Fatigue can leave you feeling tired, weary or lacking in energy. There can be many causes of fatigue, and although it can be a natural response to physical or mental exhaustion, a lack of sleep or boredom, fatigue can be a sign of a more serious condition. It is important to seek help when getting a good night’s sleep or changing your environment does not help. Feeling persistently fatigued can become a long-term problem that affects quality of life, but there are ways sufferers can help manage it.
What is the difference between fatigue and just feeling tired?
It’s normal to feel tired if you have a bad night’s sleep, have been physically active or busy working, but fatigue is more than just feeling tired. Fatigue is a form of extreme exhaustion or lethargy.
Fatigue can cause you to feel physically and mentally exhausted, and affect your ability to function. You may even be too tired to start or continue activities.
How might fatigue impact your life?
Fatigue can significantly impact on how you function. You may not have enough energy to concentrate properly, work or take part in activities. You may find that you run out of energy sooner than usual and need to stop and rest from time to time.
In the case of diabetes, feeling fatigued can affect your daily life. It may reduce your ability and inclination to exercise regularly, eat healthily or perform diabetes self-care management. All of these things can make your fatigue and general health worse.
What Causes Fatigue?
There are several factors which cause fatigue.
Fatigue can be caused by the disease itself. Fatigue is a known symptom of arthritis and related diseases and becomes a greater problem during periods of flare in disease activity. Fatigue is a result of the body’s reaction to substances released in the bloodstream by activated immune cells.
Consult a medical professional. Fatigue has many causes, and your doctor will want to know the pattern of your tiredness to help determine its underlying cause. Conditions such as anemia, depression or an underactive thyroid can cause fatigue, according to Medline Plus. Fatigue can also accompany illnesses such as lupus, diabetes and certain infections, so your doctor will need to rule out any underlying medical causes.
Improve your sleep routine. Bupa recommends going to bed and getting up at the same time each day while avoiding naps during the day. Create a few pre-sleep rituals such as listening to relaxing music, drinking warm milk or taking a warm bath that will prepare your body for sleep. Avoid caffeine, cigarettes and heavy meals before bedtime. Ideally, your bedroom should be dark, quiet and an even temperature. Some people like to write down any final thoughts of the day in a journal to avoid lying awake all night thinking.
Eat healthful, well-balanced meals regularly throughout the day, and drink plenty of water. Your diet can have a significant effect on how you feel, and it is therefore important to control your weight. Reduce your caffeine and alcohol intake, especially in the evening, as both can be stimulants. Ask your doctor about taking a daily multivitamin.
Perform regular exercise. Bupa suggests carrying out 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity at least five days a week. Furthermore, activities such as yoga can also help you relax. Exercise can also help improve and maintain your sense of well-being and might help increase your energy levels.
Monitor your work and personal schedule, and if necessary change your circumstances to create a more balanced lifestyle. This might mean changing jobs or dealing with a relationship problem. Writing down a list of the things that leave you feeling exhausted can help you think of different ways to deal with them, leaving you feeling less burdened in the future.
How To Control Fatigue
You’re only as old as you feel, the saying goes. But what if you feel old, tired, and rundown?
Fatigue is a common complaint, especially after people hit middle age. Fortunately, there are plenty of simple ways to boost energy. Some even slow the aging process.
1. Rule out health problems.
Fatigue is a common symptom of many illnesses, including diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, anemia, thyroid disease, and sleep apnea. Talk to your doctor if you feel unusually tired.
Many medications can contribute to fatigue. These include some blood pressure medicines, antihistamines, diuretics, and other drugs. If you begin to experience fatigue after starting a new medication, tell your doctor.
2. Get moving.
The last thing you may feel like doing when you’re tired is exercising. But many studies show that physical activity boosts energy levels.
“Exercise has consistently been linked to improved vigor and overall quality of life,” says Kerry J. Stewart, professor of medicine and director of clinical and research exercise physiology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “People who become active have a greater sense of self-confidence. But exercise also improves the working efficiency of your heart, lungs, and muscles,” Stewart says. “That’s the equivalent of improving the fuel efficiency of a car. It gives you more energy for any kind of activity.”
3. Strike a pose.
Although almost any exercise is good, yoga may be especially effective for boosting energy. After six weeks of once-a-week yoga classes, volunteers in a British study reported improvements in clear-mindedness, energy, and confidence.
It’s never too late to try, either. University of Oregon researchers offered yoga instruction to 135 men and women ages 65 to 85. At the end of six months, participants reported an increased sense of well-being and a boost in overall energy.
4. Drink plenty of water.
Dehydration zaps energy and impairs physical performance. “Our research shows that dehydration makes it harder for athletes to complete a weight lifting workout,” says Dan Judelson, PhD, assistant professor of kinesiology at California State University at Fullerton. “It’s reasonable to think that dehydration causes fatigue even for people who are just doing chores.”
Dehydration has also been shown to decrease alertness and concentration.
How to know if you’re drinking enough water?“Urine should be pale yellow or straw colored,” Judelson says. “If it’s darker than that, you need to drink water.”
5. Get to bed early.
Lack of sleep increases the risk of accidents and is one of the leading causes of daytime fatigue. The solution: Get to bed early enough for a full night’s sleep.
When people enrolled in a 2004 Stanford University study were allowed to sleep as long as they wanted, they reported more vigor and less fatigue. Good sleep habits may also have important health benefits. Centenarians report better than average sleep.
If you do fall short on shut-eye, take a brief afternoon nap. Napping restores wakefulness and promotes performance and learning. A 10-minute nap is usually enough to boost energy. Don’t nap longer than 30 minutes, though, or you may have trouble sleeping that night. A nap followed by a cup of coffee may provide an even bigger energy boost, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
6. Go fish.
Good for your heart, omega-3 oils may also boost alertness. According to a 2009 study by scientists at Italy’s University of Siena, volunteers who took a fish oil capsule for 21 days demonstrated faster mental reaction times. They also reported feeling more vigorous.
7. Keep time with your body clock.
Some people get a burst of energy first thing in the morning. They’re often called morning larks. Night owls are people who are at their best at the end of the day.
These individual differences in daily energy patterns are determined by brain structure and genetics, so they can be tough to change. Instead, become aware of your own circadian rhythms. Then schedule demanding activities when your energy levels are typically at their peak.
8. Shed extra weight.
Losing extra weight can provide a powerful energy boost, says Stewart, of Johns Hopkins University. Even small reductions in body fat improve mood, vigor, and quality of life.
Most weight loss experts recommend cutting back on portion sizes, eating balanced meals, and increasing physical activity.
9. Eat more often.
Some people may benefit by eating smaller meals more frequently during the day. This may help to steady your blood sugar level.
Favor whole grains and other complex carbohydrates. These take longer than refined carbohydrates to digest, preventing fluctuations of blood sugar.
If you start eating more often, watch your portion sizes to avoid weight gain.
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