It’s normal to be tired periodically. Everything from fighting a cold to going through an emotionally stressful period can make you feel less energetic. But if you’re always or almost always tired, you may be experiencing what’s commonly abbreviated in the medical community as TATT — tired all the time.
Chronic fatigue may also cause symptoms like muscle aches, joint pain, swollen lymph nodes, and problems with attention and memory. In addition, despite being tired, you may have trouble sleeping.
You shouldn’t ignore persistent fatigue for a couple of reasons. First, it’s no fun going through life constantly tired, and the “fix” may involve simple lifestyle changes. Second, several serious medical conditions can cause or worsen persistent tiredness.
Chronic Fatigue and Disease
Both physical and mental health issues can lead to chronic fatigue. Some of the most common causes include:
- Anemia (insufficient red blood cells)
- Heart disease
- Thyroid problems
- Food allergies or intolerance
- Sleep apnea
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Fibromyalgia (persistent, widespread muscle pain)
- Respiratory allergies
- Undetected pregnancy
If you suffer from one or more of these conditions, getting treatment can reduce the symptoms and increase your energy level.
Chronic Fatigue and Lifestyle
Even if your lifestyle hasn’t changed significantly, it can still be the cause of your newly developed fatigue. That’s because our bodies constantly change due to age and other factors. Behaviors that may not have been problematic previously can “catch up with you” and start making you feel tired all the time.
Some of the lifestyle factors that can contribute to chronic fatigue include:
- Lack of exercise. This can be a “downward spiral” scenario in which you’re tired, so you don’t exercise, and the lack of physical activity increases your fatigue. The solution is to start an exercise program, gradually building from short walks or other low-exertion activities to more vigorous workouts. And it’s always a good idea to talk with your doctor before significantly increasing your activity level.
- Improper Nutrition. What you eat affects your energy level. A common problem is prioritizing carbohydrates over protein. Carbs can be useful since they provide a quick energy boost. Unfortunately, your body burns them rapidly, causing your energy level to crash. High-quality protein, on the other hand, provides sustained energy. You can avoid nutritional problems by reducing your carbohydrate intake, getting more calories from protein, and ensuring you meet other dietary recommendations.
- Being overweight or obese. Being above your recommended weight increases your risk of several medical conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, and others, all of which can cause fatigue. Eating healthy foods and exercising regularly is the best and safest way to get to and maintain a healthy weight.
- Dehydration. Your body doesn’t get energy from water, but water is crucial to a wide variety of biochemical processes in the body, many of which affect your energy level. To avoid dehydration, increase your water intake. A good goal is to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water daily. And it’s best to consume most of them in the morning and early afternoon since waking up at night to go to the bathroom can adversely affect your sleep quality.
- Lack of quality sleep. This can also create a downward spiral. You sleep poorly, which creates chronic fatigue, which worsens your sleep. To break out of that pattern, you should focus on using good “sleep hygiene” practices. This includes following the same sleep/wake schedule on weekdays and weekends, keeping your bedroom quiet, dark, and comfortably cool, avoiding stimulants like caffeine close to bedtime, and avoiding screen use for an hour before bedtime. If you still have trouble sleeping, your doctor can propose treatments.
- Ongoing elevated stress levels. Everyone feels stressed at times. But if you’re continually stressed, that condition can drain your energy. Taking action to resolve the stress when possible is important. You can also practice mind-body activities like yoga and meditation to help better manage stress.
Get Advice on Chronic Fatigue from Your Baptist Health Physician
There are many possible reasons why you’re frequently or continually tired. Consequently, it’s essential to talk with your doctor about how you feel. They can work with you to identify the cause or causes of your fatigue and develop a plan for addressing the issues.
If you don’t have a Baptist Health doctor, you can find one in our online provider directory.