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Everyone feels tired sometimes—whether it’s from working too much, staying up late, a packed social calendar, or even not doing anything! “But why do I feel tired all the time?” you might ask yourself, even when you’re well-rested. You’re not alone—around one in 20 people visit their general practitioner because they feel fatigued. In fact, the syndrome is so common that it even has its own acronym: TATT (Tired All The Time).
But TATT is not something you should just ignore because it’s common; there are serious reasons behind this seemingly harmless condition. We speak to Bupa’s clinical director Dr Luke Powles to get a sense of what the real problem is and identify five key questions you can ask yourself the next time you feel unmotivated twenty-four-seven. If you can figure out the cause, you are already one step closer to getting better.
Getting good sleep does not necessarily mean getting a full night’s sleep. When it comes to resting, quality matters just as much as quantity. Irregular sleeping patterns, bad sleeping habits, having trouble falling asleep, and constantly waking up during the night can all contribute to feeling tired the next day. Reflect on your current sleep routine and see what you can change with a sleep diary, or refer to the six steps to a sound night’s sleep.
You might simply be tired because of stress. Work, school, money, family, and relationships are usually the main factors that cause stress and worry, but during these three years, the pandemic has also greatly disrupted everyone’s lives. Even positive events—such as getting married, receiving a promotion at work, or going on a vacation—can be nerve-wracking and exhausting. If these stressors aren’t effectively approached, they can take a significant toll on your mental health. You can try to work through your concerns using the worry tree.
You are what you eat, and a healthy balanced diet and adequate hydration can help you feel less tired. Your body reacts when there is a lack of vitamins and minerals in your diet or glucose (sugar) in your blood, and that may be why you lack energy and feel foggy.
Iron deficiency—as in, when you don’t have enough iron in your blood—can also cause fatigue. If you are pregnant or tend to have heavy blood flows during your period, you can have a higher chance of iron deficiency. Your general practitioner may arrange a blood test and iron tablets if needed to combat this health concern.
When some people feel tired, they depend on caffeine to stimulate the senses, but that may interfere with their sleep and cause fatigue the next day, which consequently leads to even more caffeine, more fatigue, and the possibility of an endless cycle. Alcohol can also mess up your sleep pattern, since drinking before bed usually wakes you up during the night, so try to stay clear of these beverages if possible.
When you’re tired, the last thing you want to do is exercise, but being active during the day actually fights fatigue and improves the quality of your sleep. Always start with just a small amount of exercise, then gradually work your way up to a regular routine.
If you’re not a gym rat, it might be hard to stay motivated. Choosing something you enjoy and exercising with friends or family are just some ways you can do to step up your game. But remember, don’t exercise in the four hours before you go to bed, and don’t overdo it!
Although it isn’t common, your tiredness might be related to an underlying medical problem. Conditions such as depression and seasonal affective disorder (SAD), anaemia, underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism), diabetes, obstructive sleep apnoea, and vitamin D deficiency are known to cause fatigue. If you’re on certain medications like beta-blockers, then you might also experience TATT as a side effect.
Consult your general practitioner if you think your TATT is due to a health condition, especially if you have other symptoms as well (e.g., unintended weight loss, unusual bleeding, shortness of breath, or new lumps that aren’t going away). If you have had the coronavirus (Covid-19) before and still feel very tired, you might have long Covid.
There is also a condition called chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), which causes a range of symptoms including muscular pains, dizziness, difficulty thinking, and extreme tiredness. Again, ask the professionals when you are unsure of your condition, and they will explain whether CFS is a possibility.
If you decide to seek professional help, what exactly should you tell your general practitioner besides saying that you always feel tired? Dr Powles strongly advises you to think about the following questions so you can better describe the situation:
Even though we all hope that tiredness can disappear with just a snap of the fingers, there is no magic cure for that. If you are going through TATT, it can take a while to get back on track. Understanding your needs, setting realistic goals, and following the advice your general practitioner gives you are crucial to facilitating your journey to recovery.
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