With an estimated 10.5m people in the UK struggling with tiredness, it’s not surpising that fatigue is one of the more common symptoms that people come to me with. Tiredness is not a sign of good health, even in old age. Usually, a long appointment will reveal some possible reasons why, and it’s fairly easy to answer the ‘Why am I so tired?’ question by looking at diet and lifestyle factors. At the same time though, we have to remember that occasionally tiredness can also be a sign of an underlying health condition yet to be found. So if you’re tired all the time, it’s important to find out exactly why.
Here are some of the more common lifestyle reasons why you may be tired:
- You’re sleep deprived. We need around 8 hours of good quality sleep every night for peak mental and physical health. The key hours to be asleep are between 10pm and 2am so if you work shifts, have someone waking your up, or do a lot of long haul travel, sleep is the first place to look.
- You’re malnourished. This might sound ridiculous but subclinical malnutrition is remarkably common. That means that we may not have developed a full-on deficiency disease like rickets or scurvy, but at the same time we are not getting all the nutrients we need. The amount of each nutrient you need will depend on things like your genetics, age, lifestyle, state of health, and gender. As well as eating a nutritious diet, it’s a good idea to take a good quality multivitamin/mineral to help with any shortfall.
- You’re not eating enough protein. This can happen when someone has a very poor diet, or a diet that is not genetically suited to them. Small, regular amounts of protein from a variety of sources eaten throughout the day are best.
- You have ‘lifeache’ or depression. Both of these can really affect energy levels without you really realising. If you can’t change your current circumstances, we can work on your perspective and the physical aspects, helping you to feel more positive and energised.
- You’re not getting enough sunlight. Seasonal Affective Disorder puts us into a hibernation state during darker weather, where we feel lethargic all of the time. The sleep disturbances that come with it don’t help either, but with the help of light therapy, herbal medicine and nutrition, it’s much easier to live with.
There are also some common medical reasons why we can become tired, so if your fatigue is out of proportion with your diet and lifestyle, you need to go deeper.
Other common medical reasons include:
- Perimenopause or Manopause – it is pretty common for energy levels to dip significantly in both middle aged men and women as our hormone levels change. There are various options available to deal with this, but the difficulty is getting testing done to establish what’s going on. Private testing can be used if necessary, although I rarely use them in my practice.
- Underactive thyroid or adrenal depletion. These are often implicated in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and burnout, and go hand in hand as the thyroid and adrenals work closely together. Again the difficulty is getting accurate testing done on the NHS, as GPs offer a very limited number of tests which can easily miss a problem. Again, private testing is an option.
- Iron or B12 deficiency anaemia. This is one thing your GP would often look for, although they may not always be able to establish the reasons behind it.
- Coealiac disease or food intolerances. Usually you’ll have other symptoms besides the fatigue with this, like tummy trouble, weight gain, joint pains, or headaches.
- Sleep apnoea, where you stop breathing for periods of time whilst you’re asleep.
- Insulin resistance.
- Stealth infections like EBV or Lyme Disease.
These are some of the more common reasons, but of course occasionally chronic fatigue can be a sign of something more serious. This is why it’s important to work out why you’re tired and get the appropriate treatment ASAP.
Are you struggling with chronic fatigue?
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