Thanks to Mide Ololade BSc for contributing this article.
Tiredness… You’re probably reading this and yawning right now. But if it isn’t my writing putting you to sleep, then there’s a chance you’re tired.
Most of the time we know what’s causing our tiredness and how to resolve it. But what about the times when tiredness seems to take over our lives?
1 in 5 people have reported having unusual levels of tiredness, but just because it’s common doesn’t mean it should have to be endured. Being “tired all the time” can lead to changes in attention, mood and appetite. Read on to find out more about tiredness and how to fight it.
Causes of Tiredness
Water is an essential part of almost every chemical reaction in the body. It is lost in your urine, stools, sweat and breath, and need to be replaced.
Dehydration occurs when you don’t drink enough water to replace this lost water.
It’s recommended we drink around 2 litres of water a day.
Why? Because science shows…
That even mild levels of dehydration can reduce the amount of energy we have and our concentration levels.
BUT the amount of water you need depends on your age, weight, gender and activity levels. If you’re more active on one day, make sure you’re drinking more water to compensate.
Tip: people are generally most dehydrated in the morning. Start your day with a cup of water to kick start your hydration.
2. Poor diet
A poor diet can contribute to tiredness in many ways:
Not consuming enough calories: calories provide the energy we need to undertake our day to day activities and consuming too few calories can also lead to reduced muscle strength which can make those day to day activities harder.
Consuming too many simple carbohydrates: simple carbs include sugars and grains that have had the fibre (the nutritious parts) removed. They cause a quick rise in your blood sugar and the body works hard to get rid of this causing a steep fall. This is why people describe having a sugar rush and subsequent crash in energy.
Consuming too much caffeine: while occasional caffeine has its benefits, excessive consumption can lead to interference with the amount and quality of sleep causing increased tiredness the next day, setting up a vicious cycle.
3. Lack of sleep
It is recommended that we get 6-8 hours of sleep a day. However, even if you’re getting enough sleep it may be poor quality. It is important to address both the amount of sleep you’re getting and the quality of sleep.
Try to ensure that you are sleeping at a regular time and the sleep is uninterrupted to improve the quality. Our behaviour prior to sleeping is a big determinant of how well our sleep will be that night. Eating, drinking and exercising too late can all impact the quality of sleep.
4. Not moving enough
While you may feel too tired during the day to exercise, it is important to regularly exercise, however little you can manage. This is because a lack of exercise can lead to your body being “deconditioned” which means your muscles will tire much more quickly and easy.
In addition, regular exercise can release endorphins which interact with the brain to make you feel less tired and more positive – its where the term “runner’s high” comes from.
Iron deficiency anaemia is one of the most common medical reasons for feeling constantly tired.
Signs you have anaemia are getting short of breath easily, noticeable heart beats (heart palpitations) and pale skin. It is also seen in women with heavy periods
Science: iron is a vital part of red blood cells to help them carry oxygen around the body. For this reason a lack of iron can lead to tiredness and reduced exercise ability due to a lack of oxygen.
If you have been diagnosed with depression or have been suffering from low moods it is likely that your sleep will be affected as well. Depression can make people struggle to sleep, or make you feel excessively tired and sleep for prolonged period of time without feeling rested.
If you suspect that you are suffering from depression, seeking help from your GP is important to help alleviate these symptoms.
7. Under-active thyroid
Hypothyroidism is a condition where the thyroid gland produces too little thyroid hormone (thyroxine). The hormone is very important for many functions and too little can lead to excessive tiredness. Other symptoms of hypothyroidism include: weight gain, feeling cold and dry skin. If you suspect you may be suffering from this seek help from your GP.
One more thing…
If you truly believe you’ve exhausted every avenue, there’s a chance you may be suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS – also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis).
According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, you need 6 or more months of medically unexplained tiredness that is:
- new – you haven’t always felt like this
- not associated with continuing effort
- reduces the amount you can do
- not relieved by rest
If this describes you please seek the advice of your GP.
Written by Mide Ololade BSc
Edited and designed by Rebekah Jade BSc
- Sleep and tiredness [Internet]. nhs.uk. 2019 [cited 5 April 2019]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/sleep-and-tiredness/
- Tiredness [Internet]. RC PSYCH ROYAL COLLEGE OF PSYCHIATRISTS. 2019 [cited 5 April 2019]. Available from: https://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/mental-health/problems-disorders/tiredness
- 10 Reasons You’re Always Tired (And What You Can Do About It) [Internet]. Healthline. 2019 [cited 5 April 2019]. Available from: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-reasons-you-are-tired
- Ganio M, Armstrong L, Casa D, McDermott B, Lee E, Yamamoto L et al. Mild dehydration impairs cognitive performance and mood of men. British Journal of Nutrition. 2011;106(10):1535-1543.
- Armstrong L, Ganio M, Casa D, Lee E, McDermott B, Klau J et al. Mild Dehydration Affects Mood in Healthy Young Women. The Journal of Nutrition. 2011;142(2):382-388.
- 10 medical reasons for feeling tired [Internet]. nhs.uk. 2019 [cited 5 April 2019]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/sleep-and-tiredness/10-medical-reasons-for-feeling-tired/