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Why Are You Fatigued?
March 12, 2011

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Fatigue is a common symptom that everyone experiences at some point in his or her life. About 20% of Americans experience fatigue daily that interferes with their daily life. More and more people are presenting in the hospitals, at their doctors office and in walk in clinics with fatigue as their main symptom. There are so many causes of fatigue that pinpointing the exact cause can sometime be long and scrutinizing. In addition to aspects of daily life, prescription medications and diseases, conditions, and disorders both physical and psychological can cause symptoms of fatigue. General fatigue can be treated with home remedies, rest and relaxation, however if your symptoms do not get better within a week its best to consult a doctor to determine if there is an underlying reason that may be causing your fatigue. Here is a list of the most common causes of fatigue and recommendations on how you should proceed.



  1. Overwork- Over exertion physically, mentally and emotionally can cause fatigue. Working 60-80 hour workweeks does not give enough time to rest and recover before returning to work again. People need sufficient personal time in between the time they leave work and the time they return to work. This allows for mental and physical relaxation and reduces stress. The best way to reduce over exertion is to maintain reasonable work and personal schedules to allow for relaxation.


  1. Lack of Sleep- A lack of consistent; regular sleep decreases ones energy and mental capacity. Sleep rejuvenates the immune, nervous, skeletal and muscular systems. It relaxes mind and body to be able to fully function at an optimal level. Sleep debt causes an increased drowsiness and fatigue during the hours that you are awake. Get adequate (6-8 hours), consistent, regular sleep each night to reduce fatigue.


  1. Lack of Exercise- Inactivity allows muscle to turn into fat, which increases the risk for obesity. With longer periods of inactivity your metabolism slows down. This means your body is burning fewer calories to maintain function therefore causing symptoms such as fatigue. Exercise maintains muscle strength, therefore keeping your metabolism at a higher rate to burn more calories. Although exercise doesn’t seem like fun for most of the population even 30 minutes of activity a day will help to stave off fatigue and lower the risk of obesity. Activity is considered anything that raises your heart rate.  This includes house cleaning, yard work, playing with your kids, walking your dog or even sex.


  1. Poor Diet- In today’s society there is a fast food restaurant on every corner. We are bombarded with ads, commercials and campaigns for high fat, high sugar, processed foods. Even though these foods are yummy and there is easy access to them, they are very bad for your health and don’t provide your body with the adequate nutrients it needs to sustain function. Additionally, with the increased hype about losing weight, dieting fads call for restrictions on calories, or specific food groups, and even some people feel the need to abstain altogether. If you restrict the types of food and the amount of calories you take in then your body has the opposite effect. It holds on to the fat and decreases your metabolism to slow down the burning of calories. A well-balanced diet consists of protein, carbohydrates, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats. Without all these key components the body cannot function optimally and fatigue can set in. Additionally eating breakfast in the morning jump starts your metabolism for the rest of your day, so always make sure you eat a healthy, hearty breakfast.


  1. Dehydration-Our bodies are made of about 70% of water. Each day we lose water through sweat, breathing, and urination. Therefore it is necessary to replenish the body’s water supply each day. When you feel thirsty that is a sign that the body is dehydrated. It is recommended to drink 8, 8 oz glasses of water a day to sufficiently maintain adequate body function.


  1. Stress- Unfortunately there is no way around stress, whether it is from school, work, family, money, or even the economy. The objective is to reduce the amount of stress that you have each day. Although a small amount of stress can actually motivate you to do better, work harder or make changes, excessive stress that doesn’t go away actually depletes the body’s energy and nutrient reserves causing fatigue and other symptoms to arise. Yoga, meditation, massage therapy, exercise and stress management techniques are some ways of reducing stress on a daily basis to relax the mind and body.


  1. Depression- Feelings of overwhelming sadness and loneliness can consume ones life. Depression is not only a psychological disorder, it also presents itself in physical ways such as impaired concentration, fatigue, headaches, lack of motivation and loss of appetite. A psychiatrist can diagnose, and prescribe medication for the treatment of depression. Additionally psychologists are beneficial for psychological counseling also known as psychotherapy.


  1. Boredom-Boredom is when one perceives their environment as dull, tedious, uninteresting. Normally this includes periods of inactivity and lacking stimulation. Inactivity causes metabolism to decrease, which slows down the autonomic nervous system (heart beat, blood flow, breathing; all of the organs that automatically function). Overtime fatigue can occur due to decreased energy because the body is burning fewer calories. To stay focused do things that you like, keep an Ipod, book, or magazine with you, and doodle when you feel bored. 


  1. Cold & Flu- The cold and flu penetrate your immune system leaving your body susceptible to illness. Infection, bacteria and viruses drain the body of valuable nutrients. Fatigue is one of the many symptoms of a cold or the flu. Make sure to take all your vitamins on a daily basis, wash your hands thoroughly, drink plenty of fluids and get plenty of rest to keep your immune system strong.


  1. Caffeine- Although caffeine can be a good pick me up to boost energy levels, too much caffeine can have the opposite effect. When caffeine is consumed the heart rate and blood pressure increases. This can cause jitteriness. The entire body is working overtime due to the caffeine, which can cause fatigue. Additionally, if you consume caffeine daily the body becomes accustomed to the jolt of caffeine it receives. If you skip your daily caffeine boost then you will feel sluggish, fatigued and may even experience symptoms of withdrawal. Limit your caffeine intake to every other day or minimal amounts.


  1. Food Allergies- Some people are intolerant to certain types of food. When these foods are consumed it is hard for the body to digest, causing it to work overtime to eliminate the food from your system. This causes symptoms of fatigue. To eliminate these foods from your diet start a food elimination journal. Eliminate foods that cause normal food allergies and slowly add them back in until the symptoms return. Once you have found the foods that cause your fatigue you can completely eliminate them from your diet.


  1. Anemia-Anemia is a condition where the body doesn’t have enough red blood cells. Red blood cells are important because they deliver oxygen and nutrients to all the tissues and organs within the body. Anemia especially iron deficiency anemia is the leading cause of fatigue in women. Iron is needed to produce hemoglobin, the part of the red blood cells that carries oxygen. During times of menstruation women lose iron, which causes levels to drop in the blood. If diagnosed with iron deficiency anemia, you need to consume more foods that contain iron, or your physician may recommend an iron supplement.


  1. Sleep Disorders-Sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, insomnia, and narcolepsy cause fatigue due to the interruption of sleep patterns during the night. Sleep is meant to be uninterrupted to allow the body and brain to recover and rest. Interruptions even if you are unaware of it cause sleep deprivation, which reduces mental clarity and causes drowsiness during the day. Lifestyle changes such as weight loss, and quitting smoking can help with sleep apnea as well as wearing a CPAP device to maintain oxygen flow. Insomnia and narcolepsy need lifestyle management and medication, which may be able to help with these disorders.


  1. Hyperthyroidism or Hypothyroidism- The thyroid controls the metabolism in the body. An under-active thyroid slows down the metabolism, which makes you feel sluggish and fatigued. An overactive thyroid keeps the metabolism working overtime causing the body to deplete of energy stores rapidly causing fatigue.


  1. Diabetes-Diabetes is a disease that causes sugar to remain in the blood. Normally sugar enters the cells to be converted into energy. However, when the sugar remains in the bloodstream the body doesn't receive the energy it needs to function therefore causing fatigue and its related symptoms.


  1. Heart Disease-Heart disease weakens the muscles of the heart, which makes normal everyday tasks harder to accomplish. Normal tasks become more difficult and you become weak, tired, and fatigued before the activity is even completed because the heart is unable to continue pumping blood, oxygen and nutrients throughout the body at its normal rate.



  1. Shift Work Sleep Disorder-People who work at night or have shifts that are continually rotating or changing are more easily apt to experiencing fatigue than someone who has a set work shift every week. For those who work at night, our bodies are expecting to be asleep which causes a disruption in the body’s natural internal clock. It also makes it difficult to sleep during the daytime because the body is expecting to be awake during daylight. A lack of sleep or limited sleeping hours will cause fatigue to set in rapidly. When your work schedule changes all the time it is impossible for the body to know when you should be awake or when you should be asleep. Therefore the body becomes fatigued trying to keep up with a crazy schedule, rather than a set work schedule which allows the body to become accustomed to a set routine of sleeping and working.


  1. Fibromyalgia- Fibromyalgia is becoming a more common syndrome where people experience long-term, widespread pain, tenderness, and fatigue. Fibromyalgia is also associated with sleep problems, headaches, depression, anxiety, and other symptoms. At this time there is no known cause of fibromyalgia however it may present in tandem with chronic fatigue syndrome, which normally appears as severe fatigue and lasts for longer than 6 months.
girl falls asleep at her computer, what causes fatigue