Always Exhausted? 13 Health Conditions That Make You Feel Wiped Out
Are you having more trouble getting out of bed than usual? If you’re still exhausted, no matter how much sleep you’ve been getting, your body and your mind might be trying to tell you something. Chronic fatigue is a real problem, and it’s both mentally and physically exhausting. Sometimes getting enough sleep at night still isn’t enough to keep you energized.
Unfortunately, constantly feeling overtired could be a sign of something serious. There are many health conditions, like stress, diabetes, and even celiac disease, 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 things you can do to help manage your fatigue.
1. Lyme disease
Feeling tired from your recent trek through the woods? It might not be the hike itself, but a disease you contracted while on the hike that’s causing your fatigue. You can contract Lyme disease from a single tick bite, Mayo Clinic says, though it’s rare. A bite from a tick carrying the disease introduces a strain of bacteria into your bloodstream, which causes an infection. Early symptoms are flu-like in nature, ranging from chills to fever to fatigue. Always check for ticks if you live or spend time in grassy or wooded areas, since the longer a tick stays attached to your skin, the more likely you’ll be exposed to Lyme disease-causing bacteria.
2. Chronic fatigue syndrome
Approximately 1 million Americans struggle with exhaustion severe enough to receive a legitimate medical diagnosis — and you could be one of them. 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, but they think it could be triggered by stress, infection, nutritional deficiency, problems with the immune system, or low blood pressure. Though there is no cure, CFS can be maintained with the help of a physician. Speak with your doctor if your exhaustion has become unbearable.
3. Inflammatory bowel disease
Has your stomach been bothering you lately? Inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, can leave you feeling exhausted. But this isn’t the only problem — these disorders make it harder for the body to absorb nutrients, which can result in other conditions like anemia. It can also lead to stress-induced fatigue. Aside from exhaustion, Mayo Clinic lists loss of appetite, fever, abdominal pain, and unexplained weight loss among common symptoms. If you’re feeling overtired, a medical professional can diagnose and help you learn how to manage this condition.
At a glance, hyperthyroidism doesn’t seem like such a terrible disease. Being able to eat whatever you want without gaining weight is the ultimate dream, right? Unfortunately, symptoms can be devastating. Anxiety, irritability, a racing heart, and difficulty sleeping are just a few of the many downsides. According to the American Thyroid Association, an overactive thyroid might actually result in an energy boost — at first. As the condition progresses, though, extreme tiredness becomes a common side effect.
People with hyperthyroidism don’t just lose weight: Their out-of-control metabolism often results in muscle weakness and fatigue. Imagine the exhaustion you feel after intense exercise. Then picture what it would be like if that feeling never went away. Thankfully, you don’t have to live in a constant state of exhaustion. Medical interventions such as medication can help treat this condition.
5. Chronic stress
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 with meditation, diet, and exercise can help reserve and restore energy lost due to stress.
6. Sleep apnea
Sleep apnea is a chronic condition that interrupts a person’s rest cycle. Muscles in the throat relax during sleep, causing shallow or obstructed breathing. As a result, your brain wakes you up, immediately restoring normal breathing patterns. This type of interrupted sleep can leave you felling wiped.
Most people with this condition don’t recognize how often their brains are waking them up throughout the night. This explains why, if you have this condition, you might feel tired without understanding why. You’re more likely to experience sleep apnea if you smoke or abuse alcohol and other substances, or if you are overweight. Minimizing these risk factors and treating sleep apnea often involves behavior changes like smoking cessation, abstaining from alcohol and/or drugs, and weight loss.
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 is 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.
8. 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. Common symptoms include difficulty concentrating, dizziness, nausea, blurred vision, and fatigue. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, have a professional check your blood pressure ASAP.
Doctors still don’t fully understand what causes fibromyalgia, a form of chronic pain experienced throughout the body. However, problems with sensory processing in the central nervous system are likely to blame. Symptoms range from fatigue to pain to problems sleeping. Tiredness can result from both the persistent pain and sleep deprivation. Exercise, medication, and other medical interventions are all part of a typical treatment plan to help manage fibromyalgia symptoms.
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 can help ease this and other common symptoms.
11. Celiac disease
Fatigue is one of many symptoms of celiac disease, especially if you don’t yet know you have it. It’s an autoimmune condition, meaning eating anything containing gluten — wheat, barley, and rye products — causes your body to attack its own small intestine. Since your small intestine is responsible for nutrient absorption, damage to this part of your body can make digestion and proper nutrition extremely difficult.
Fatigue, if you have celiac, can happen because of malnutrition or weight loss. But eliminating gluten from your diet, per instruction by a licensed health professional, may relieve celiac symptoms and help you avoid more severe complications in the future.
It’s not all in your head — at least, you’re definitely not imagining things. Depression does change your brain significantly. A study from the journal Molecular Psychiatry suggests long-term depression physically alters the hippocampus, the part of the brain that regulates emotions. The neuron networks in this area of the brain actually start to deteriorate the longer depression lasts. This might explain the mental and physical fatigue that come with the intense feelings of sadness and anger associated with depression — or lack of emotion at all.
Feelings of numbness or emptiness can make getting out of bed seem impossible. Fortunately, scientists are beginning to develop medications that stimulate neurogenesis, which can replace lost neurons in the hippocampus, improving mood and restoring your energy. In the meantime, making time for self-care and seeking professional support will help you get a better handle on your symptoms.
Being overweight or obese isn’t just dangerous because of a number on the scale. Rather, excess weight can put extreme stress on your heart, lungs, bones, and muscles. This means obesity leads to conditions ranging from heart failure to arthritis. All of these chronic conditions, and others, can result in exhaustion. Why? It’s harder to breathe.
Oxygen has a harder time getting to your organs and tissues. Many people with obesity are malnourished, lacking the proper nutrition to maintain normal energy levels. Taking gradual steps to apply positive lifestyle changes can help cure feelings of extreme sleepiness. Try these simple weight loss strategies to improve your health and restore your energy.
Eat more fiber for more energy
Our bodies are constantly burning through energy. Without food to restore that energy, your heart wouldn’t beat and your brain would forget to tell your lungs to breathe. The quality of the food we eat also plays a big factor in our energy levels. Many heavily processed foods, usually calorie-dense, lack important nutrients like fiber. According to Livestrong, fiber works to remove waste that could potentially cause fatigue. A diet rich in fiber and other essential nutrients can help you maintain sufficient energy and avoid feelings of tiredness throughout the day.
Wake up with exercise
In addition to helping you sleep better, regular physical activity can relieve symptoms of several energy-zapping conditions. Exercise can relieve anxiety and depression symptoms, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America says. It’s also an effective regimen for weight loss, heart health, and treating chronic pain.
You don’t have to spend hours at the gym for these effects to take hold, though — who has time for that? The World Health Organization recommends adults engage in 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week. That comes out to no more than 30 minutes of gym time five days a week. Seems doable, don’t you think?