Why You Feel So Damn Tired While Working From Home

Even if you're logging eight hours of shut-eye.

View from above of a person sitting on a couch working on their laptop with books scattered about
Photo: Franziska & Tom Werner/Getty Images

I've always been able to sleep like a baby. I'm not bragging about it, in fact, I'm eternally grateful for my standard eight hours of uninterrupted shut-eye — especially since a good night's sleep can be so hard to come by. However, lately, I've been feeling tired during waking hours despite my adequate beauty rest. Once 2 p.m. hits, the strong urge to take a nap creeps in (and I don't nap, ever). By 8 p.m. I'm barely able to keep my eyes open.

Interestingly, I'm not the only one feeling lethargic. Most of my group chat complains about feeling unusually exhausted and sluggish, too. When I asked my Twitter followers if they could relate, I was inundated with messages from people telling me that they were sleeping fine — but still having a hard time having enough energy to get through the workday. So, what gives?

According to Dr. Lindsay Browning, a chartered psychologist at Trouble Sleeping, "Sleep is controlled by our circadian rhythm, which is our internal 24 hours clock. It is usually regulated by daily cues such as exposure to daylight, when we eat our meals, and when we exercise. When we stay indoors for a long period of time, we lose many of these cues." To find out more about what factors may affect our quality of sleep and therefore, our energy levels, we tapped Browning and a slew of experts.

Below, psychologists and sleep experts weigh in on why we're so tired and what to do about it.

Contributing Factors

Our Routine Is Thrown Off

While going to work traditionally meant heading to the office, modern society has evolved to include working from home as a viable workplace option (for some industries more than others). Although there are definitely advantages to working remotely, there are challenges too. And these challenges may be exacerbated if you're accustomed to working in an office setting.

"Getting into new routines and rhythms for living and working will affect our energy levels — it's a big change to adapt to," says Nerina Ramlakhan, Ph.D., a sleep therapist and author of Fast Asleep, Wide Awake Ramlakhan. Also, without a physical separation between work and home, you could be working longer hours than before. "Working from home can have a huge impact on energy levels because it blurs the lines between personal and professional, which can leave us feeling unable to switch off," adds Dr. Ramlakhan.

We're Spending Too Much Time in Bed

If you work from home and do not separate your work area from your personal area (i.e. you use your bed as a desk or dining table), problems can arise. "People are spending too much time in bed awake and they're starting to associate their beds with being awake," says Kathryn Pinkham, founder of The Insomnia Clinic. "The problem is that in order to sleep really well, we have to spend lots of time out of bed. Time spent out of bed increases our appetite for sleep, so the longer we're out of bed for, the better the quality and the amount of sleep we get."

We're Always on Our Devices

All that screen time? It's definitely not helping, either. We're probably spending more time than ever on our phones messaging, video calling, and using social media, acknowledges Dr. Ramlakhan. and although technology allows us to stay connected with friends and families, the constant screen time can end up draining our energy, she explains. Plus, too much blue light exposure from screens can mess up our circadian rhythm, confusing our bodies into thinking it's daytime long after the sun has set.

The State of the World

Perhaps the most important factor, though, is the incredible amount of stress, anxiety, and upset we're all experiencing. "Hanging over us all the time, like a big black cloud, are worries about our own health and livelihoods as well as that of the people around us," says Irene S. Levine, Ph.D., a psychologist, author and producer of The Friendship Blog. "Constant stress like this can take an enormous toll on our minds and bodies." "All of these factors are emotionally draining, leading to a sense of low energy and fatigue," Dr. Levine says.

How to Feel Less Tired

Stick to a Set Sleep Schedule

In case you're experiencing low mood and motivation, it's important to induce structure. "Get up at approximately the same time every day," Dr. Browning says. "Even though you may not have to get up to go into the office, keep setting your alarm to help your body know when the start of the day is." Shower, get dressed, and try to eat at regular times.

If you don't have to wake up earlier to commute to work, you may be tempted to sleep as much as possible; however, oversleeping can actually make you feel more tired. Aim for about eight hours of sleep (the exact amount will vary for each of us) and try not to nap during the day, as this might impact how well you sleep at night.

Eat for Energy

Maintaining a well-balanced diet is important in regulating our energy and mood. If you're feeling sluggish, it's worth taking a look at what and when you're eating. According to Dr. Ramlakhan, "Eat breakfast within 30 to 45 minutes of waking up. This will help stabilize your blood sugar — and maintain energy — throughout the morning. Avoid overly sugary cereals and include protein in your breakfast to avoid a blood sugar spike and subsequent crash."

Drink More Water and Less Coffee

For those who drink coffee all day long, consider this: Coffee is dehydrating and could make you feel more wired and jittery than genuinely energized, Dr. Ramlakhan says. Cut down on caffeine (ideally no more than one morning cup of joe) and drink at least two liters of water every day, she suggests. "When you're properly hydrated, the cells in your body will be able to function at their best and you'll see your energy levels increase."

Watch Your Alcohol Intake

If you're feeling super fatigued, you may want to evaluate your alcohol consumption. Not only can the sedative effects of alcohol make you feel drowsy, but they can also dramatically reduce the quality of your sleep. Translation: Even if you're logging eight hours, you may still feel tired and unfocused the next day.

Take Breaks

When the onslaught of work seems neverending, it can be hard to step away from the computer. Still, make a point to do so. "Our bodies typically work in 90-minute energy cycles," says Dr. Ramlakhan. "So, make sure you take a few minutes' break from the computer screen every 90 minutes if you're working from home. Drink some water, walk around your garden, do a few stretches, cuddle your dog — these mini rests will not only help to lift your energy levels, but it will also make you more productive."

Exercise

A sedentary lifestyle, like sitting in front of a computer all day, will contribute to feeling tired. "The less active we are, the less energy we have," says Pinkham. Find ways to incorporate exercise into your life (bonus points if you can get outside). It can be as simple as going for a walk or doing a workout, says Dr. Levine. It's all about finding what works for you, whether that's a 45-minute HIIT workout or learning a 30-second TikTok dance.

Connect With Others and Yourself

In today's go-go-go culture, chances are you're always "busy" and this could also be making you feel depleted of energy. While Dr. Levine encourages finding ways to stay connected with colleagues and friends, try to set limits on how much time you spend socializing. Leaving some free time to yourself is important in order to decompress and reenergize.

Be Mindful of Screen Time

Here's your reminder to be careful about what media you consume to protect your mental health. "Stay informed but moderate the time you spend listening to news reports and make sure that you stick to fact-based information," Dr. Levine says.

Try Meditating

We can't plan and predict every aspect of our lives, and that uncertainty can be scary and draining. "Look at what you can control and what you can't," Pinkham says. "Resist the temptation to ignore or distract yourself from what's worrying you. It's normal to be anxious, don't feel bad about that, but there are things that you can do to get it out of your head."

One way to do that? Mindfulness is a powerful tool to manage stress, so you may find meditation extremely helpful. One mindful exercise that only takes a few minutes is breathwork. "Make a conscious effort to focus on your breathing at regular times throughout the day," Dr. Ramlakhan says. "Slow down and lengthen your exhale; inhale long and low into your belly and repeat this a few times. You'll find this a much more effective pick-me-up than coffee."

Do Something That Sparks Joy

Rather than passively doomscrolling, why not take action and do something for yourself? "You can take up a new hobby or pastime," suggests Dr. Levine. Whether it's baking, knitting, or picking up an instrument you haven't touched in years, be conscious about noticing the things that bring you joy, and make them a priority whenever you can.

Be Kind to Yourself

If you're feeling tired, don't beat yourself up about it. Instead, acknowledge how you're feeling and try problem-solving by asking yourself what you can do to feel less tired. "After that, accept that you probably aren't going to feel [like] yourself at the moment," Pinkham says.

Dr. Levine agrees: Don't feel obligated to tick off every item on your to-do list. "Allow yourself some slack," she says. "This might mean taking a short nap if you really feel tired or doing the laundry tomorrow if you're too fatigued today. It's normal to have energy peaks and valleys."

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