Advice and support with sleep and tiredness

We all feel tired from time to time. Too many late nights, long hours at work, a baby or child getting you up in the night can leave you feeling grumpy, short-tempered, unable to focus on tasks and lacking in energy. These causes are obvious and such tiredness can be easily remedied by returning to a normal sleep pattern.

But tiredness or exhaustion – TATT (tired all the time) – that goes on for a long time is not normal and can have long term physical and psychological effects.

Unexplained tiredness

What is unexplained tiredness?

Causes of tiredness can be put in three categories:

  • Psychological causes
  • Physical causes
  • Lifestyle causes

Psychological causes of tiredness are very common. These include:

  • Stress
  • Emotional shock, such as bereavement, a relationship break-up, work problems, money worries
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

The mental health page has information, resources and links to support with conditions such as anxiety and depression:

It is less common that your tiredness is caused by a physical health condition, however there are several health conditions that can make you feel tired or exhausted:

Speak to your GP if you have been feeling constantly tired for more than four weeks and think you may have one of these conditions.

Tiredness can also be the result of:

  • pregnancy – particularly in the first 12 weeks
  • being overweight or obese – your body has to work harder to do everyday activities
  • being underweight – poor muscle strength can make you tire more easily
  • cancer treatments, such as radiotherapy and chemotherapy
  • carbon monoxide poisoning
  • side effects of medicines and some herbal remedies

Many of us lead busy lives, balancing work and family life and sometimes neglecting our physical wellbeing as a result. These ‘lifestyle’ causes of tiredness include:

  • Alcohol – whilst it might help you fall to sleep initially, alcohol interferes with the quality of your sleep
  • Exercise – too much or too little can make you tired
  • Caffeine – found in coffee, tea, cola and energy drinks, caffeine is a stimulant and can prevent you from sleeping as well as making you feel wound-up
  • Diet – eating sugary or high-fat snacks can sometimes give us a quick energy boost to get through the day, but sitting down to a balanced healthy meal is much better
  • Working night shifts
  • Daytime naps – this can make it harder to get to sleep at night

Poor sleep

What can I do to improve my sleep?

If you know your tiredness is caused by poor quality of sleep or difficulty getting to sleep, there are lots of resources and tips to help.

Simple tips for better sleep from Every Mind Matters

  • Keep to a routine
  • Go to bed and get up at the same time each day
  • Avoid caffeinated drinks e.g. coffee, tea, green tea, energy drinks and foods, like chocolate
  • Avoid daytime naps, or limit them to between 15 and 20 minutes
  • Leave work outside – don’t be tempted to check your emails in bed
  • Don’t drink too much alcohol
  • Avoid heavy meals close to bedtime
  • Avoid vigorous exercise close to bedtime
  • Try light stretching exercises, such as yoga or Tai-chi before bed
  • Try a warm bath or a shower for relaxation before bedtime
  • Limit exposure to white or blue light close to bedtime (eg electronic devices and LED lights)
  • Make sure the bedroom is dark, quiet and at a comfortable temperature. Use ear plus and/or an eye mask to help with this.
  • Don’t lie in bed worrying that you can’t fall asleep. Get out of bed and do something you find relaxing until you feel ready to go back to bed.
  • If you get out of bed, keep the lights dim, and avoid blue light exposure.
  • Stop clock watching – set the alarm so you know you will be up in time, then turn it around so that you can’t see the time display.
  • If you have a lot on your mind, jot down your worries on a piece of paper and come back to them in the morning.

How to sleep better
A PDF guide to better sleep produced by the Mental Health Foundation

Every Mind Matters – How to fall asleep faster and sleep better

Tips to help you get into a daily routine, manage your worries, prepare your body for sleep, create a restful environment, confront sleeplessness and find further support.

If you regularly experience any of the following, they could be signs that your sleep health is impaired and you should seek medical support.

  • Work-related mistakes
  • Inability to concentrate or make decisions
  • Extreme irritability
  • Strong emotional reactions
  • Drowsy driving

Other signs include loud snoring, apnoea, restless legs or periodic leg movements close to bedtime.

Relaxation techniques

How can I help myself to relax ready for sleep?

There are many ways to relax physically and mentally. The most important thing is that you take the time to explore and discover what works best for you.

Here are some everyday ways to relax and release stress and tension from the mind and body:

  • Talking  – talking to trusted family and friends makes us feel safe, assured and helps us to process challenging things that may have happened during the day.
  • Chewing gum or sucking boiled sweets – this can release a rewarding feeling in the brain, but go for sugar free options to protect your teeth.
  • Bath or shower – having a warm (but not too hot) bath or shower at the end of the day relieves muscle tension and encourages better sleep.
  • Fragrances or aromas – some people find lavender relaxing and soothing. Fragrances can also evoke memories of happy or peaceful places.
  • Stroke your pet – this is proven to reduce stress levels and increases the bond between you and your pet – as long as they like it too!
  • Gardening – beneficial in many ways: getting out into nature, fresh air and light, releasing seratonin and endorphins, gentle exercise.
  • Listening to soothing music – this can help you to slow your breathing and relax before bed. It can also be used throughout the day whilst doing other tasks to improve mindfulness and lower cortisol levels.
  • Laughter and smiling – scientifically proven to reduce stress levels, this could be watching a comedy, listening to a funny podcast or remembering funny occasions.

‘Mitchell Method’ of physiological relaxation
A technique of relaxing the whole, or parts of your body. Once learnt and practised, it can be used easily and anywhere to relax and reduce the muscle tension produced by stress.

NHS breathing exercises for stress
Learn this calming breathing technique for reducing stress, anxiety and panic – takes just a few minutes and can be done anywhere.

NHS guide to yoga
All you need to know to get started with yoga, including the health benefits, yoga styles for beginners and finding a yoga class.

Visualisation to reduce anxiety
Visualisation is a powerful technique that can help you unwind and relieve stress. It involves using mental imagery to achieve a more relaxed state of mind.

NHS Inform relaxation techniques
Relaxation techniques you can use to calm the mind and reduce the muscle tension anxiety can cause.

Mindful Minutes
100,000 free guided meditations.

Meditation – Insight Timer
100,000 free guided meditations.

NHS mindfulness
Pay more attention to the present moment – to your own thoughts and feelings, and to the world around you – to improve your mental wellbeing.

Sleep resource apps

The Pzizz app helps you quickly calm your mind, fall asleep fast, stay asleep, and wake up refreshed. It uses “dreamscapes” – a mix of music, voiceovers and sound effects designed using the latest clinical research – to help you sleep better at night or take power naps during the day.


Sleepstation is a 6-week online course for people who struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep through the night. The course is tailored to your needs and gives you access to a team of sleep experts who will offer helpful advice and support throughout. Register online.

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