Why Am I So Tired?

April 1, 2012

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Article by Donna Kennedy, Ph.D

You all know that the demands of driving are great.  Besides long trips, drivers must maintain constant awareness of the road, time and other drivers.  Day after day, week after week, year after year: it’s no wonder you feel exhausted!  But, if you often find yourself wondering, “Why am I so tired?” your road warrior ways may not be the only reason.  Below are the top 14 reasons for fatigue and how to treat them according to WebMd:

1. You’re Not Getting Enough Sleep

Well, duh!  But seriously, the first step to figuring out your fatigue problem is to get a good 7-8 hours of sleep every night.  It’s important to keep a regular schedule (i.e., go to bed and wake up at the same time every day) and to make sleep a priority.  It’s also wise to keep televisions, computers and phones away from your sleeping area.  You may want to turn these devices off, as well as bright overhead lights, at least 30 minutes before settling in to bed.

2. Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea, maybe the two most dreaded words to a drivers’ ears, but one of the top reasons for fatigue.  If you have a regular sleep schedule and feel like you sleep enough, but you’re still tired, this may be the reason.  Sleep apnea causes interruptions in your sleep because it stops your breathing and wakes you for a moment.  You may or may not be aware that you woke for a short time but either way, you aren’t getting a good night’s sleep.  The best fixes for sleep apnea are to lose weight, stop smoking and, if necessary, use a CPAP.

3. Not Eating Enough

Eating too little or eating the wrong foods can also cause fatigue.  It’s important to eat a balanced diet so that your blood sugar doesn’t drop.  Always eat breakfast and aim to eat 6 small meals each day instead of 3 big meals. Cut out processed foods and eat meals that contain a variety of colors.

4. Anemia

This is one of the top causes of fatigue in women and it’s due to an iron deficiency from menstrual blood loss.  Luckily, there is an easy fix: take iron supplements and eat foods rich in iron (e.g. meat and beans).

5. Depression

If you feel tired and “down” for more than a couple of weeks, see your doctor.  Depression can cause fatigue, headaches and loss of appetite, as well as other symptoms.

6. Hypothyroidism

If you often feel fatigued and you put on weight, if may be the result of an underactive thyroid.  A blood test can determine this diagnosis and medication can help.

7. Caffeine Overload

What?  How can this be?  Caffeine is supposed to keep you alert and awake right?  Yes, but too much can speed up your heart, raise your blood pressure, make you jittery, and cause fatigue.  Quitting caffeine “cold turkey” can lead to caffeine withdrawal and more fatigue, so cut back gradually.

8. Urinary Tract Infection

A urinary tract infection isn’t usually difficult to pinpoint, as it is accompanied by burning pain upon urination and a sense of urgency.  However, in some cases, fatigue may be the only sign of the infection.  Luckily, antibiotics can quickly clear up a UTI and the fatigue will usually disappear within a week.

9. Diabetes

When diabetics eat, sugars are not converted into energy, which makes you feel run down.  If you have persistent and unexplained fatigue, it would be wise to ask your doctor about being tested for diabetes.

10. Dehydration

Two ways to know you’re dehydrated are: you’re thirsty and you have dark colored urine.  It’s important to drink water throughout the day so that your body works well.

11. Heart Disease

If you feel fatigued during everyday activities, or if you’re having difficulty finishing tasks that used to be easy, it may be a sign that your heart is not up to par.  You should talk to your doctor who will recommend lifestyle changes, possible medications or procedures that will help your heart and restore your energy.

12. Shift Work Sleep Disorder

Messing with your internal clock will cause you to feel tired when you need to be awake, and may make it difficult to sleep during the day.  When it’s time for you to sleep, try to limit the amount of daylight you are exposed to, and make your room dark and quiet.

13. Food Allergies

If you notice you’re more fatigued after meals, you may have an intolerance to a certain food(s).  Keep track of what you eat and how you feel, then eliminate foods one at a time to see if the fatigue disappears.

14. CFS and Fibromyalgia

If you have been fatigued for more than 6 months and the fatigue disrupts your daily activities, you may have chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia.  Speak with your doctor to learn about other symptoms and how to get help.

All of these causes of fatigue can be helped with exercise, as exercise will give you an energy boost.  Try to fit in a minimum of 20 minutes of activity three times per week.  Hope you feel energized soon!

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