photo of man yawning who’s feeling tired after retirement

11 Practical remedies worth a try if you’re feeling tired after retirement

By Jason Wooden, PhD | October 31, 2021

The reasons people struggle with feeling tired after retirement include changes in routine, dehydration, health issues, medication, isolation, and age-related changes in sleep.

For more energy during the day, try improving your sleep hygiene, staying more engaged and active, exercise, dietary changes, and seeing a doctor to check known causes of day time fatigue.

Think you’re the only one feeling tired after retirement?

After years on the grind, you’ve finally done it.

You’ve crossed the finish line.

Get out of bed when you want, spend the day doing what you want, and vacation when you want.

What’s not to like?

Unfortunately, if you’re constantly feeling tired after retirement that will certainly put a damper on what’s supposed to be your golden years.

Yes, retirement is supposed to be a change, but not for the worse.  After all, what’s the use of your new found freedom if most of the time you’re low on energy and dragging throughout the day?

With millions of people retiring every year, you’re certainly not the only who has struggled with this issue.

Money, health, are medical care are among the more obvious issues retirees struggle with.  There’s also boredom and loneliness.

However, you don’t hear as much talk about the issue of fatigue.

Is it just one of those things you have to live with after retirement?

Is it something to worry about?

Let’s take a look at what could be happening and some practical things you can do so you’re not feeling so tired after retirement.

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The surprising reasons you’re feeling tired after retirement

Lots of things change when you retire, not least being you’re getting older.  Among the reasons you could be feeling so tired since you retired are:

Your routine has changed

Your mind and body is used to being on a schedule and structure.  In fact, you’ve been living this way for most of life.

All of a sudden, you’re without your normal landmarks whether it’s a daily routine, activities, relationships, habits, or sleep-wake cycles.  It’s no surprise that retirement can throw off the mood and energy level of people.

You’re dehydrated

Are you getting an adequate amount of water every day?  Fatigue is a common symptom of dehydration.

If you’re not sure about this for you, some symptoms to look for include feeling thirsty, headaches, dizziness, dry mouth, and dark colored urine.

Too much sugar

As delicious as your favorite sugary treats are, excessive refined carbs can lead to blood sugar spikes, energy crashes, and leave you drowsy.

Your health has changed

Has your health status or body changed recently changed?  Have you gained weight since you left the job.

Some of the health issues linked to day time fatigue are:

  • anemia (iron deficiency)
  • underactive thyroid
  • coeliac disease
  • chronic fatigue syndrome
  • diabetes
  • too much calcium in your blood (hypercalcemia)
  • infections

Your meds

Unfortunately, some commonly used medications can make it harder to stay awake.

Among the meds known to cause drowsiness are:

  • antihistamines
  • allergy meds
  • anti-psychotics
  • antidepressants
  • anxiety meds
  • muscle relaxants
  • antidepressants
  • heart meds
  • prescription pain meds

Another reason you’re feeling tired after retirement is that you’re sleep has changed

Okay, now we get to the obvious.

A big reason you’re feeling so tired during the day could be that you’re not sleeping as well as you did before you retired.

On any given night, one in three adults struggle with poor sleep.  Research suggests that insomnia affects 45% of adults aged 18 to 64 years.

 

Among the reasons you’re sleeping more poorly are:

Change in routine

Our bodies are designed to be in tune with day and night. We get sleepy when the sun sets and wake up when the sun rises.

If you’re not going to bed and waking up on a regular schedule, that’s bound to throw off your sleep.  If you’re not getting out and moving your body, that will affect how sleepy you feel at bedtime too.

Ditto, if you’re watching TV and eating the wrong things late at night.

All of these changes in routine will keep you from having a normal sleep-wake cycle.

Age-related sleep changes

It shouldn’t be a surprise that sleep patterns tend to change as you age.  Most people find that as they get older they have a harder time falling asleep, wake up more often during the night, and arouse earlier in the morning.

They also spend less time in deep restful sleep.

Sleep disorders

Another reason besides insomnia you’re sleeping more poorly is that you have an underlying sleep disorder. It turns out they’re more likely as you age.

One of the most common sleep disorders is obstructive sleep apnea which affects as many as 60% of older adults.

It happens when air flowing to your lungs is restricted.  The drop in oxygen arouses your body out of deep restful sleep into a lighter sleep.

It’s a real sleep killer that can leave you in the morning feeling as if you haven’t slept at all.

Change in mood

I’ve already mentioned how many retirees struggle with depression.  For some, there’s also the added stress and anxiety from a new normal and uncertainty about the future.

Did you know there’s a strong link between poor sleep, stress, anxiety, and depression?

And that poor sleep can increase your risk for all three?

If you’re not careful, you may get into a downward spiral.

11 Things to try if you’re feeling tired after retirement

Now we get to the good news – there’s plenty you can do if you’re a retiree who’s struggling with feeling tired.

Depending on your situation, some simple changes may do the trick or you may need to do something more serious that requires a bit of an investment.

 

Let’s take a look at your options:

cartoon drawing of man sleeping which can help if you’re feeling tired after retirement

1) Improve your sleep hygiene

Getting the best possible sleep you can every night will help you have more energy during the day.

Unfortunately, there’s a long list of things that can cause problems for sleep.  This makes it important to practice good sleep hygiene, the everyday habits that set the stage for deep restful sleep.

For better sleep hygiene, you should:

  • keep consistent wake up & sleep times
  • avoid naps
  • exercise during the day
  • avoid large meals, alcohol, or stimulants such as caffeine before bedtime
  • avoid using TVs, laptops, or other electronics before sleep
  • bedroom dark, cool, quiet, & relaxing
  • maintain a regular bedtime routine
photo of someone writing the word routine

2) Stick to a routine

Speaking of routine, it’s really important to stay on a schedulue as tempting as it is to stay up late watching your favorite program or to sleep in.

Get out and do things during the day, sleep when your body says it’s time to sleep.  It’ll be great for your body and well-being.

photo of couple walking for exercise

3) Stay active

We’re not meant to be sedentary creatures which is why it’s important to get out and move your body.  Exercise is energizing, great for mood because, and promotes deep sleep.

Make sure you’re doing something physical every day whether it’s a walk, swimming, or bike ride.

photo of glass of water which can help if feeling tired after retirement from dehydration

4) Hydrate

As mentioned earlier, day time fatigue is a common symptom of dehydration.  Unfortunately, seniors are more at risk for dehydration because of changes in their body.

It’s generally recommended to drink around eight 8-ounce glasses each day.

cartoon drawing of vitamins which can help if you’re feeling tired after retirement

5) Take vitamins

Vitamins are one way to boost energy, especially if you’re not regularly eating a well-balanced diet.

Learn more

photo of a healthy turkey sandwich which is a good alternative if you’re feeling tired after retirement

6) Eat lighter meals

Heavy meals can slow down your metabolism and make you feel sluggish.  Try eating lighter meals at breakfast and lunch.

photo of healthy snacks

7) Keep a stash of healthy snacks

Healthy snacks can help keep your blood sugar and energy levels steady.  Avoid over sugary snacks that lead an energy crash hours later.

Instead, look for foods with a mix of protein, complex carbs, and healthy fats such as:

  • trail mix
  • hard boiled eggs
  • fruit and nuts
  • seeds
  • raisins and peanuts
  • fruit and peanut butter
  • veggies and humus
  • greek yogurt
  • beef jerky (without the added sugar)
  • popcorn
photo of person taking a nap on couch because she’s feeling tired after retirement

8) Sneak in a power nap

A quick snoozer can do wonders.  Sleep experts recommend you keep your naps under 15-20 minutes so you don’t wake up in a brain fog.

More power nap tips

photo of people volunteering

9) Stay engaged

It’s easy to feel isolated and become more sedentary if you don’t get out of the house much.  This can lead to poorer health, depression, and insomnia.

Make sure you’re getting out on a regular basis and interacting with other people.  You may want to try joining a club for your favorite hobby, doing some fun stuff with people you know, or volunteering for a cause.

photo of older lady seeing a doctor because she’s feeling tired after retirement

10) Get a check up

When is the last time you had a checkup?  It should be clear by now how things going with your body can cause you to feel tired during the day.

Whether it’s an unresolved health issue, medications, or an undiagnosed sleep disorder, a doctor can help you figure out why you’re feeling tired after retirement.

If you don’t deal with these underlying issues, you may be just sticking a band aid on things.

photo of therapist helping someone who is depressed and feeling tired after retirement

11) Talk to someone

Stress, anxiety, and depression can leave you feeling drained.  They are also linked to poor sleep.

A type of counseling known as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been found to be effective for both anxiety and depression.  It focuses on changing thinking and behavioral patterns.

Learn more

There’s hope for better days

We live in a fast-paced world where there’s a lot seemingly out of your control.

However, what you do with your body and how you structure your days is under your control. A doctor and other specialists can help figure out the rest.

We know a lot about the reasons older adults struggle with day time fatigue.

So, if you’re frustrated from feeling tired after retirement, start making changes today to revitalize your waking hours and make best of every day of your retirement.

Sources:

1. “Number of retired workers receiving Social Security in the United States from 2010 to 2020”, statista.com

2. “Dehydration”, Cleveland Clinic website

3. “10 medical reasons for feeling tired”, NHS website

4. “What to do when medication makes you sleepy”, 2019, Harvard Health website

5. Prevalence of Depression in Retirees: A Meta-Analysis. Healthcare (Basel). 2020 Sep; 8(3): 321.

6. “Why does depression make you feel tired?”, 2020, MedicalNewsToday

7. “Talking Points”, World Sleep Society website

8. “Understanding Sleep Disorders in Older Adults”, 2018, Psychiatric Times

9. “Aging changes in sleep”, MedlinePlus

10. Sleep Disorders in the Older Adult – A Mini-Review. Gerontology. 2010 Mar; 56(2): 181–189.

11. “Sleep and Mood”, Harvard Medical School Get Sleep Website

12. “Drink Up: Dehydration is an Often Overlooked Health Risk for Seniors”, 2018, Cleveland Clinic website

13. “Water: How much should you drink every day?”, Mayo Clinic website

14. “Retirement blues: Taking it too easy can be hard on you”, 2018, Harvard Health Publishing

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