Often, immediately after waking up, you assure yourself that you’ll go to the health club right after work. Yet, when that time comes, you are so exhausted that all you could possibly think about is lying on the sofa and watch TV… I pretty sure that happens with most people today!
So, you may ask: How come I’m constantly tired? Am I not getting sufficient sleep at night, or do I have a medical condition?
Chronic tiredness is one of the most common complaints that bring people to their doctor, says J. Fred Ralston Jr., MD, an internist practicing in western Tennessee and a past president of the American College of Physicians.
“People put it all kinds of different ways: Some say they’re tired, some say they’re fatigued, some say they just aren’t able to do what they need to do,” Ralston says.
The biggest cause of tiredness these days, says Ralston, is “the modern American lifestyle. Being overweight, eating too many fast foods, and not exercising enough.”
So what can you do? Here are 3 lifestyle adjustments that will have a huge impact in your energy levels:
1. What you eat. Don’t try for a quick-fix spurt of energy from caffeine and sugar; it will only leave you more fatigued as your blood sugar levels fluctuate wildly. Instead, go for a balanced, healthy diet replete with fruits, vegetables, and lean protein. “Most people feel like they’re less tired if they eat a healthy diet,” says Ralston. “Eating healthy also means you’ll carry less weight, and obesity is a big contributor to fatigue.
2. How much you sleep. About 60% of women, according to the 2007 Sleep in America poll, say they only get a few good nights’ sleep a week or less. To get more Zs, avoid caffeine and alcohol in the hours just before bedtime, and keep your sleep space quiet and restful.
3. How much you exercise. This is the biggie, says Ralston. He suggests that the best prescription for ordinary, garden-variety tiredness is regular, vigorous exercise. Complete your exercise at least three hours before bedtime.
You maybe asking questions about the intensity, frequency and duration of the exercise you need to see an improvement in your energy levels? Dr. Ralston suggests 40 minutes, no less than 4 days per week.
How soon should you see results? It took you awhile to get this worn out, and you’re not going to feel better overnight. “You need to give it at least a month,” Ralston advises. Within that time, you should feel at least some improvement. Keep with it for three to six months more, and you should start feeling much better.
If you follow your exercise prescription for at least a month — and you’re also making enough time for sleep — and you’re still feeling lousy, look into other causes, Ralston advises.
But could the cause be a disease?
Chronic tiredness is associated with many different medical conditions. How can you figure out which one might be the culprit?
The short answer is, you can’t tell. You’ll need a doctor for that.
According to Sandra Fryhofer, MD, clinical associate professor of medicine at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta here are some medical conditions that may be causing your tiredness:
4. Anemia. “This is a very common cause of fatigue and very easy to check with a simple blood test,” she says. “It’s particularly a problem for women, especially those who are having heavy menstrual periods.” You can remedy anemia with an iron-rich diet, heavy in meats and dark, leafy greens, or supplements if you have a chronic iron deficiency.
5. Deficiencies in key nutrients, such as potassium. Again, this is easily checked with blood testing.
6. Thyroid problems. Over- and under-active thyroids both can cause fatigue, Fryhofer says. A blood test for your level of thyroid-stimulating hormone can help evaluate your thyroid function.
7. Diabetes. People who have uncontrolled diabetes “just plain don’t feel good,” Fryhofer says. “If you feel draggy and you’re also having blurred vision or lots of urination, you should get that checked with a blood test.”
8. Depression. If your feelings of exhaustion are accompanied by sadness and loss of appetite, and you just can’t take any pleasure in things you once enjoyed, you may be experiencing depression.
9. Obstructive sleep apnea. If you never feel rested, ask the person you sleep with if you’re bothering them with your snoring. If they say yes, look into testing at a sleep lab. Some other symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea include waking up each morning feeling unrefreshed and having morning headaches.
10. Undiagnosed heart disease. Tiredness can be a sign of heart trouble, particularly in women, Ralston says. “If you have trouble with exercise you used to do easily, or if you start feeling worse when you exercise, this could be a red flag for heart trouble. If you have any doubts, see your doctor.”