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Sleepiness, fatigue can mean many things

On August 5, 2013

  • Taking time to eat breakfast can help you avoid that mid-afternoon crash.

Are you always asking "Why am I so tired?" Are you having trouble staying awake while watching your evening TV shows? Most of us know what it's like to be tired, especially when we have a cold, flu, or some other viral infection. But when you suffer from a constant lack of energy and ongoing fatigue, it may be time to check with your doctor.

Fatigue is a lingering tiredness that is constant and limiting. With fatigue, you have unexplained, persistent, and relapsing exhaustion. It's similar to how you feel when you have the flu or have missed a lot of sleep. If you have chronic fatigue, you may wake in the morning feeling as though you've not slept. Or you may be unable to function at work or be productive at home.
In most cases, there's a reason for the fatigue:
1. You drink too much coffee
If you rely on caffeine to get through your day, you can develop a dependence. Without caffeine, one can go into withdrawal, needing several cups of coffee or tea just to feel "normal." And the worst point of withdrawal is in the morning. To make matters worse, caffeine can still course through your system when you're sleeping if you've had any coffee or tea in the evening, which can interfere with normal REM sleep and leave you feeling even more tired. An easy solution is to cut back on the amount of caffeine you consume during the day and steer clear of caffeinated beverages within hours of your bedtime.
2. You don't eat breakfast
There's a reason that breakfast is called the most important meal of the day, yet so many of us still skip it on a regular basis, or just cram down a few pieces of toast before heading out the door. Take the time to fit in breakfast every morning and it will help you avoid that mid-afternoon crash.
3. You don't exercise
It may seem counter intuitive, but exercising produces all kinds of helpful biochemicals that ward off fatigue and help you feel upbeat the rest of the time. Think of it as positive feedback: the more energy you put in, the more you get out.
4. You keep poor sleep patterns
Sleepiness is not the same as fatigue (which is a general lack of energy), but one of the most common causes of feeling tired is simply not sleeping enough. In addition to too little shut-eye, keeping irregular sleeping patterns and even sleeping too much can also make you feel tired. To get back on the right track, try to get into a routine of sleeping at consistent times.
5. You're carrying extra weight
Obesity can result in sleep apnea, which is horribly disruptive to your sleep. According to the Canadian Lung Association, individuals who suffer from sleep apnea can experience pauses in their breathing dozens - or even hundreds - of times in a single night. Sleep apnea can also potentially result in heart problems.
6. You suffer from iron deficiency
A diet low in iron is often to blame for feeling tired. A lack of red meat in the diet of vegetarians and vegans can result in iron deficiency, but people who eat meat can still suffer from low iron as well, especially if they skimp on wholesome- though sometimes unappealing - foods like spinach, organ meats, and eggs. Women, in particular, are prone to anemia because of menstruation, as heavy periods can easily lead to anemia in combination with a low-iron diet.
7. It could signal the onset of diabetes
Diabetes is reaching epidemic levels in America and extreme fatigue or lack of energy can be symptoms of the condition. However, many people who develop type 2 Diabetes will show no symptoms. It is recommended that everyone over the age of 40 have their blood sugar levels tested at least every three years as a precautionary measure.
8. You've started a new medication
Fatigue is one of the most common side effects of pharmaceutical medications, with anti-hypertensives, narcotics, anxiolytics and antidepressants being the most common culprits. When you first begin a new medication, give your body some time to adjust. 

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