly rested at least four days of the week. Research from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from a few years earlier found that 15 percent of women and 10 percent of men said they were "very tired or exhausted" most days or every day of the week.
"It's very, very common," says Susan Hingle, chair of the board of regents for the American College of Physicians and an internist at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine.
If you're tired all the time, should you worry? It can be hard not to, since a Google search will show you that fatigue can be a symptom of a host of diseases, including serious ones.
Before you go there, consider the most obvious problem, especially if you're young and otherwise healthy: Maybe you're not sleeping enough. The CDC reported last year that one-third of Americans aren't getting seven or more hours of sleep per day. Some studies put that percentage even higher. If you are a woman with children, each kid increases the odds of insufficient sleep by 50 percent, according to a study presented at the recent meeting of the American Academy of Neurology. The study did not find the same result for men with kids.
It doesn't mean you should blow off your tiredness, but it does mean it might be helped by what sleep experts call "sleep hygiene." That means working backwards from the time you need to wake up and setting a bedtime so you get sufficient sleep, then sticking to it. Limit daytime napping if you don't fall asleep until late at night. Cut out the caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime. Exercise regularly. And keep screens — televisions, smartphones and tablets — out of the bedroom if possible, and stop using them an hour or two before bedtime. The light they emit and the stimulation they provide may contribute to sleep problems.