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

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.

  • 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

Sleeping tablets (hypnotics) do not tackle the underlying cause of sleeping difficulties. It is best to avoid sleeping tablets if possible, due to the side-effects they can cause and the concern that you could become dependent on them.

  • 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.

Sleeping tablets (hypnotics) do not tackle the underlying cause of sleeping difficulties. It is best to avoid sleeping tablets if possible, due to the side-effects they can cause and the concern that you could become dependent on them.

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.
Visit website

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.

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.
Visit website

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.
Visit website

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.
Visit website

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

Mindful Minutes
100,000 free guided meditations.
Visit website

Meditation – Insight Timer
100,000 free guided meditations.
Visit website

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.
Visit website

What is the good sleep guide?

If you have problems getting to sleep, the good sleep guide can help improve your sleep pattern.

  • Put the day to rest. Think it through. Tie up “loose ends” in your mind and plan ahead. A notebook may help.
  • Take some light exercise early in the evening. Generally try to keep yourself fit.
  • Wind down during the course of the evening. Do not do anything that is mentally demanding within 90 minutes of bedtime.
  • Do not sleep or doze in the armchair. Keep your sleep for bedtime.
  • Do not drink too much coffee or tea and only have a light snack for supper. Do not drink alcohol to aid your sleep – it usually upsets sleep.
  • Make sure your bed and bedroom are comfortable – not too cold and not too warm.
  • Go to bed when you are “sleepy tired” and not before.
  • Do not read or watch TV in bed. Keep these activities for another room.
  • Set the alarm for the same time everyday, seven days a week, at least until your sleep pattern settles down.
  • Put the light out when you get into bed.
  • Let yourself relax and tell yourself that “sleep will come when it’s ready”. Enjoy relaxing even if you don’t at first fall asleep.
  • Do not try to fall asleep. Sleep is not something you can switch on deliberately, but if you try to switch it on you can switch it off!
  • Remember that sleep problems are quite common and they are not as damaging as you might think. Try not to get upset or frustrated.
  • If you are awake in bed for more than 20 minutes then get up and go into another room.
  • Do something relaxing for a while and don’t worry about tomorrow. People usually cope quite well even after a sleepless night.
  • Go back to bed when you feel “sleepy tired”
  • Remember the tips from the section above and use them again.

A good sleep pattern may take a number of weeks to establish. Be confident that you will achieve this in the end by working through the “THE GOOD SLEEP GUIDE”!

Sleeping tablets (hypnotics) do not tackle the underlying cause of sleeping difficulties. It is best to avoid sleeping tablets if possible, due to the side-effects they can cause and the concern that you could become dependent on them.

Local Support

Find local sleep support around Doncaster

Tel: 01302 751416


Doncaster Sleep Service offers Parents and Carers support to help children get a better night’s sleep. This includes one to one sleep clinic appointments to assist with children’s sleep, sleep workshops where you can meet other parents and learn more about helpful strategies and drop in sessions where you can meet a sleep practitioner for informal advice. Your child must be registered with a Doncaster GP or live within the Borough and be over 12 months of age.



Mental Health FC CIC is a registered non-profit based in Doncaster that is bringing people together to play the sport they love while helping and improving their mental health – everyone is welcome and supported!.

National support organisations

See what national support is available for sleep.

Tel: 03303 530541

Who do I talk to if I can’t sleep? The National Sleep Helpline can help with your sleep problems.
If you’d like to talk about your sleep, you can call between 7pm and 9pm, Sunday to Tuesday and Thursday and Wednesday, 9am – 11am.

Go to website

National Podcasts designed to help you with drifting off to sleep.

BBC Radio 1’s Deep Sleepscapes:

Nothing Much Happens:

Support Apps

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