Always Exhausted? Five Things That Could Be the Culprit
Please note that this post is provided for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. If you have any concerns please consult an appropriately qualified medical professional.
Do you struggle to fall asleep, stay asleep, or get out of bed in the morning? Perhaps you feel as though you are sleeping well, but you’re still exhausted by noon. According to the NHS, constant exhaustion is so common that it has its own acronym: “tired all the time”, or TATT.
Constant tiredness can be debilitating. Sometimes the source of the problem is obvious: too little sleep, long hours at work, or caring for a baby who wakes you in the night. But what if you cannot readily pinpoint the source of your exhaustion?
Here are five things that might be causing the problem.
Stress or Depression
Mental health struggles such as stress, anxiety and depression all take a toll on your energy levels. They may disrupt your sleep and, even if they don’t, battling difficult feelings is exhausting.
Sometimes mental health struggles have an obvious cause such as work stress, a relationship breakdown, or a bereavement. Other times they can be caused by less obvious factors or even have no identifiable cause at all.
If you think you may be struggling with your mental health, see a therapist and/or talk to your doctor. Interventions such as talking therapies, medication, and other coping strategies can help you to feel better and reduce your exhaustion.
Anemia is a condition where your blood doesn’t carry enough oxygen to the tissues in the rest of your body. It can have many different causes, but iron deficiency is one of the most common. Vitamin B12 deficiency, certain medications, some chronic health conditions, and blood loss (either gradual or sudden) are some of the other possible causes.
If you go to your doctor and tell them you are feeling tired all the time, they will likely test you for anemia (this is done via a physical exam and a blood test.) In many cases, the problem can be fixed via dietary changes or supplementation of iron, vitamin B12, folic acid, or other vitamins and minerals. In some cases, more intensive treatments may be required.
Other symptoms of anemia may include difficulty concentrating, headaches, irritability, or feeling cold.
The thyroid is a gland found at the front of the neck. It produces hormones which control your metabolism. Common thyroid problems include hyperthyroidism (where it is too active) and hypothyroidism (where it is not active enough.) Both of these conditions can cause fatigue.
Hyperthyroidism can cause hyperactivity and make it hard for you to keep still, which can contribute to tiredness. It can also cause muscle weakness. You may find activities such as climbing stairs or riding a bike feel more difficult than you’re used to.
Hypothyroidism can cause weight gain and feelings of depression as well as tiredness. You might also be constipated, feel cold all the time, or have heavier or more frequent periods.
Hyper- and hypothyroidism can be diagnosed by a doctor and treatment options vary depending on the type and severity of the condition.
Diabetes or Prediabetes
According to the CDC, more than 37 million people in the US have diabetes, and 1 in 5 of those individuals do not know they have it. Around a third of US adults also have prediabetes, of which 80% are unaware.
Tiredness, particularly tiredness following meals, is a common sign of diabetes. Blood sugar that is too high or too low, meaning that your body’s cells cannot get the fuel they need to work properly, may be the cause of this tiredness.
Other signs of type 2 diabetes include frequent urination, excessive thirst, losing weight without trying to, mood changes, and blurry vision. If you think you may be diabetic or pre-diabetic, see your doctor straight away. With proper treatment, diabetes can be managed. Left untreated, it can lead to serious health complications.
Myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), also known as chronic fatigue syndrome or CFS, has no known cause. It is characterized by feeling too tired to carry on with normal activities or being exhausted by small amounts of activity. Struggling to recover after physical activity, disturbed sleep, and problems with memory or concentration can also be symptoms.
There is no specific test for ME, and doctors diagnose it by assessing your symptoms and ruling out other possible causes. ME symptoms can be consistent with many other short term illnesses, so a diagnosis of ME is more likely if you have had these symptoms for an extended period of time.
There is currently no cure for ME/CFS, but there are various treatment options that can help you manage the condition.