Why am I tired all the time?

Tired and stressed man. [Image: Standard]
After breakfast, do you feel a desire to crawl back into bed and sleep some more? Do you find it difficult to sit through a 30-minute sitcom without dozing off? While it’s normal to be tired, if you’re always feeling exhausted, no matter how much sleep and rest you’ve had, it could be a sign of an underlying health problem.

Here are some common medical reasons which can explain why you’re fatigued all the time:

1. Anaemia

Anaemia means your blood isn’t carrying enough oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. When you go to the hospital and complaining of constant fatigue accompanied by shortness of breath, the first thing that comes to the doctor’s mind is “anaemia”. Women with heavy periods and pregnant women are especially prone to anaemia, and doctors recommend iron supplements for them. Men and postmenopausal women can suffer from anaemia but the root cause is likely to be a stomach ulcer or another gastrointestinal problem, or taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

If your tiredness is caused by iron deficiency, which can be confirmed with a blood test, the doctor will prescribe iron supplements and eating foods rich in iron such as leafy greens, red met, beans, and lentils.

On the other hand, you could also have too much iron in your blood- which also makes you feel constantly tired. Iron overload is known as haemochromatosis, a rare genetic condition that affects men and women between ages 30 and 60.

2. Underactive thyroid

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Unexplained fatigue is one of the telltale signs that your thyroid gland isn’t producing enough thyroxine. Other symptoms of an underactive thyroid include weight gain, constipation, and aching muscles. Hypothyroidism is especially common in women, although the condition can affect anyone. Your doctor can easily diagnose thyroid problems with a blood test and perhaps prescribe a synthetic thyroid hormone.

3. Pre-diabetes or diabetes

The most common signs that you could be pre-diabetic or that you already have diabetes include increased thirst and hunger, frequent urination, unusual weight loss, and extreme fatigue. When you have diabetes, your body doesn’t produce sufficient amounts of insulin. This leads to high blood sugar levels, which affects the body’s ability to get glucose from the blood to meet your energy needs. You might also notice feeling of sluggishness and lack of concentration.

4. Celiac disease and food sensitivity

When you have celiac disease, your body reacts to gluten by triggering a response which causes inflammation and damage to the small intestine. A study found that 82 per cent of newly diagnosed celiac complained of constant fatigue. While its not clear how celiac disease causes fatigue, researchers speculate that fatigue may be caused by malnutrition due to intestinal damage. Those suffering from celiac can also experience anaemia. Do you feel bloated and tired after eating something containing gluten (wheat products)? You could be suffering from celiac disease or food sensitivity. Try to avoid gluten to see if your symptoms will improve. If the problem is severe, consult your doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment.

4. Depression and anxiety

Have you been feeling down in the dumps for weeks on end? This could explain why you’re feeling tired all the time. Depression is on the rise today, thanks to drug abuse, job-related stress, and social isolation. Depression affects twice as many women as men and often has a genetic component. Women can be depressed during pregnancy, after birth of a baby (post-partum depression), and on the onset of menopause. Although depression can affect anyone and at any time, it commonly begins from the age of 15 to 30.

Along with feeling sad and tired all the time, a person suffering from depression also experiences other symptoms such as over or undersleeping, loss of appetite or overeating, feeling or hopelessness and worthlessness, and feeling of impending doom.

Other mood disorders, such as chronic stress, bipolar disorder and anxiety can also leave you feeling exhausted. If for any reason you feel depressed, talk to your doctor. If there’s no physical reason to explain your symptoms, the doctor might recommend you consult a psychologist for therapy or medication.

5. Heart disease

Does your usual morning jog leave you breathless and exhausted, instead of invigorated? If an activity you previously found easy is suddenly exhausting, it might be a sign that you need to talk to your doctor regarding your cardiac health.

Although many people associate heart attacks with men more than women, cardiac problems are the leading cause of death in women. This is partly because women are more likely to have the subtle and uncharacteristic symptoms of heart disease. Additionally, majority on the treatment guidelines for heart disease are based on research done on men Many women are therefore misdiagnosed, or told not to worry about their symptoms until it’s too late. 

If you have been feeling constantly exhausted and have other symptoms of heart disease, consult a cardiologist for a proper exam and diagnosis.

6. Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a common cause of chronic fatigue, especially in women. With fibromyalgia, you will also experience deep muscle pain, painful tender joints, sleep problems, anxiety and depression. People suffering from fibromyalgia often complain of “fibro fog”, a mental haziness that makes it difficult to concentrate and make decisions. You can improve the symptoms of fibromyalgia by adopting a healthy lifestyle which includes moderate exercise and a balanced diet.

7. Rheumatoid arthritis

You wake up in the morning feeling tired and stiff, your joints are in pain, and they’ve started swelling. You could be suffering from rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Rheumatoid arthritis is a long term, progressive, and disabling autoimmune disease. It often causes painful and swollen joints- starting with hands and feet- but it can also affect other organs. If you have these symptoms, don’t wait to consult your doctor. Left unchecked, rheumatoid arthritis can lead to disability, so seek treatment early.

8. Sleep apnea

Do you often wake up at night feeling like you’re drowning? You could have sleep apnea, a sleep disorder which causes interruptions with your breathing, leading to sleep disturbances. Sleep apnea is usually accompanied by snoring, although it’s possible to have the disorder without exhibiting that symptom. Lack of quality sleep will leave you feeling fatigued and sleepy during the day. Obstructive sleep apnea- where air is obstructed from the lungs- can also result in low oxygen levels in the blood, which makes you feel chronically fatigued. Sleep apnea can lead to heart disease and diabetes, so don’t dismiss your symptoms.

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FatiguedAnaemiaDepressionHeart disease