Chronic fatigue is both mentally and physically exhausting. Sometimes getting enough sleep at night still isn’t enough to keep you energized. No matter how hard you try, you just can’t seem to shake your sleepiness.
Unfortunately, constantly feeling overtired could be a sign of something serious. There are many health conditions, often those with subtle yet devastating symptoms, that could be making you feel more exhausted than usual. Let’s look at a few of these conditions, how they deplete your energy, and what you can do to help manage your fatigue.
You’ve probably blamed your exhaustion on stress countless times before. But do you know why stress makes you sleepy? Stress is your body’s normal response to stimuli. Even if you’re not in immediate danger — there’s no bear in close proximity trying to eat you — your brain releases hormones that prepare you for the worst anyway. Cortisol is one of these hormones. As cortisol levels increase, things like digestion, your immune response, and your reproductive system — none of which you’d need to outrun a bear — sort of go into hibernation mode.
These responses are only meant to be temporary, though. Prolonged stress can wear you out physically and psychologically, leaving you feeling drained and unable to cope with new stressors. Managing anxiety can help reserve and restore energy lost due to stress.
Chronic fatigue syndrome
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recognizes chronic fatigue syndrome as a disorder stretching beyond normal tiredness. People with CFS do not feel rested after sleep, and symptoms worsen after physical or mental exertion. And researchers still don’t know what causes CFS. However, experts predict it could be triggered by stress, infection, nutritional deficiency, problems with the immune system, or low blood pressure. There is no cure, and no mainstream forms of medical treatment have been developed. Still, CFS can be maintained with the help of a physician.
Constant exhaustion could be a symptom of diabetes — pre-diabetes, type 1, or type 2. People with any of these conditions struggle to regulate their blood sugar levels, either due to a lack of insulin or because the insulin they do have not doing its job. Insulin is what allows your body to use carbohydrates for energy. In cases of low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, you might feel tired because your body isn’t getting the energy it needs from the foods you’re eating. If caught early, lifestyle changes like diet and exercise could help you improve your body’s insulin response and help you avoid type 2 diabetes altogether.
Low blood pressure
Non-smokers and regular exercisers have a lower resting heart rate, which simultaneously reduces their blood pressure. When it goes too low, however, oxygen is slower to disperse throughout the body, resulting in fatigue, dizziness, and a number of other symptoms. It could also be a sign of something more serious.
Low blood pressure can occur as a result of pregnancy, or certain types of drugs, such as antidepressants. Dehydration, poor nutrition, or cardiovascular problems like low heart rate or heart failure can also cause low blood pressure.
Exhaustion could signal that you’re anemic. Iron-deficiency anemia, the most common type, affects your red blood cells. Because this deficiency results in insufficient hemoglobin levels, as the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute explains, your body produces fewer healthy red blood cells. Not only does your heart have to work harder to circulate blood throughout your body — you also have fewer cells to carry oxygen where it’s needed. Both of these factors lead to feelings of fatigue. A combination of iron-rich foods and supplements containing healthy doses of iron can help ease this and other common symptoms.
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