Although it may feel this way, crankiness doesn’t “just happen,” especially if there’s no specific scenario leading to your cranky mood. These feelings of irritability and annoyance are usually a result of something going on inside your body. In fact, we’ve listed the scientific reasons behind your crankiness along with ways to fix your mood. Here are five common explanations for getting stuck in a bad mood.

1. Burning the midnight oil

Some people brag about their ability to function on four or five hours of sleep. But they don’t realize there may be a connection between sleep deprivation and crankiness. Sleep deprivation can also lead to depression and anxiety. These conditions can make it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep at night, or they can come as a result of not sleeping enough.

Sleep is how the body recharges and repairs itself. A pattern of sleeping only a few hours a night will build up to sleep deprivation. Not only can you develop depression as a result of sleep deprivation, you can also become more irritable and aggressive toward others.

Do this

  • Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep a night.
  • Keep your room at a comfortable temperature, turn off lights, and alleviate sound to improve the quality of your sleep.
  • Consider using a face mask and earplugs.

If you’re unable to sleep after making these adjustments, see your doctor. An underlying problem may be disrupting your sleep.

2. You’re ‘hangry’

Do you forget to eat when you’re busy or preoccupied? You may not be thinking about food, but your brain needs it. The longer you go without food, the crankier you may become.

Skipping meals can cause your blood glucose level to drop, which stimulates your brain to release certain hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. These are also stress hormones. And when these hormones flood your bloodstream, you may experience nervousness, agitation, poor concentration, and low energy. You’re also more likely to take your frustrations out on others.

Thankfully, this type of crankiness is easy to resolve. Since it’s a direct result of being hungry, all you have to do is eat more.

Make sure to

  • Eat five to six balanced meals or snacks a day to maintain a healthy blood sugar level.
  • Eat more healthy, unprocessed foods, such as fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains.
  • Avoid junk food and fast food, which may also contribute to crankiness. These foods may satisfy you, but they have little nutritional benefit.

To boost your mood, make sure what you eat is nutritional. One study linked trans fat consumption with aggression and irritability. Trans fats are found in many processed and premade foods such as baked goods, microwavable popcorn, and margarine. Eating too much of this type of fat may explain your irritability.

3. Caffeine as fuel

There’s nothing wrong with a cup of coffee to get your day started, but it’s possible to rely on caffeine a little too much. Even in small doses, caffeine may cause anxiety, which can have a negative impact on your mood. If you drink caffeine regularly, a lack of caffeine can also cause crankiness.

You don't have to give up caffeine altogether, but reducing your intake may alleviate crankiness.

Caffeine can cause

  • nervousness
  • headaches
  • irritability
  • restlessness
  • a fast heartbeat

According to the Mayo Clinic, up to 400 mg of caffeine a day is safe for most adults. That is approximately the amount of caffeine in four cups of brewed coffee. Keep in mind that some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others, so you may have to decrease your intake to less than four cups a day.

4. It’s ‘that time of the month’

It’s common for women to deal with fluctuating moods. One moment you’re happy and ready to take on the world, and the next moment everything irritates you.

Whether you're menstruating or menopausal, a shift in hormone levels is believed to be responsible for this rollercoaster ride of emotions. Menstruating women often experience a sudden decrease in the hormone progesterone a few days before the beginning of their periods, which can trigger anxiety, agitation, and bad moods. Similarly, menopausal women deal with lower levels of both estrogen and progesterone.

The good news is that you can curb hormone-induced crankiness. One study found that supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids helps reduce symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) like nervousness, anxiety, and depression. If you’re menopausal, take a look at your lifestyle and see what changes you can make. Exercise, sleep, and meditation can help. You can also talk to your doctor about hormone therapy.

5. Underlying mood disorder

Being cranky and irritable can also indicate a mood disorder such as bipolar disorder or depression. If you can't pinpoint the reason for your bad mod or find a way to remedy it, it’s possible you have a chemical imbalance in your brain.

Low levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine can have a negative impact on your mood. In addition to feeling cranky, you may lose interest in your favorite activities, isolate yourself, or deal with poor concentration.

Don’t put off visiting your doctor. Have an open and honest discussion with your healthcare team. Your doctor may recommend medication like antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs. You may also benefit from talk therapy.

Takeaway

Everyone knows what it feels like to be cranky once in a while. You can go from happy-go-lucky to edgy and agitated without much explanation. Crankiness can cloud your day like an irritable and annoying ache. Don’t ignore it! After all, crankiness doesn’t only affect you. It also affects the people around you. The good news is that you are now armed with the knowledge of why you might be feeling cranky and what you can do to feel better. To learn more about de-stressing, visit our page on stress management.

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