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Every time she talks to her sister Lucia on the phone, Lorena hears the same refrain: “I’m so tired!” It doesn’t matter if it’s Friday, after a long workweek, or Sunday, after a relaxing weekend—Lucia is always exhausted. Sometimes, when Lorena invites her to a family gathering, she makes an excuse because the only thing she seems to want to do is sleep. Though it’s true that today’s life style allows little time for rest and relaxation, a few hours of additional sleep over the weekend or during the holidays are usually enough to help you recover. But if you’ve tried that and you’re still asking yourself, “Why am I so tired?” something may be going on in your body that is preventing you from feeling fresh and full of energy. Below are some of the common physical causes of fatigue.
Anemia is a condition in which you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen to your tissues. Anemia may cause exhaustion, and fatigue is a common symptom of anemia. It can be a temporary problem due to iron deficiency or it can be long-term.
Many women in their reproductive years who have heavy bleeding during menstrual periods, who have uterine polyps or fibromas (uterine fibrous tumors), or who have just had a baby can develop anemia. Anemia can also be caused by iron deficiency due to blood loss through the gastrointestinal tract (usually in the stool), or by folic acid deficiency, among other causes. Some symptoms, in addition to fatigue, and depending on the severity, include: cold hands and feet, headache, irritability, dizziness, and chest pain. If you are diagnosed with anemia and it is due to a lack of iron, your doctor may suggest some changes to your diet, such as adding more iron-rich foods (broccoli, spinach, and red meat).
The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland in the front of the neck. It controls your metabolism. When the thyroid works slower than normal, you have hypothyroidism. It is diagnosed with a blood test. If the test confirms the diagnosis, your doctor may prescribe thyroid hormone replacement drugs so that your thyroid blood levels return to normal and you don’t feel tired any more.
Too Much Caffeine
Believe it or not, caffeine can backfire on you. If you drink too much coffee or too many caffeinated beverages in order to be more alert, you can get the opposite effect. Several studies have shown that an overdose of caffeine results in fatigue. So, think about how much coffee or how many caffeinated drinks you drink per day to see if this is what’s making you tired. By the way, drinking one or two cups of coffee a day is fine; three cups of coffee is considered moderate intake. But 500 to 600 mg of caffeine a day is considered heavy use. (See our post “Do I Have a Caffeine Addiction?“)
A lack of sleep is an obvious reason for being tired. But, many times the problem is not too little sleep but bad sleep quality. You may have a condition called sleep apnea (which makes you snore), a sleep disorder that interrupts your breathing momentarily many times throughout the night. This disrupts your sleep cycle—even though you may not be aware of it—and makes you feel tired even if you’ve slept for more than eight hours.
If you’re overweight or obese, you have a greater probability of having this condition. Don’t hesitate to ask your doctor, since this could be the reason for being fatigued and there are good treatments available.
If you feel very tired after completing a simple task like sweeping or driving to work, you may have an undiagnosed heart disease. If you frequently feel exhausted with no apparent reason, talk to your doctor. It’s important!
As you can see, chronic fatigue or tiredness can be the result of different health conditions, not just a crazy schedule. If you’re still asking yourself, “Why am I so tired?” it’s time to visit your doctor. He or she can help you find the cause of and the remedy for your fatigue.