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Why Am I Feeling Tired?

by | Apr 1, 2021 | Resources

What is tiredness?

Tiredness is the feeling of having less energy than usual. Tiredness is a normal part of life, but if it continues for longer than you would expect and is getting in the way of your life, you might need to visit your doctor.  


What’s the difference between tiredness, fatigue, and lethargy?

Tiredness is the feeling of having less energy than usual. Fatigue is tiredness that may be overwhelming and is not relieved by rest. Lethargy is a state of sleepiness or drowsiness.


What causes tiredness?

The common causes of tiredness relating to lifestyle include:

  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Using recreational drugs
  • Exercising too much, or too little
  • Working odd or unpredictable shifts
  • Prolonged periods of sitting
  • Consuming energy drinks or foods high in sugar
  • Winter days (seasonal affective disorder)


The common causes of tiredness relating to mental health include:

  • Stress
  • Losing a loved one
  • Low mood (depression)
  • Anxiety


The common causes of tiredness relating to physical health include:

  • Anaemia – feeling unable to do anything, having ‘heavy’ muscles, and becoming tired very quickly
  • Hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid gland) – tiredness in combination with muscle aches, dry skin, and weight gain
  • Diabetes – feeling tired is one of the key symptoms of type 1 or type 2 diabetes; other symptoms include feeling thirsty, weight loss, and urinating a lot (particularly at night)
  • Sleep apnoea – tiredness caused by breathing problems at night which interrupt sleep; this is more common in males who are overweight
  • Undiagnosed coeliac disease (an immune reaction to gluten in the gut) – a lack of vitamin absorption in the gut, resulting in tiredness, diarrhoea, bloating, and weight loss
  • Recovering from a viral illness, such as glandular fever – a condition causing fatigue, a sore throat, and swollen glands, where tiredness can persist following the illness
  • Restless leg syndrome – mostly occurring at night and interrupting sleep, this is an overwhelming urge to move the legs, an unpleasant crawling sensation, or a deep ache in the legs


Rare but significant causes of tiredness can include:

  • Chronic fatigue syndrome – severe and sometimes disabling fatigue that goes on for more than four months; other features can include muscle or joint pain
  • Cancer – tiredness is rarely the only feature of cancer; however, some cancers of the blood (leukaemia or lymphoma), or those in the bowel (which may cause blood loss), can cause anaemia and therefore tiredness

When should I see a doctor about feeling tired?

See a doctor if you have:

  • Tiredness for a long period of time
  • Low mood for a long period of time
  • Difficulty sleeping due to breathing problems
  • Tiredness associated with:
    • Weight loss that you cannot explain
    • Fevers
    • Excessive sweating at night
    • A change in your bowel habits
    • Coughing up blood
    • A lump where it shouldn’t be
    • Heavy periods


What can I do about my tiredness?

    • Avoid caffeine, smoking and alcohol in the hours before sleeping
    • Avoid heavy meals or exercising strenuously before sleeping
    • Go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day
    • If you are going through a stressful time, it may be useful to talk to a friend or family member about how you are feeling
    • Having a healthy balanced diet has many benefits, including reducing your risk of conditions that contribute to tiredness (such as diabetes)
    • If you have been diagnosed with coeliac disease, it is important to have a diet free of gluten – you can ask your doctor or pharmacist for more advice
    • Physical exercise can be an effective way to treat tiredness, as well as to stay healthy and lose weight
    • If you find yourself sitting for long periods, it may be useful to stand up and go for a walk regularly
    • These could include mindfulness, meditation, or deep-breathing exercises
    • If your doctor has prescribed any medications for your tiredness (such as iron or vitamin tablets), make sure you take these as instructed



Patient.co.uk: Tiredness

NICE CKS: Tiredness/fatigue in adults

NHS Info: 10 medical reasons for feeling tired

NHS Info: Breathing exercise for stress



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