Feeling tired, lethargic, or fatigued all the time isn’t normal, especially after you sleep the requisite 7 to 9 hours a night. So you shouldn’t have to “live with it.” Even as you ask yourself “why am I so tired all the time?” You may be tempted to ignore tiredness as a sign of a busy life. But it is often a symptom of some other health problem. Watch out for other symptoms to differentiate between the numerous possible conditions that cause such fatigue.
Here’s a roundup of the top physical, psychological, and lifestyle causes for chronic tiredness. Which box will you tick?
1. Disrupted Sleep Routine
Disturbed sleep may not always be due to health problems or medical conditions. Sometimes, lifestyle choices you make could interfere with your sleep too. Whether due to working a shift job, clubbing into the wee hours, or tending to a baby at home, a disrupted sleep routine can upset your body’s natural rhythm and tire it out.
2. Alcohol And Caffeine Before Bed
Alcohol and poor diet can affect sleep. Don’t drink alcohol or caffeine before bed. Set up a nighttime ritual and be sure to get a nap during the day if you aren’t able to sleep through the night.1
3. Unhealthy Body Weight
Being overweight too can cause tiredness, as can a lack of physical activity, ironically.2
If your body is perpetually dehydrated because of low water intake or because you lose more water than you drink, fatigue is a common symptom. Dehydration can also cause brain fog and make it difficult for you to concentrate. The tiredness after exercise can often be aggravated by inadequate intake of hydrating fluids and electrolytes.3 Drink at least 1.2 L water every day and more on days you exercise.
5. Glandular Fever Or Mono
Also known as mononucleosis, or just “mono,” glandular fever usually attacks young adults. While this viral infection lasts just a couple of weeks, the fatigue, unfortunately, lingers on for months after. Other signs of this fever are a sore throat, high body temperature, and swollen glands in your neck.4
6. Sleep Apnea
According to the American Sleep Association, an estimated 25 million adults in the United States have obstructive sleep apnea. In this condition, the airways are partially or completely blocked when a person is asleep. As a result, there is a pause in breathing and this can cause blood oxygen levels to drop. In a bid to restart breathing, the brain wakes you up, resulting in a very disturbed night of sleep. The result? You wake up feeling unrested and tired, with drowsiness that lasts through the day.
Watch out for signs like:
- Sore throat
- Dry mouth
- Chest pain
- Headaches when you wake up in the morning
- Hypertension, insomnia, and mood problems like spells of anxiety or depression5
7. Restless Leg Syndrome
Another problem that can cost you precious shut-eye and leave you feeling exhausted is restless leg syndrome. A neurological problem, it creates unpleasant sensation in your legs, resulting in an overwhelming urge to move them. Unfortunately, lying down to rest is counterproductive and can activate the problem, making it difficult to sleep properly. This can also happen while sitting.6 The natural remedies for restless leg syndrome include foods and supplements rich in iron and magnesium and herbal remedies like valerian and nutmeg.
Generalized anxiety disorder or GAD is a psychological condition which causes a sense of dread/unease, restlessness, and irritability. While anxiety can cause insomnia, a major reason for daytime tiredness, it can cause exhaustion in people who sleep well too. With anxiety, as with depression, the mind feels easily exhausted. Soon, the body too succumbs. Other physical symptoms that could tip you off about your fatigue being anxiety-linked are:
- Irregular or fast heartbeats (palpitations)
- Muscular aches
- Shortness of breath
- Stomach ache
- Dry mouth
- Feeling sick
- Pins and needles
Interestingly, physical exercises like running can help lower anxiety effectively. While the exercise itself will tire you to an extent for the first few days, and help you fall asleep faster, soon it will make you feel more energetic.
Depression may seem like “someone else’s problem,” but it’s surprisingly common. As many as 15.7 million adults in the United States had one or more depressive episodes in 2014 alone. That’s about 6.7% of the adult population of the country.8 Symptoms of depression include:
- Fatigue or a feeling of being low on energy and “slowed down”
- Feelings of pessimism, helplessness, hopeless, guilt, and worthlessness
- Headaches and unexplained pains that don’t seem to be treatable
- Loss of interest in things you used to love doing
- Insomnia or oversleeping
- Loss of appetite and weight
- Thoughts of suicide and death9
If your thyroid is underactive and not producing enough thyroid hormones to keep your body working as normal, you may end up feeling perpetually exhausted. That’s because your body is generally slowing down its processes as thyroid function isn’t normal. This slowdown may also cause your skin to become dry and make you feel cold more easily. You may also have to deal with constipation. Some people also experience forgetfulness and depression.10
Insufficient red blood cells to transport oxygen to various parts of the body and to every cell and tissue can leave you feeling winded. If you’ve noticed a general sense of weakness and shortness of breath, anemia may be to blame. Accompanying symptoms include headaches and difficulty concentrating. If the anemia is getting worse, you may find your nails turn brittle, your skin pale, and you feel lightheaded when you get up from a seated or supine position.11 Anemia is not just about an iron deficiency. Patients of hypothyroidism are often anemic because of the body’s inability to absorb the essential B12 vitamin. The top food sources of vitamin B12 include oysters, beef liver, eggs, and mackerel.
Many diabetics complain of feeling tired all the time. This extreme fatigue could be linked to the oscillation between high and low blood glucose levels. Sometimes, the endless rigor of the regimen of diabetes self-management can wear you down, leaving you depressed and exhausted.12
The American Diabetes Association warns of other common symptoms of diabetes like feeling very thirsty or hungry, urinating often, numbness/tingling in the feet or hands (for those with type 2 diabetes), blurred vision, slow healing cuts and bruises, and even weight loss (in those with type 1 diabetes).13
13. Celiac Disease
Celiac disease is an autoimmune problem that can leave you highly sensitive to gluten found in grains like wheat and barley. Because your body launches an immune response when you eat these foods, it triggers abdominal pain and bloating, diarrhea or constipation, and vomiting and causes fatty or foul-smelling stool. What not everyone realizes is that it also causes fatigue or tiredness. It can also result in irritability or other behavior problems.14
14. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Sometimes, no amount of sleep or rest seems to be enough. No matter what you do, you still feel tired all the time. If this sounds familiar, you could have chronic fatigue syndrome. You may also experience memory issues, headaches, muscular pain, painful joints, sore throat, and tender lymph nodes. Sleep problems are also common, and physical activity can leave you feeling exhausted and unwell for as long as a day after the activity.15
Unlike other medical conditions that are easier to diagnose and have some clear lines of treatment, there is no single mainstream treatment suggested for this problem. Instead, a mix of therapy and medication to manage the various symptoms may be suggested. Complementary and alternative therapy can go a long way in easing symptoms and the weariness associated with your condition.
15. Brain Tumor
Brain tumor can cause extreme tiredness despite extra sleep. But tiredness won’t be the standalone symptom. Other symptoms of brain tumor include an inexplicable headache in the morning, vomiting, and vision problems. The tiredness could be because of the seizures, headache, or nausea or because your body is using up most of its energy in fighting the tumor. Also, as the tumor makes simple everyday tasks a challenge, the extra amount of concentration and effort you need to put in everything may tire you out.
This sense of fatigue is often not cured by sleep or rest, even though as the tumor grows, you might be sleeping more than usual or falling asleep during the day. The tiredness is often accompanied by apathy, irritability, depression, or negative feelings about yourself and others.16
|↑1||Why am I tired all the time?. NHS.|
|↑2, ↑12||Fritschi, Cynthia, and Laurie Quinn. “Fatigue in patients with diabetes: a review.” Journal of psychosomatic research 69, no. 1 (2010): 33-41.|
|↑3||Benton, David. “Dehydration influences mood and cognition: a plausible hypothesis?.” Nutrients 3, no. 5 (2011): 555-573.|
|↑4||Glandular fever. NHS.|
|↑5||Obstructive Sleep Apnea. American Sleep Association.|
|↑6||What is restless legs syndrome? National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.|
|↑7||Generalised anxiety disorder in adults – Symptoms. NHS.|
|↑8||Depression. Anxiety and Depression Association of America.|
|↑9||Symptoms. Anxiety and Depression Association of America.|
|↑10||Hypothyroidism. American Thyroid Association.|
|↑11||Anemia. U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑13||Diabetes Symptoms. American Diabetes Association.|
|↑14||Celiac Disease Symptoms. Celiac Disease Foundation.|
|↑15||Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑16||Fatigue and Brain Tumours. The Brain Tumour Charity.|