The real reasons you're tired all the time
Being tired all the time isn't uncommon - in fact, it even has its own acronym 'TATT'. Being constantly exhausted is a problem though, and it's one which could impact your work and personal life. It's estimated that at any one point in time, around 1 in 5 people feel unusually tired (1) with 1 in 10 people suffering from prolonged fatigue, and women are more likely to suffer than men.
So what are the reasons behind this tiredness and what can you do to feel more energetic and less lethargic?
Pinpoint the cause
Dr Rupal Shah, a South London GP, lists tiredness as one of the most common complaints patients come to her with. "It's unusual to find anything physically wrong. Most of the time, fatigue is linked with mood and the accumulation of lots of little stresses in life," she says. But if you've been feeling unusually tired for an extended period of time, it is important to think about the following:
- Any aspects of your life that could be tiring, for example family commitments or work
- Your lifestyle - could it be the cause?
- Emotional events which could be a trigger, such as bereavement or relationship breakup
- Any recent changes such as moving house or finding out you are pregnant
You should see your GP if tiredness is affecting your life. They will usually carry out a routine blood test to rule out medical issues such as an underactive thyroid or anaemia.
Physical or psychological causes?
There may be physical/medical reasons for your fatigue. Just a few of the conditions which could make you feel like all you want to do is nap (even though it's only 1pm) include:
Or it could be that psychological causes are behind your tiredness. One of the most common reasons for tiredness is anxiety, as feeling anxious can cause insomnia which leads to fatigue. Emotional worries and strains or major life changes (even happy ones) such as moving home can all leave you feeling drained, so it's important to know the difference between feeling tired for a period of time after a major life event and feeling tired all the time.
Is your lifestyle to blame?
There may be a third factor at work here - your lifestyle. Living a healthy lifestyle - getting plenty of exercise (at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day is recommended), eating a balanced diet and cutting back on your alcohol intake - can all help you to feel more energetic. Lifestyle factors such as your diet or drinking too much can affect your sleep cycle and leave you feeling drained. Even your work patterns could be the culprit - for example, working night shifts and sleeping during the day can impact your sleep, as can working 9 to 5 and spending your evenings looking after young children.
What other reasons could there be?
There are other, more unusual reasons why you feel like curling up under the duvet at lunchtime - here are just a few:
A study carried out in 2012 by the Journal of Nutrition showed that women who didn't replace 1.5% of their water weight had low energy levels and mood swings (2). Your hypothalamus, the part of your brain which controls body temperature and hydration, sends messages to your brain to alter your mood as an early-warning sign that you need to drink more water!
Vitamin B12 deficiency
Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient which your body needs in order to produce red blood cells and for neurons to function properly. A B12 deficiency means your body can't carry as much oxygen in the blood, which will leave you feeling tired. Vegetarians and vegans are most at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency, as the vitamin is only found in animal products. Your doctor should be able to test your levels.
A study published in 'Heart and Lung' Journal revealed that 50% of female heart attack patients experienced unusual fatigue and disrupted sleeping patterns in the weeks before their heart attack (3). If your tiredness has come on suddenly, you should get to the GP for a check-up.
Lack of exercise
Exercising boosts your energy levels - whilst you might feel tired after a run or spin class, in the long term you'll find that getting out of your couch-potato mindset and exercising regularly will help you to feel less fatigued. The more you move, the more energy you'll have. We recommend aiming for at least 30 to 45 minutes of exercise at least four times a week - try one of our free workouts or why not hire a personal trainer to help you meet your health and fitness goals?
The steps you take to regain your get-up-and-go will depend on the reasons for your tiredness. Lifestyle changes will always help to boost your energy levels, so try some of these tips to see whether they impact your mood and overall energy:
- Stay hydrated. As a rule, you should need to use the bathroom every three hours and your urine should be pale yellow colour
- Go for a run. Getting regular exercise and being more active actually gives you more energy! It doesn't have to be running, try a dance class, walking to work or yoga
- Cut back on your TV time. Spending more than two hours a day in front of the box can have serious implications for your health
- Eliminate or reduce stress from your life. If stress is an inevitable part of your job, find ways to handle it better. Go for a run, take a long, hot bath, read a book, practise yoga or meditate, it really works!
- Sleep! Our bodies need between 8 to 10 hours sleep a night, and many of us are severely sleep-deprived without even realising it
If you're concerned about feeling exhausted all the time, it's always a good idea to visit your GP to rule out serious health issues, but for most people, making changes to their diet, lifestyle and sleeping patterns can really help.
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