Post-Work Slump: Why You're Tired After Work

Exhausted after clocking out? Read on for common culprits of after-work tiredness, as well as tips to feel more energized in the evenings.

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Do you feel completely spent by the end of your workday? You’re not alone.

The good news is feeling tired after work is totally normal! In fact, research found that close to 50% of people say they are often or always exhausted due to work. And that “tired” feeling can be two things: sleepiness, which means you’re more driven to sleep, or fatigue, which, according to neurologist and sleep advisor Dr. Chris Winter, is defined as low energy. Depending on what’s happening with you and your body, you could feel either or both at the end of the workday.

But even if it is normal, feeling tired at the end of the workday can affect your social life, your energy for housework, and even your workout routine. But there are steps you can take to fight post-work exhaustion (both physical and mental) and restore your energy levels so you have the energy to not only perform at work but do the things you love outside of the office.

Here’s everything you need to know about work fatigue and how to fight it:

Understanding what causes post-work fatigue

It’s perfectly normal to feel tired after work. Here’s why:

One of the main reasons you have no energy after work is that you’re using all of your available energy — mentally, physically, or both — throughout the workday.

“Everything we do [at work] burns calories and uses energy [including] social interactions, typing on a keyboard, talking on the phone, even reading,” says Alexandra Cromer, a licensed professional counselor in Richmond, Virginia, who specializes in sleep issues. “All contribute to fatigue.”

As the day goes on and you expend more energy — whether that’s solving an issue with a client, powering through a deadline, giving a presentation to your team, or physically exerting yourself — you become more fatigued. And the more fatigued you are, the harder it is to get things done. “As the day progresses, we require more energy in order to maintain the same level of energy and productivity,” says Cromer.

But in addition to spending an entire day expending energy, there are other factors that could be draining your energy even further, including:


Work (and life!) can be stressful. There are deadlines, difficult relationships to navigate, and expectations to meet when it comes to job performance. When you’re under stress, your body responds by going into “fight or flight” mode, which can contribute to more tiredness after work than you would feel if you weren’t under stress.

All of that stress — and the post-work fatigue that comes with it — can have a serious impact on both mental and physical health. According to Cromer, untreated post-work fatigue can cause potential psychological effects such as loss of self-esteem, loss of social support system, and an increased likelihood of developing anxiety or depression.

It can also have an impact on the body. “Physiologically, post-work fatigue can increase risk of stroke and heart attack, cause weight loss or gain, and in severe circumstances, [bring on] other stress-related behaviors such as hair loss, hives, or other similar conditions,” Cromer continues. Work stress can lead to worse sleep quality and insomnia, which can, in turn, make you even more tired.

The longer work-related stress and fatigue go on, the more likely these issues are to compound, increasing the risk of burnout. Burnout and stress have many similarities; however, burnout can cause more serious issues, such as:

  • Lowered immunity
  • Frequent headaches
  • Change in attitude
  • Feeling detached, defeated, or unmotivated

“Post-work fatigue carries an inherently high risk for the potential of developing into burnout if left untreated,” says Cromer. “Further, we know that burnout, whether acute or long-term, carries with it both psychological and physiological risks.”

Work environment

“Any job has the potential to cause post-work fatigue,” says Cromer. “But some work environments are significantly more likely to cause post-work fatigue than others.”

For example, jobs that come with a lot of responsibility, demands, and expectations (like meeting tight deadlines or overseeing big projects) can, for many, feel stressful and exhausting, leading people to expend more mental strain throughout the day.

The pace at which you’re expected to work can also lead to increased tiredness. “Jobs that do not offer regular breaks during the workday or that are fast-paced can increase the frequency of fatigue for employees — and increase the likelihood of post-work fatigue development,” says Cromer.

A work environment that doesn’t prioritize safety, both physically and psychologically, can also increase the likelihood of post-work fatigue.

“Workers who are exposed to unsafe work conditions — mental or physical — are also at a higher likelihood of developing post-work fatigue as they have to expend a high amount of energy to not only perform and complete their job but maintain a level of safety that's not been provided by their employer,” says Cromer.

And finally, your work setup can also contribute to your feeling more or less tired at the end of the day. For example, if you spend your day looking at screens, your eyes may feel strained and tired at the end of the day. Or, if your work chair is uncomfortable and unsupportive, it can strain your neck, shoulders, and back, which can make you feel more tired at the day’s end.

Not getting enough sleep

Another major contributor to feeling tired (both sleepy and fatigued) after work — or just tired in general? Not getting enough high-quality sleep.

“Sleepiness is always exacerbated by inadequate or dysfunctional sleep,” says Winter. “It's baked into the definition.”

So, if you’re not getting enough sleep, it makes sense that you’d feel sleepier the following day — particularly after logging eight or more hours at work.

“I think that poor sleep and not restoring our bodies can also contribute to fatigue,” says Winter. So, if you’re feeling less sleepy and more low energy at the end of the workday, that could also be an issue with your sleep. Although it’s important to highlight that there are many, many reasons you could be feeling fatigued that have nothing to do with sleep — so if you’re struggling with chronic fatigue, it’s important to talk to your doctor to figure out what’s going on.

There are a huge variety of other factors that could contribute to post-work exhaustion, including:

  • Long hours
  • Social requirements
  • Not getting enough sleep
  • Interpersonal conflict (either at work or at home)
  • A sedentary job
  • Poor diet
  • Dehydration
  • Lack of self-care practices
  • A long commute
  • Poor or toxic management

“Experiencing any of these triggers alone, or in combination, can significantly increase frequency and intensity of post-work fatigue,” says Cromer.

5 strategies to combat workday exhaustion

Now that you understand what might be making you feel tired after work — and that regular tiredness is completely normal — let’s jump into the solution: how to get your energy back and feel more awake, alert, and energized after work (and all day long).

Some strategies to combat physical exhaustion and mental exhaustion after work (and combat the burnout that sometimes comes with it) include:

Prioritize sleep

If you’re feeling exhausted after work, one of the best strategies for having more energy doesn’t happen in the office; it happens in the bedroom. Prioritizing sleep and getting the high-quality rest you need can fight those feelings of fatigue and replenish your energy.

So, how do you do that?

Implement habits that will help improve your sleep, like going to bed at the same time every night, limiting screen time in the few hours before bed, and avoiding caffeine past noon. Try to get your ideal amount of sleep each night (generally between seven and nine hours) and avoid under or oversleeping.

These habits will help you consistently get better sleep, which, in turn, can help you feel less tired after work.

Stay hydrated and eat healthy

Think of your body like a car: It needs fuel to function properly. And if you’re not giving it the right fuel during work, it’s going to run out of gas, leaving you totally exhausted at the end of the workday.

If you want to feel energized after work, prioritize eating healthy foods throughout the day (including a balance of healthy fats, protein, and carbohydrates) and make sure you’re drinking plenty of water.

Exercise regularly

With many jobs, you’re completely sedentary. Unless you’re intentional about getting movement, you could go an entire day sitting at your desk, only getting up to use the restroom or grab lunch.

And while it seems counterintuitive, all of that sitting can actually make you feel more tired after work.

When you exercise, your body produces endorphins, feel-good hormones that can help improve mood, reduce stress, and — you guessed it — make you feel more energized. So, when you’re sedentary, your body doesn’t produce those endorphins, which can lead to feeling tired. This is why prioritizing exercise is so important.

Find an exercise you enjoy (for example, running, strength training, or yoga), and then make sure you’re hitting recommended exercise targets. In addition to your workouts, you should also aim to incorporate more movement throughout your day in general. Examples include doing five minutes of stretching every hour or going for a 30-minute walk after lunch to shake off any post-lunch tiredness.

Light exposure

Whether you work from home or in an office, chances are you’re spending a lot of time inside and under artificial light, which can throw off your circadian rhythm and make it harder to get good sleep.

The good news? There’s a simple solution: Get more natural light.

Research shows that exposure to natural light can regulate circadian rhythms and, in turn, help you get better sleep, which can help you feel more energized throughout the day, including after work. If you can, get away from artificial lighting, head outside, and expose yourself to sunlight throughout the day to improve sleep and increase energy.


Obviously, you’re breathing all the time — including throughout the workday. But if you’re tired when you get home, engaging in some intentional breathing exercises can help. Why? They (aka “rest and digest”) can help you unwind, feel less fatigued, and support better sleep (all helping you feel less tired the following day).

There are a number of breathing exercises you can do to relax, like box breathing or 4-7-8 breathing, or, if you’re looking for more variety, you could download a mindfulness or breathing app. For best results, Cromer recommends doing breathing and/or other mindfulness exercises (like progressive muscle relaxation) three times per day.

When to get help for work exhaustion

Though it’s normal to feel lower energy or increased sleepiness at the end of the workday, if you’re dealing with chronic fatigue and exhaustion — and you feel that way no matter how much you sleep — it’s important to seek help from a medical and/or mental health professional to get to the bottom of what’s going on.

“Unfortunately, when people struggle with fatigue, there is often an automatic assumption that it's because something is wrong with their sleep; [for example], they are not sleeping enough, or it's taking them too long to fall asleep,” says Winter. “This can be an incredibly problematic or harmful relationship to assume. It creates this ‘if only my sleep were better, I would feel better’ mentality that might be keeping the person from finding the real reason they are fatigued.” These reasons could include things like tick-borne illnesses, depression, an autoimmune disease such as Multiple Sclerosis, or a vitamin D deficiency.

Frequently asked questions about tiredness after work

Need more insights on post-work fatigue? Let’s take a look at some frequently asked questions about tiredness after work:

Is it normal to be tired after working?

It is completely normal to feel tired after working, particularly after a stressful or long day. However, while occasionally feeling tired after work is normal, chronic, ongoing exhaustion that interferes with your daily functioning, happiness, or health is not. If that’s what you’re experiencing, you may want to seek professional help.

What are the red flags for fatigue?

Red flags for fatigue include trouble concentrating, issues with mood (for example, feeling more anxious or irritable than usual), decreased productivity, and trouble sleeping.

Does the type of work affect post-work fatigue?

The type of work you do can absolutely affect post-work fatigue. For example, people with mentally or physically demanding jobs will likely experience more post-work fatigue than people with less demanding roles. Additionally, people who work long hours or challenging schedules (for example, overnight or sporadic shifts) will likely be more fatigued after work than people who work shorter or more consistent hours.

How does caffeine intake affect post-work tiredness?

Caffeine may give you an initial boost of energy, which can help you perform at work. However, caffeine can also cause a “crash” later in the day, which can make you feel more tired after work and disrupt your sleep.