There are many different reasons you may feel tired all the time, ranging from a lack of healthy habits to serious diseases. Below are 8 common causes for feeling fatigued all the time, and what to do if you experience it.
What To Do If You’re Feeling Tired All the Time
There is an infinite number of reasons why you may be feeling chronically tired. Often, it’s due to some imbalance in the body, such as a deficiency, or internal stress, but it can also be a sign of inflammation or disease or, for women, pregnancy. That’s why, if you are feeling tired all the time, it’s important to go see a doctor and get tests done as soon as possible. Also, choose to make wise lifestyle choices that help energize your body. The good thing is that most of the below eight causes of feeling tired all the time can be treated or improved.
1. An Unhealthy Lifestyle
Your body can get taxed simply by leading an unhealthy lifestyle. All of the below can lead to you feeling tired all the time, especially if several of the factors apply to you.
- Sleeping irregular hours — This disrupts the body’s circadian rhythm. Try to go to bed and wake up about the same time every day.
- Not sleeping enough — most people need seven to eight hours sleep a night.
- Eating unhealthy foods — a whole-foods diet rich in vegetables, as well as protein and healthy fats are needed for the body to operate at ultimate alertness, and avoid chronic inflammation. (Adding various herbs and spices to your diet can also help fight inflammation.)
- An unbalanced diet — you need not only eat whole foods, but also balance your intake to ensure you get all vital building blocks for the body. This means that eating too much of a single food, even if it’s healthy, will cause an imbalance in your body, so variety is key.
- Not getting enough sunshine — a lack of sunshine often leads to tiredness and vitamin D deficiency, which is why it’s important to go on daily walks outdoors. (Walking in the shade is perfectly OK.)
- Dehydration — for the body to stay hydrated, it needs fluids and electrolytes that come in the shape of minerals, several which can be found in coconut water.
- Lack of exercise — the body needs exercise to function optimally, both strength training, high impact cardio, stretching, and low impact cardio such as walking.
- Eating too little, or too much — being underweight or obese can lead to a feeling of chronic tiredness.
Many people who think they lead a healthy lifestyle still skimp on one of the above, as it simply doesn’t strike them as important. For example, it’s all well to exercise, but you still need time outdoors and sleep at regular hours to feel energized. Likewise, eating healthy foods doesn’t necessarily mean you have a balanced intake of foods, just like drinking plain water doesn’t replenish electrolytes after a workout.
2. Stress and Depression
You may not realize it looking around you, but 18.1% of Americans suffer from depression at any one time. (1)
Depression can be one of the symptoms of a disorder, such as post-traumatic stress, anxiety, panic attacks, obsessive behavior and postpartum depression. Depression can be brought on by severe and chronic stress, traumatic/sad life events, hormonal imbalances, disease, certain medication, various deficiencies and a poor diet. (2) (3)
Feeling tired can be a symptom of depression. Symptoms may also include uncharacteristic restlessness; feeling sad, hopeless or pessimistic; loss of a sense of pleasure from things that used to make you happy; irritation; anger; digestive problems; increased consumption of alcohol; weight gain or loss; suicidal thoughts, and chronic or recurring pain, such as back pain. (2) (3)
Depression can be treated, both with therapy, lifestyle changes, herbal remedies, and medication, or a combination thereof.
Anemia is fairly common and can be diagnosed when your red blood cells don’t carry enough oxygen to your body, usually due to an iron deficiency. It can also be due to blood loss, other vitamin deficiencies, or chronic disease. (4) It can be treated with supplements, such as iron tablets, but severe anemia will need more serious intervention, such as blood transfusions, iron injections or intravenous iron therapy.
What are anemia symptoms? Anemic symptoms often include feeling extremely tired, being a bit short of breath, or finding it harder than normal to exercise, feeling dizzy, headaches, difficulty to sleep, and chest pains. (4) (5)
4. Thyroid Disease
Many people suffer from thyroid disease, be it hyperthyroidism (a hyperactive thyroid) or hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid), and this can cause them to feel tired all the time.
Thyroid disease symptoms vary depending on whether you have an underactive, or overactive thyroid. With an underactive thyroid, common symptoms include muscle soreness, weight gain, an inability to concentrate, feeling cold, constipation and heavier and more frequent menstruation. With an overactive thyroid, symptoms can include weight loss, feeling warm or flushed, shorter and less menstruation, and muscle fatigue.
A thyroid condition can be helped by adequate lifestyle changes, as well as herbal and traditional medicine.
5. Adrenal Fatigue
According to popular belief, adrenal fatigue is caused by a so-called ‘system overload’, whether caused by physical, mental, or emotional stress. This could be as a result of not sleeping enough, harsh physical exercise, or going through a prolonged period of severe stress, whether at home or at work. In short, our adrenal glands work overtime to compensate for the stress, releasing cortisol to keep us going, but they can only do that for so long until they start to malfunction. This results in general fatigue. (4)
As far as Western medicine is concerned, adrenal insufficiency (when the body starts producing too little of one or more hormones) due to an underlying disease, is the only recognized form of adrenal fatigue. This is because there is usually no way of measuring the small changes health practitioners refer to as adrenal fatigue, though blood tests could give some indications in some cases. (6) (7)
Caffeine’s stimulatory effects on the body may cause the body to get ‘confused’ and to then produce less cortisol. This happens if the coffee is drunk during the body’s peak hours for producing cortisol, which it needs to stay energized and awake. As it turns out, between 10am and 12pm, and again between 2pm and 5pm are the optimal times to drink coffee, as the body is usually producing less cortisol then. (8)
6. Chronic Fatigue
Chronic fatigue syndrome (myalgic encephalomyelitis, or ME) is a severe form of tiredness that lasts for prolonged periods of time. Usually, it’s accompanied by headaches and sore muscles, as well as a sore throat, swollen glands, dizziness and general flu-like symptoms. (9)
Chronic fatigue is usually treated with cognitive behavioral therapy, graded exercise, and medication, if indicated, to ease certain symptoms.
RELATED: Fighting Chronic Fatigue
7. Various Disorders Affecting Sleep
You may not think much about your snoring, but it could affect your sleep, as you may wake yourself up from the snoring. This could happen without you really realizing what woke you, as you will probably fall asleep again straight away.
Sleep apnea can also affect the quality of your sleep, as it is a condition where you suffer short interruptions to your breathing during the night (due to your airways closing). This, in turn, alerts your brain to wake up and start breathing. You may not wake up enough to remember being awake, but it constantly affects your sleep.
Insomnia is another cause of tiredness — if you can’t fall asleep easily, or simply wake up several times at night, it disrupts your sleeping patterns. Chronic insomnia can also be a symptom of depression.
Restless leg syndrome, which causes a sensation of crawling or restlessness in your legs, can also lead to interrupted sleep, even if you are not fully aware of it. However, chances are you are aware of having the syndrome, as you’ll likely feel it sometimes while awake. It is possibly caused by the body’s inability to handle dopamine properly. (10)
Nightmares that interrupt sleep patterns, as well as other things that may cause you to wake up, such as someone else’s snoring, can also cause tiredness.
For any of the above, you should discuss your option for treatment with a medical practitioner, as the underlying causes will vary from person to person.
8. Blood Sugar Imbalances
Low blood sugar means, simply put, that your cells aren’t receiving enough energy, while high blood sugar levels cause poor circulation. This means, in turn, that your cells get less oxygen and nutrients, and it can also cause chronic inflammation of your veins. You don’t need to have diabetes to suffer from some blood sugar imbalances.
To balance your blood sugar levels, it’s important to eat regularly, and not leave it too long between meals. Low GI meals are also important, so as to avoid sugar rushes and crashes. This is important even for people who are not diabetic, or prediabetic – not least to ensure they never become so, but also to have stable energy levels throughout the day.
If you suspect your blood sugar levels are really imbalanced, you need to seek medical attention, as diabetes needs urgent treatment.
As feeling tired all the time can be a result of anything from physical causes such as disease, poor lifestyle choices and adrenal fatigue, to mental causes, such as stress and depression, it’s important to get tested to rule out the possibility of deficiencies and disease. And remember that if you suffer depression, symptoms are not that different from thyroid disease symptoms, as thyroid disease can cause depression too. So do go see a doctor. It’s also important, however, to look at your lifestyle and make changes to help you become as healthy as possible — both physically and mentally — as it will help your overall energy levels.