BEING tired after a long day of work is normal, but what happens when you wake up feeling tired first thing in the morning, when you are awake but you just lie there with no energy to get out of bed? What is your body trying to tell you?
Feeling excessively tired all the time can make your days seem longer and more stressful than they really are, and significantly limits your overall productivity. This is called fatigue, and it's definitely a symptom that should not be ignored as your body is trying to tell you that something is amiss. Figuring out exactly what is wrong, though, may not be as easy as it is to fall asleep while reading this article.
“It's the most non-specific symptom ever, and pretty much any disease you can think of can be associated with fatigue,” says internist Dr Samantha Nicholson-Spence.
“It is a very vague term from a medical standpoint, but we don't have another word for it, because there are many symptoms that a patient may feel and describe it as fatigue.”
For example, the doctor says that patients may describe feelings of general weakness or dizziness as fatigue, even though they are completely different symptoms which may indicate different conditions. She says the best way to find out what is causing your fatigue is to observe other signs and symptoms which may accompany the sluggish feeling.
“For instance, if a young woman comes in and complains about fatigue, and you ask certain questions and she says she is short of breath, feels cold all the time, and has heavy periods, then that would suggest that anaemia is on board and that becomes your working diagnosis,” says Dr Nicholson-Spence.
She says, however, that many people who feel tired all the time simply need more sleep, or better sleep.
“They'll say they're fatigued and you ask questions and find out that they're really not sleeping enough, or they think they're sleeping but they're really not.”
She explains that in the first instance, the patient may not be getting enough hours of sleep to be energised throughout the day, while the second patient might be suffering from sleep apnoea, a condition where a person's breathing is interrupted during sleep, so their organs do not get enough oxygen.
“You'd suspect sleep apnoea especially if the person snores, is obese, or has a particularly large neck circumference, and especially if they fall asleep constantly, even while doing activities that require concentration such as driving or while they're at work.”
Your body might also be using fatigue to tell you that you are not eating right, she says.
“If your diet is high in sugar (carbohydrates), it tends to cause swinging blood sugar levels and sugar crashes.”
This means that shortly after consuming a high carb diet, you will feel a rush of energy, but in attempting to return to a normal state, your body will speed up how it processes the sugars, causing your energy level to dip again.
So what exactly is your fatigue trying to tell you, then?
“You need to find out the cause and then attack the cause. If you don't correct the cause, the fatigue will persist,” the doctor warns.
She urges that it is important to find out why you are always tired, because it can be indicating a more serious condition.
“For some diseases it's not a big deal that they have fatigue to go along with them, but it can be a more serious disease such as liver failure, kidney disease or heart disease — they're all associated with fatigue, but generally you wouldn't expect fatigue to be the only symptom if you have something major.”
Her recommendation is to observe what other symptoms you may have, and visit your doctor if tiredness becomes a pervasive problem, so that he/she can help you to find out what is causing it.