I lose count of how often I say "I'm tired" every day. It's generally because I don't get enough sleep, and I know this, but sometimes I wonder if there are things that impact my energy levels that aren't related to going to bed late.
If you find yourself oversleeping, it could be a signifier of a larger issue.
“Oversleeping means that you are sleeping for more than 10 hours on a consistent basis,” says Conor Heneghan, PhD, director of research and algorithms at Fitbit. “Oversleeping has been correlated with certain health conditions, such as depression, but it is not a known cause of any health disorders. While irregularities in the body’s sleep clock may play a role in mood, returning to a consistent sleep cycle is a focus area to get the body back on track.”
There are a number of medical conditions that can lead to feeling tired all the time, and you should always consult your doctor if you notice abnormal energy levels are becoming more common.
1. Chronic Pain Condition
If you have a condition like fibromyalgia, hypothyroidism, anemia and rheumatoid arthritis, you need more sleep than someone who does not have those conditions. But, if you don't know you have this condition, you're probably not getting adequate sleep to cope.
“People who suffer from conditions that result in fatigue and pain often require more sleep in order for their bodies to properly rest and recover,” says Matthew Ross, co-owner and COO of The Slumber Yard.
Depression can be a big culprit when it comes to being always tired. Depression can often present itself as being tired all the time, not wanting to get out of bed in the morning, or not sleeping well through the night so you're tired during the day. Consult your doctor if you think you may be depressed.
Some people will try to "self-medicate" their depression through alcohol, but this can lead to further exhaustion.
“Depression, alcohol abuse, and fatigue are very tightly knit,” says Dr. Shah.
Anemia is generally the most common culprit of someone being over tired. Doctors will generally test for anemia first if you tell them exhaustion is something you're struggling with, because it can be confirmed or ruled out through a blood test. Anemia is when your blood doesn't carry enough oxygen through your body, and is usually caused by an iron deficiency.
“When a patient says ‘I’m tired,’ it’s such a broad term and could be so many things, but if someone says ‘I’m tired and feeling a little more short of breath,’ or, ‘I’m having trouble exercising,’ that tends to be anemia," says Dr. Shah.
4. Food Sensitivity
When you don't eat well, your body reacts accordingly, and when your body has a sensitivity to certain foods, it can start to become fatigued.
“If you’re eating poorly, especially a lot of processed foods, the gut cells can become a looser, net-like structure instead of a tight structure, and proteins that aren’t supposed to be in our bloodstream leak into our bloodstream, which creates an inflammatory response,” says Dr. Shah.
The inflammatory response can cause moodiness, bloating, and fatigue, and can be caused by sensitivities to foods like dairy and wheat. You can't really test for food sensitivities (they're different than allergies,) but keeping a food diary can help pinpoint what is making you feel ill. Once you notice an eating pattern, you can follow an elimination diet to slowly take out potential triggers.
5. Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is when your throat starts to close when you're sleeping, and is what causes people to snore.
"The brain notices you’re not getting rid of your CO2, and it wakes up really briefly in an alarmed state,” Lisa Shives, MD, director of the Sleep Medicine Center at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine.
Even though it sounds like you'd notice this happening, most people don't remember the times they wake up at night because the moments are so brief. This means that when you're exhausted the next day, you really have no clue what caused it.
6. Heart Failure
Your body is smart and will always do what it can to keep your vital organs fully functioning. If you have heart failure, your body can't always keep up with its own demands, and will divert blood flow from your tissue to your organs. When your muscles aren't getting the proper amount of blood, you'll start to notice that normal activities feel like they take much more effort and leave you exhausted.
7. Adrenal Fatigue
Your kidneys struggling to produce certain hormones could be the cause of your constant fatigue. Though it's difficult to show with lab testing, the hormone imbalance can be caused by stressful situations in your life, lack of sleep, over-exercising, poor diet habits, or alcohol or drug abuse. Your stress hormones can be high, and then your body is left depleted and tired.
“Adrenal fatigue isn’t a Western medicine term, it’s a functional medicine term, and a lot of Western doctors don’t recognize it as a medical [issue],” says Dr. Shah.
Everyone knows what insomnia is, but hypersomnia is a little less known. This condition is when you're tired regardless of how much sleep you get. If you always find yourself tired all day despite having slept well the night before, it could be a sign of hypersomnia. Generally this condition appears in the late teen years or early adulthood.
Completely opposite from anemia, hemochromatosis is a condition that affects almost 10% of the caucasian population. Hemochromatosis is causes the body to store too much iron, which leads to fatigue, weakness, joint pain, stomach pain, depression, liver disease, heart problems, and diabetes. Those who suffer from hemochromatosis are born with the condition, but the symptoms don't present themselves until people reach theirs 50s and 60s.
10. Prediabetes or Diabetes
Diabetes causes a high blood glucose level, which can impair your blood circulation and decrease the amount of oxygen your cells need to give you energy. When you have low blood sugar levels, it can also result in feeling fatigued because your body doesn't have enough fuel to function properly.
If you broach the subject of fatigue or exhaustion with your doctor, he or she will likely test for a chronic infection like Lyme disease or mononucleosis. These infections can present with extreme fatigue, and by getting a proper diagnosis you can begin treatment that will end up helping the symptoms.
12. Oversleeping On Weekend
Sleeping in on the weekends or taking an afternoon nap is so tempting, but the excess sleep could actually be causing you to be more tired during the week. We often see weekends as a time to "catch up" on any sleep we missed during the week, but that's not really a great idea.
“While the recommended average sleep time for adults is seven to nine hours every night, often we may try to catch up on sleep during the weekends,” Dr. Heneghan says. “Your body will attempt to recover from the effects of sleep deprivation by having “rebound” sleep − typically associated with longer overall sleep time, increased deep and REM sleep, and reaching the REM sleep state more quickly. However, oversleeping can offset your cycle and has been linked to other health risks.”
Being fatigued or always tired can be a signal of something more serious happening in your body, and it's important to consult your doctor if you notice any irregularities in your sleep patterns.
[H/T: Reader's Digest]