One in five of us struggles with fatigue at any given time but problems tend to peak at this time of year as the usual round of parties, rich food, alcohol and late nights take their toll, leaving us feeling lethargic and rundown.
The lack of sunlight during the short, dark days of winter means your brain produces more melatonin, a hormone which induces sleep by making us feel drowsy, so less light in the afternoon leaves us feeling tired and looking for a pick-me-up.
A recent study suggests that some of our most common coping strategies could be undermining our health.
Public health nutritionist Dr Emma Derbyshire explains: “Many people reach for a sugary snack, caffeine or an energy drink when they are feeling sluggish.
“This may provide an initial short burst of energy but it could mask an underlying health issue and increase the risk of more serious complications.
“Most of us are consuming far too much sugar and this is a major factor driving obesity, diabetes and high rates of tooth decay.”
The European Food Safety Authority estimates that around one in three adults and seven out of 10 adolescents are now downing energy drinks which typically contain caffeine, sugar and the stimulants inositol and taurine.
The World Health Organization warns this is “poised to become a significant public health problem”.
WHO researchers have identified a number of risks associated with these drinks, including palpitations, high blood pressure and low blood levels of calcium which can cause numbness, convulsions and muscle spasms.
There have even been deaths from heart attacks linked to them.
A review of the evidence by Dr Derbyshire, which has been published in Network Health Digest, shows that even health professionals are getting it wrong.
Four out of five student nurses use energy drinks to combat fatigue, more than a quarter report heart palpitations as a result.
She says: “It’s worrying that such an otherwise health-savvy group is not only relying on these drinks but also ignoring clear warning signs, such as palpitations, that they could be harmful.
“It highlights the need for a more systematic and evidence-based approach to tackling tiredness.”
She adds: “There are a number of strategies that may help to relieve what doctors call TATT – feeling tired all the time.”
Out of iron? More than a quarter of women aged 19 to 64 and almost half of all teenage girls are not getting the minimum recommended intake of iron which is essential for transporting oxygen around the body and maintaining energy levels.
Caffeine o’clock: Coffee in particular may disrupt sleep if you drink it close to bedtime.
Dr Derbyshire says there is evidence this could set up an energy-sapping cycle by disrupting circadian rhythms and loss of sleep which will exacerbate any feelings of fatigue.