“Why do I feel so tired?” Do you find yourself saying that more often than you would like? Why are you feeling tired all the time, and have no energy?
We all have times in our life when we are tired or suffering from fatigue. It’s a part of life. It’s our body’s way of telling us it needs to recharge. But what about those days when you are feeling tired all the time for no reason?
Feeling Tired All The Time
You think that you are always sleepy no matter how much sleep I get. It is easy to blame your tiredness on the modern lifestyle. We all do it. We are really busy. That is why we are feeling tired all the time. Well, that is what we say.
And that is partly true. No longer do we go to sleep when it gets dark. And wake up when it is light. We don’t have a healthy lifestyle. We sleep less than we should. Which is why we have no energy and feel tired all the time.
Do I Feel Tired or Fatigued?
Sometimes, though, the tiredness seems to stick around. You can just feel tired all the time. This can affect men and women too. No amount of rest can make you feel less tired.
This is when words like “fatigue” and “exhaustion” come into play. Something that you felt was a minor complaint of being tired all the time, becomes a crippling problem.
The online Oxford Dictionary defines fatigue as
“Extreme tiredness resulting from physical exertion or illness.”
So, when does normal tiredness cross the line into fatigue.? The kind of exhaustion that you possibly need to be addressed by a doctor.
Take care that your level of exhaustion does not interfere with your quality of life. Nor should it interfere with your ability to attend to normal duties associated with your work and home life. If it does, you need a medical check up. However, there really are no uniform guidelines. Tolerance is always subjective. So if you have any doubts or questions about whether or not something is normal, then seek the advice of a medical health professional.
You may feel tired all the time because of continued overexertion. It can by due to underlying issues. You might find that it could even be a side effect of medications used to treat any number of disorders.
Just as there is no easy explanation of cause of extreme tiredness, there is no generic solution to be applied across the board.
Physical Causes of Fatigue
Let’s start with the simplest causes. These are the issues that are most controllable and easiest to remedy when you set your mind to it. These include things like overexertion, poor eating habits, and poor sleep habits. These can make you tired all the time.
These are mostly things that don’t require investigation to discover. You generally know if you are working too hard or not eating properly. However, knowing what the issue is and taking steps to remedy the issue are two entirely different things.
Is Your Activity Level Making You Tired?
We generally think of fatigue as a natural result of a high level of physical activity. It is the expected result of exertion. Either in bursts, such as a professional athlete in a performance, emergency services personnel in a crisis, or even mowing a lawn with a push mower.
Some types of employment are by nature more physically demanding than others. Normally this type of exhaustion is remedied with rest. A day off or a few days’ vacation and the body resets itself. And you normally know that you have exerted yourself more than you normally would.
However, it is important to note that lack of physical activity can also result in feeling tired all the time. As you might imagine, this is not so easy to resolve. The issue often has a direct correlation with type of employment. We live in a digital age, and as a result a large number of jobs that we now do are considered sedentary. According to Leonor Crossley of Bizfluent, a job is classified as sedentary if the employee spends
“the majority of their shifts sitting, lifting no more than 10 pounds and standing and walking no more than two hours of an eight-hour work day.”
Most sedentary jobs do require a high degree of alertness, so the effect on the body is twofold. Continuous mental exertion will cause fatigue. This results in lower concentration. The brain also needs adequate oxygen to remain alert, and this is where lack of physical activity plays a part. The less physically active we are, the lower our production of red blood cells. Red blood cells carry nutrients, glucose, and oxygen throughout our body to allow it to function properly.
There is also the growing problem of people needing to work more than the standard 40-hour work week at one job. Or must work multiple jobs in order to make ends meet. Thus adequate rest has become a rare commodity.
This is why you are often advised to take short breaks every few hours if you are stuck at a desk. WebMD cited a study done by California State University in Long Beach, CA, which asked whether people were more energized by a high sugar or high carbohydrate snack, or by a quick walk.
The snack gave an energy boost quicker, but the body burns through this fuel quicker. Participants actually had lower energy levels after an hour. By contrast, the participants who went on a 10-minute walk saw an increase in energy for up to two hours afterwards.
Sugar and carbohydrates will give a more immediate burst of energy, but that also comes with the inevitable sugar crash (sometimes known as the 2 o’clock slump or mid-afternoon slump…misnomers because this slump can hit any time of day if you’ve been sitting at a desk for a while without a break.)
There are some people who won’t take breaks because they fear it will cut down on their productivity, but in actuality the opposite is true. Regular breaks can actually increase productivity because it refreshes the brain and thus, concentration and thinking. Author Nir Eyal told Psychology Today that the part of our brain that drives us to complete our goals, but for particularly difficult tasks or goals, a quick activity break may
“renew and strengthen motivation later on.”
What does this have to do with fatigue? It means more and more Americans are prone to fatigue due to lack of opportunity to rest, and fatigue can lead to more health problems. For this reason, you need to learn to recognize when you cross the line between being “just tired” and feeding a serious health problem.
The second thing that you must consider when looking to treat continuous exhaustion is diet. Many of us are increasingly dependent on highly processed foods. Burgers, hot dogs, and other items on the menus of fast food restaurants have become staples in western society. Microwave meals are also increasingly popular as they can be grabbed for lunch with no packing necessary and very little preparation to be ready to eat.
All of the above mentioned are likely high in carbohydrates, sugars, and salts and are a poor source of many other essential vitamins. Vitamin deficiencies are a key cause of fatigue, and one that can usually be remedied by paying more attention to what we eat. Additionally, this nutrient-poor diet can lead to heart disease, hypertension, and stroke, all of which can result in fatigue.
When and how often we eat also has an effect on our metabolism. This can lead to a metabolic rate that is too slow (metabolic rate being how quickly your body breaks down food and turns it into energy.) Some of our metabolism is inherited, dictated by genetics, gender, and age, but some is influenced by exercise and dietary habits. Dietitians often recommend eating smaller meals more frequently. This can help speed up the metabolism and also helps the body regulate blood glucose better by preventing sharp rises and drops.
Is Anemia Causing Your Fatigue
Fatigue is often one of the symptoms of anemia. We most often think of anemia as an iron deficiency, but in reality, there are many types of anemia. This blood disorder can be caused by various vitamin or mineral deficiencies other than iron, or bone marrow disease, and it can be the result of chronic liver problems.
Some medications, such as anti-inflammatory medications, can have an effect on the production of red blood cells. Then, there are hereditary disorders such as sickle cell anemia, a type of hemolytic anemia, that can contribute greatly to excessive fatigue.
As you might expect, if blood and the circulatory system come in to play, so does the heart. The heart moves the blood throughout the body. Think of a fuel pump in a car moving gasoline through the car. If the movement of the fuel is impeded in any way, it affects the movement of the car. According to naturopathic doctor Dr. Gabrielle Francis, compromising the heart will compromise the efficiency of circulation, leading to fatigue
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is a poorly understood condition that consists of extreme exhaustion that cannot be explained by any other medical disorder and is not improved by rest or sleep. There are no definitive tests to diagnose CFS, sometimes called Systemic Exertion Intolerance Disease or Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, and the cause is unknown. Many experts believe it to be due to a combination of factors.
Without a cause to zero in on, treatment instead focuses on symptom alleviation. Besides exhaustion, symptoms include severe reduction in concentration, memory loss, pain in the throat, joints, or muscles, poor quality sleep, excessive crippling exhaustion following exertion.
Often confused with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and often co-existing with CFS, fibromyalgia is another poorly understood disorder of unknown cause. Fibromyalgia’s most well-known symptom is widespread pain, but also includes extreme fatigue, memory, and sleep issues. As with CFS, treatment is focused on symptom alleviation.
It has long been known that depression has a physical effect on the body. People who suffer from major depressive disorder are often less active, and it has already been seen that lack of activity can lead to fatigue. As it turns out, fatigue is one of the most prevalent presenting symptoms of major depressive disorder.
Three categories have been identified with depression: physical, cognitive, and emotional. The physical symptoms are as previously discussed. There is a significant decrease in physical activity and physical endurance, lower energy, feeling slow and sluggish, and having issues sleeping (either not sleeping well or sleeping too much.)
As far as cognitive fatigue, one could expect to see symptoms such as decreased concentration, attention, and mental endurance, as well as slowed mental processing and thinking. Emotional fatigue would be characterized by such things as apathy and decreased interest in activities once enjoyed, as well as feeling emotionally low.
All of this combines to create a self-perpetuating cycle. A person who suffers from major depressive disorder withdraws from activity, and the lack of activity as well as emotional stress brings on fatigue, and with fatigue comes a further drop in mood. One state fuels the other.
You may ask yourself, how do you differentiate between fatigue associated with major depression disorder and side effects of medications you may take to treat depression? According to Dr. Fava13, Doctors need to consider many things. Fatigue can certainly present without MDD. Sometimes exams will reveal a patient with some depressive symptoms that co-exist with, but not severe enough to qualify for a diagnosis of MDD.
It becomes essential to identify the source of these symptoms as accurately as possible. There exists a battery of tests that doctors use to help differentiate. Dr. Fava specifically mentions the Fatigue Questionnaire and the Fatigue Associated with Depression (FasD) scale. The patient will self-score the test and they are done periodically during treatment to monitor progress and symptoms.
Is There a Solution?
Fatigue is much more complex than it would seem. It is not a cause of just feeling tired. Clearly the causes of fatigue are myriad, and the prognosis for relief will be just as varied.
Treatment could be as simple as a change in diet or exercise or could require an entire battery of tests. Relief could be immediate or could require constant monitoring and adjustments.
In cases that involve a chronic illness, treatment often requires an individual to accept a new normal. This does not mean that you should be resigned to a life of unbearable exhaustion.
With careful self-monitoring, the new normal could mean learning to manage symptoms with a combination of conventional therapies, home remedies, and alternative therapies. Alternative therapies could include yoga practice, acupressure, massage, and homeopathic remedies.