Fatigue: why am I so tired all the time?

Dr Luke Powles
Associate Clinical Director, Health Clinics Bupa Global and UK
23 November 2021
Next review due November 2024

We all feel tired from time to time. A busy family and social life, a few late nights, and deadlines at work can all contribute. But you may have realised that you’re feeling tired all the time and this might be for no apparent reason. It’s a common problem. Around one in 20 people who visit their GP go because they’re feeling tired. And many more probably feel like this but don’t tell anyone. It even has its own acronym: TATT.

A man pouring a cup of coffee

Feeling tired all the time may be common, but that doesn’t mean it’s something you should just ‘put up with’. There are lots of reasons for feeling tired all the time – many of which you can do something about. Asking yourself the following questions may make it easier to work out what’s going on. And if you can identify the cause, you’re already on the way to helping yourself feel better.

Am I getting enough sleep?

If you don’t sleep well at night, you’ll feel tired during the day. You may have worries which keep you awake, you may have insomnia, or you may have just developed some bad sleep habits. Looking at your current sleep routine and identifying any changes you can make may help.

Download Bupa's six steps to a sound night's sleep infographic (PDF, 0.2MB), you can also click on the image below to download the PDF.

An infographic of six steps to a sound night's sleep

Am I under a lot of stress at the moment?

Coping with stress and worry can be very tiring. This is especially true if you can’t see an end to your troubles. You may have recently gone through an emotional shock such as a bereavement or a relationship break up. You may have worries about work, money or family. The pandemic has also been difficult for everyone, so it’s understandable to feel weary.

Even positive events, such as moving house or getting married, can be very stressful and tiring.

Learning how to manage work-place stress, building resilience, and knowing how to cope and deal with your worries is an important part of self-care.

You can click on the image below to open the interactive worry tree infographic (PDF, 0.3MB). For the best user experience, please view this interactive PDF on desktop, rather than on mobile or tablet devices. If the viewer you are using does not support this PDF, try opening it with Adobe Reader.

Worry tree 

What am I eating and drinking?

What you eat and drink can affect how tired you feel. If you don’t get enough vitamins and minerals in your diet, or enough glucose (sugar) in your blood, this can make you feel tired, lack energy and feel foggy.

Not having enough iron in your blood can cause fatigue. This is called Iron deficiency. It may be that you’re not getting enough iron in your diet. If you have periods or are pregnant, you can have a higher chance of iron deficiency. Speak to your GP who may arrange a blood test and iron tablets.

Drinks containing caffeine (coffee, tea and some soft drinks) may interfere with your sleep and make you feel tired the next day. And if you drink alcohol in the evenings, this can wake you during the night. Eating a healthy balanced diet and keeping well hydrated may help you to feel less tired.

How active am I during the day?

You may feel you’re too tired to exercise. But being active during the day actually helps you feel less tired and improves the quality of your sleep. Try starting with a small amount of exercise, then build it up so you get the benefits of regular activity. Choose something you enjoy. Exercising with friends or family, or joining a group, might help you to stay motivated. But don’t over exercise, as this can make you more tired. And try not to exercise in the four hours before you go to bed. It can be difficult to go to sleep so soon after exercising.

Medical reasons for tiredness

Most people who go to their GP because they feel tired all the time don’t have a medical problem. But tiredness can sometimes be due to an underlying illness, especially if you’re getting other symptoms as well. Many conditions can make you feel tired, including:

Some medicines, such as beta-blockers, can also cause tiredness.

You can also feel very tired during pregnancy – especially in the first 12 weeks.

Vitamin D deficiency can also cause fatigue, and it’s common in the autumn and winter months. You can buy vitamin D supplements over the counter to help prevent this. Speak to a GP or pharmacist if you have any questions.

You should see your GP if you’re worried about your tiredness, and especially if you have other symptoms. These might include unintended weight loss, unusual bleeding, shortness of breath, or new lumps or bumps that aren’t going away.

Other health conditions can cause extreme tiredness too. For example, there’s a condition called chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). This is also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME). It’s a complicated condition that causes a range of symptoms that vary in severity. Extreme tiredness is a key symptom. Your GP will be able to explain chronic fatigue syndrome, and whether it’s a possibility in your case.

If you’ve had COVID-19 and feel very tired, there’s a possibility you might have long covid. Again, it’s important to speak to your GP for support and help for COVID fatigue.

Talking to your GP

If you go to your GP, it may help to think about the answers to these questions so you can describe how you’re feeling.

  • How would you describe your tiredness – is it physical or mental exhaustion that you’re feeling?
  • Have there been any lifestyle changes, such as change in sleeping pattern, diet or activity levels?
  • Is it worse when you wake up, do you feel tired all day every day, or at certain times?
  • Can you remember when you first noticed feeling tired? Is there a particular event or time that it came on? Is it getting worse?
  • Have you noticed any other changes to your health?
  • How do your energy levels compare to how they were when you were feeling better?
  • Have you started or changed any medication recently?

Feeling better

There’s no magic cure for tiredness. If you’ve felt tired for a long time, it can take a while to get back to your normal self. Be kind to yourself and set realistic goals. Follow any advice your GP gives you, and try to create a good balance between work, rest and fun in your life.

Do you know how healthy you truly are? Bupa health assessments give you a clear overview of your health and a view of any future health risks. You'll receive a personal lifestyle action plan with health goals to reach for a happier, healthier you.

Dr Luke Powles
Dr Luke Powles
Associate Clinical Director, Health Clinics Bupa Global and UK

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