Feeling like a zombie even after eight solid hours of counting sheep? You’re not alone — women complain of fatigue and tiredness twice as much as men. Sleepy symptoms can be exacerbated by the tasks many women find themselves taking on, including a career, household chores, caring for children…oh, and having a social life.
However tiring these things can be, there could be more to blame for tiredness than just a busy schedule. From minor irritants to life-threatening – check out the things that could be zapping your energy.
- Vitamin B12 Deficiency – The vitamin B12 helps maintain energy by boosting your oxygen level in red blood cells. If you don’t get enough, you could feel fuzzy, sleepy and even constipated. If left untreated, a vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to memory and confusion problems as well. A simple B12 blood test from your primary care physician can tell you if you’re low. A supplement and including more meat and dairy in your diet can help normalize your levels and have you feeling more energized.
- Prescription and Over-the-Counter Drugs – One sneaky culprit of fatigue can be side effects from prescription and over-the-counter drugs. Antihistamines, beta blockers, certain antidepressants and blood pressure medications are notorious for their sleepy side effects. People react differently to medication, so even if something is marked “non-drowsy,” it could still make you tired. For prescriptions that you must take, talk with your physician and pharmacist about alternatives. For over-the-counter drugs, try a different brand or formulation to see if the effects let up. Always consult your healthcare provider before switching or stopping medication.
- Vitamin D Deficiency – Since the recent uptick in cases of skin cancer, people are avoiding the sun like the plague, and as a result are damaging their vitamin D levels. Vitamin D is made in the body during exposure to sunlight, and low levels can cause not only fatigue, but also symptoms like chest pain and high blood pressure. If you just can’t find a few minutes a day to catch a few rays, or you live in particularly cloudy region you can boost your D levels with increased intake of fish and eggs and a supplement that contains at least 800 IU of vitamin D.
- Thyroid Problems – If you are having trouble losing weight and have extreme fatigue, your thyroid may be the cause. Hypothyroidism happens when your thyroid (located in your neck) fails to produce enough hormones to regulate your metabolism. Failure to treat hypothyroidism can have serious consequences such as infertility, heart disease and joint deterioration. Ask your relatives about any family history of hypothyroidism, which can be an indicator. Ask your doctor for a thyroid blood test to find out for sure. Hypothyroidism can usually be treated, quite successfully, with hormone replacement therapy.
- Depression – One of the most common indicators of high levels of depression is fatigue. Women are more likely to suffer from depression and feel the physical side effects more intensely. If you’re feeling sad, stressed or anxious, talk to your doctor and/or a mental health professional about your options. There are many natural ways to fight depression, such as increased exercise and supplements. Therapy has also proven to improve symptoms.
- Sleep Apnea – You might think you’re getting enough sleep during the night, but you may not know that you have stopped breathing several times throughout the night because of sleep apnea. The condition causes you to wake just slightly every time you stop breathing, which can happen hundreds of times in the span of eight hours, leaving you sluggish even when you hit the hay early. A doctor can order a sleep study to see if you are suffering from this condition and may have you try a CPAP device at bedtime to keep your airways open. Losing weight and quitting smoking have proven to be ways to combat sleep apnea.
- Skipping Breakfast – Whether it’s because you are too busy or think it will help you lose weight, skipping breakfast for any reason can cause your energy levels to plummet. Your body needs fuel first thing in the morning to keep your metabolism and blood sugar in check. Try to include a breakfast with protein and carbohydrates and snack on healthy foods throughout the day to keep you sustained.
- Too Much Caffeine – Yes, it’s true that caffeine can improve alertness and concentration, but too much can cause a severe “crash” side-effect once the caffeine leaves the system. Limit yourself to one caffeinated drink a day and do not rely on these drinks to get you through the day. If you are used to consuming high levels of caffeine, wean yourself down slowly. Quitting cold turkey can cause withdrawal, which will only worsen your feelings of fatigue.
- Dehydration – If you haven’t had enough to drink while working out or even just sitting at your desk, you may begin to feel fatigued. If you feel thirsty often, you may be dehydrated. Drink at least 60 ounces of water per day and even more if you will be participating in physical activity or spending time outdoors.
- Food Allergies – If you find yourself fatigued immediately after a meal, you could be allergic. Gluten is a common element found in many types of bread, pastas and other snacks that can cause fatigue in those who are allergic. A doctor can give you a food allergy test if you believe you may have issues, or you can try eliminating some foods you experience problems with to see if symptoms improve.