Fatigue is affecting more people than ever before – with over 40% of Americans reporting noticeable and frequent issues with lack of energy, focus and tiredness even after a good night’s sleep.
Fatigue isn’t serious in itself – but it can be an indicator of underlying issues in some cases and if it becomes chronic, it can have a significant impact on your daily life and wellbeing.
Here we take a closer look at fatigue, including signs and symptoms, causes and holistic treatment options.
What is fatigue?
More than just a feeling of being tired, fatigue is characterized by lasting lethargy, weariness and lack of energy. Periodic fatigue is natural and normal and can come as a result of lack of sleep, a stressful event or intense physical exertion. But when fatigue becomes prolonged for any period of time it can have a significant impact on our mental and physical wellbeing.
Signs and symptoms of fatigue include:
*Chronic tiredness, sleepiness and lack of energy
*Feeling weak or weary
*Dizziness and light-headedness
What causes fatigue, and who is at risk?
The cause of fatigue can sometimes be easy to pinpoint – but for many people extended periods of tiredness and weariness come about for no apparent reason. Key causes of short- and long-term fatigue include:
*Depression, grief and stress
*Anemia and iron deficiency
*Medications such as anti-depressants and sedatives
*Lack of sleep
*Significant disruption to your daily routine (such as a new baby or starting shift work)
*Alcohol or drug use
Some illnesses and diseases can also cause fatigue – these include diabetes, cancer, arthritis, eating disorders, fibromyalgia, kidney and liver disease and COVID.
5 ways to fight fatigue
1/ Pay attention to your sleep schedule
Sleep may seem like an obvious factor in the fight against fatigue – but with just 50-70 million adults in the US with a sleep disorder and many more struggling to sleep soundly on a regular basis, it’s an area of health that deserves more attention as it influences our health in many different ways. In one survey, 54% of people said they only had six or less hours of sleep per night.
Good quality sleep begins with a healthy sleep routine – going to bed and waking at roughly the same time each day, putting away devices at least an hour before bed and ensuring you’re comfortable during the night with a supportive mattress and sufficient darkness to sleep deeply. Take a look at our blogs on sleep here for more tips and advice on getting a good night’s sleep.
2/ Incorporate exercise
Exercise might feel like the last thing you want to do when you’re tired and drained of energy – but numerous studies show that moving your body and engaging in exercise can increase energy levels and fight fatigue. Introducing movement can increase energy levels. Start incrementally with gentle exercise and build up as your energy levels increase. If your fatigue is due to illness or medication it’s important to speak with your doctor or medical professional for additional support with keeping active.
3/ Eat well
A common hidden cause of fatigue is poor nutrition and an imbalanced diet. If you’re not eating enough, or are eating too many foods which don’t provide sufficient energy or nourishment for your body’s daily needs, you’ll quickly find fatigue creeping in.
Focus on eating at regular intervals with a predominantly wholefoods diet containing plenty of high-quality protein and slow-release carbohydrates. Avoid sugary foods and beverages and over-reliance on caffeine to get you through the day, as these can have a destabilizing effect on your energy levels and your metabolism, causing peaks and crashes.
4/ Tackle stress
A little stress now and then is a very normal part of life – but prolonged stress (also known as chronic stress) can have a significant impact on our energy levels over time. The brain and body use a lot of energy during a stress response, which causes certain physiological processes in the body to stop or change. When you are in a stressed state for a longer period of time, the changes taking place in the body can alter and impact upon your energy levels. Stress can also affect sleep, creating a vicious cycle of stress, sleep issues and fatigue.
Stress management looks different for everybody but could include making changes to your workload or schedule, practicing mindfulness techniques such as meditation and yoga or enlisting professional support for a therapist to deal with any underlying issues.
5/ Check your schedule
According to the American Psychological Association, burnout and stress (work-related stress in particular) are contributing to the rise in fatigue. A 2021 workplace survey carried out but the APA revealed that 44% of employees reported lack of physical energy, 36% cognitive weakness and 32% reported emotional exhaustion.
Many people struggle to say no and overcommit on a regular basis, causing overwhelm and burnout. This can quickly lead to fatigue which will only subside once your schedule is less overloaded. Be realistic with your workload and task list each day and set time aside for doing nothing on a regular basis.