If you’re constantly feeling exhausted and ready for a nap, you may be suffering from any number of circumstances. Because the causes are numerous, it can be hard to know when it’s time to see a doctor or when it’s possible to solve the problem on your own.
Here’s a look at some of the most common fatigue-related conditions for you to consider. Ultimately, if the problem of lacking energy persists over time, you should talk with a medical professional about getting a full checkup in order to rule out any extreme possibilities.
1. You may be underestimating the amount of sleep your body really needs
In reality, there is no one-size-fits-all recommendation for how much sleep adults need each night. Age, genetics, gender and all sorts of other factors influence your nightly requirements, but one suggested way of identifying if you got enough sleep last night is to analyze how you awoke this morning. If you desperately woke up to the sound of an alarm clock and instantly wanted to press snooze and cling to at least 9 more minutes of rest, then you may need to go to bed earlier. If your work schedule or other daily tasks allow for sleeping in longer, you can also add in sleep time that way by not forcing yourself to get out of bed prematurely.
Sleep expert Michael Breus, PhD, suggests going to bed 15 minutes earlier and seeing if you still have the same dependence on your alarm clock. If you do, try for 15 minutes earlier than the new bedtime and continue to move up your bedtime in 15-minute increments until you wake up feeling rested. If you give this simple recommendation a try, you may find that getting an extra hour or two of sleep a night is all you need in order to feel better throughout the day.
Sometimes we arbitrarily, and mistakenly, think “I can’t need more than eight hours of sleep a night or something else must be wrong with me”; when in fact, we simply do need ten hours of sleep for our particular circumstances. Give Doctor Breus’ suggestion a try for a week or two and see how you feel at the end of the experiment.
2. You may be suffering from depression
Depression, whether it’s of a severe and clinical nature or the kind that’s more short term and related to a specific incident, can take a drastic toll on all aspects of your body’s ability to function. If your physical exhaustion has manifested itself in conjunction with feelings of sadness, of being overwhelmed or of wanting isolation, you may be suffering from mental health issues. Acknowledging such problems can feel weak, but you should understand that emotional disorders truly are medical conditions and doctors and therapists can help.
Don’t hesitate to talk with a counselor, spiritual leader or medical professional about what you’re going through and about trusted strategies that can help you see a way out of the tunnel you may be currently stuck in. As advised by the professional you’re working with, you may benefit from including a spouse or other family member in your counseling sessions to help your support system understand what you’re experiencing and what is needed of them in order to best assist you.
The depression may not immediately or completely be lifted, but seeking professional help can make a huge difference for good on your body, spirit and mind. Your ability to cope and find rest should be enlarged, helping you to feel less tired and more in control of life.
3. Your condition may be food related, stemming either from a nutritional deficiency or a food intolerance
Blood conditions like anemia, for example, are a common cause of fatigue and can stem from a deficiency of iron, folic acid or vitamin B12. A lack of other key nutrients such as potassium can cause other tired-related symptoms, but getting a blood test should help your doctor understand how all of your relevant levels sit in comparison to the recommended values. If your red blood cell count is too low, you may be advised to increase your consumption of iron-rich foods and take an additional iron supplement multiple times a day. A medical professional can work with you to optimize your eating regimen for your particular circumstances. As needed, you may be invited to come back in a few months for a follow-up blood test to make sure the values have improved and you’re feeling better.
Having a food allergy or intolerance can also produce symptoms of fatigue. If there is a genetic food intolerance that runs through your family and you suspect it as the culprit, consider giving yourself a two-week trial run of eliminating that potential allergen from your diet. Evaluate how you feel after the time is up. If you’d rather work with an allergist then try to uncover hidden allergies on your own, you can undergo various types of tests to try to isolate what specific foods and other allergens may be giving your body a hard time.
4. You may have a medical condition like fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis or hypothyroidism
Many health problems produce tiredness as a side effect so long-term feelings of fatigue may, in fact, be a sign of something more serious going on with your body behind the scenes. A blood test can shed light on various conditions like thyroid problems while additional lab work and x-rays may be needed for identifying health issues like rheumatoid arthritis. Pain disorders like fibromyalgia do not have a simple, foolproof test so it may take months of working with a doctor before that kind of diagnosis is given.
Some health problems causing fatigue are completely treatable while other conditions may not go away. Even in these latter cases, there are often pain-management strategies that can still help alleviate the current problems you’re experiencing. If you’ve tried to take the basic steps in living a healthier life but you still suffer from always feeling tired, go ahead and schedule an appointment with a general physician. You may be forwarded to a variety of specialists before being able to understand your specific problems, but hopefully help is just around the corner.
5. You may have a sleeping disorder like sleep apnea
If you don’t have the other kinds of symptoms that go along with painful conditions like fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis, you may have a sleep disorder that affects your body’s ability to get restful sleep even though you’re in bed for the right number of hours. Conditions like sleep apnea affect your breathing and prevent you from enjoying a deep sleep, effectively disrupting the true amount of rest that can be obtained in any given night and leaving you feeling tired throughout the day.
Sleep apnea can be hard for doctors to diagnose since the problem occurs at nighttime, but a medical professional can perform a formal sleep study, if needed, to help shed light on what’s taking place. Treatment typically includes behavioral changes like sleeping on your side and avoiding alcohol, sleeping pills and other sedatives, which can all negatively influence sleep apnea.
6. Psychological tiredness is more common than you may think
If you drink too much alcohol on a regular basis, eat bad and sleep little and are wondering “why am I always tired?”, it may be time for you to reconsider all the lifestyle factors that may influence how you feel. Alcohol, tobacco and having a bad diet may be directly linked to psychological tiredness. Tiredness tends to accumulate. If you drink one too many in the evening you may be more prone to waking up in the middle of the night. So be sensible, adjust your lifestyle accordingly to reduce all possible risks to your health.
If you are suffering from anxieties then these can create disturbed sleep patterns and cause persistent fatigue. Every person reacts differently to life’s challenges, so if you are the kind of person who unnecessary worries about every little thing then you may need to unlearn this habit. Meditation is a great way to do so. You may be surprised, but even 15min of daily meditation is capable of creating a significant sense of calm and control over your life circumstances.
Here are some benefits of meditation:
- significant reduction in anxiety and depression
- significant reduction in cortisol, a.k.a. the “stress hormone”
- the ability to maintain calm in challenging situations
- significant improvement in memory and learning ability
- reduced insomnia
- stabilized blood pressure and a lower risk for a heart attack
Find some quiet time and place, put on a relaxing music, sit in a comfortable position and start to observe how you feel. Don’t pay attention to your thoughts, let these pass. Start breathing deeply in and out. Concentrate your attention on your breath, not on your thoughts. Breathing at steady rhythms will lead your mind into a relaxing, peaceful meditative state. If you maintain your meditation practice for at least a month you will begin noticing positive results. Good luck!