When someone hears the term fatigue, they likely think of feeling tired — but it’s more than that. Feeling sleepy is a symptom of fatigue, but the overwhelming sense of feeling drained can be the result of many different factors.
Excessive alcohol or caffeine consumption, drug use (both illicit and certain prescription or over-the-counter), lack of exercise, poor sleep, an unhealthy diet, or weight disorders can lead to fatigue. It can manifest in muscle soreness and aches, gastrointestinal problems, irritability, blurriness of vision, trouble concentrating, and other symptoms.
Adjusting your lifestyle through proper diet, stress management, and getting 7–9 hours of sleep each can help alleviate feelings of fatigue. And while it may seem counterintuitive to exercise when fatigued, physical activity is proven to help.
Making lifestyle changes can feel overwhelming, so start small. Avoid caffeine in the afternoons and evenings and swap sugary snacks with fruits and vegetables. Start incorporating some movement (stretching, walking in place, yoga) when watching TV or doing other sedentary activities.
Emotional and mental health issues can also contribute to fatigue, including grief, stress, anxiety disorders and depression, and even boredom. You may want to work with a healthcare provider to manage and cope with any emotional distress that contributes to your fatigue.
If you are experiencing unresolved fatigue that lasts longer than a couple of days or interferes with everyday activities, consult your primary care physician. Some cases of fatigue are a symptom or side effect of another condition that need treatment. Some of these include:
- Autoimmune disorders
- Deficiencies (anemia or other vitamins)
- Hormonal imbalances
- Sleep apnea
- Many others