Why am I so tired all the time?

Medical Director at Bupa UK
26 August 2016
Man unable to sleep

We all feel tired from time to time, but you may have realised that you’re feeling tired all the time for no apparent reason. It’s a common problem. Around one in 20 people who visit their family doctor go because they’re feeling tired, and many more probably suffer in silence.

Feeling tired all the time may be common, but that doesn’t mean it’s something that you should consider normal. There are lots of reasons a person might keep feeling tired. Asking yourself some questions may make it easier to work out what’s going on in your case. And if you can identify the cause, you’re already on the way to helping yourself feel better.

Am I getting enough sleep?

It’s probably obvious to say that 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 suffer with insomnia, or you may have just developed bad sleep habits. Following our advice on how to get a good night’s sleep may help.

Infographic on a good night's sleep from Bupa

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. Even positive events like moving house or getting married can be very tiring. Find out more with our articles on work-place stress, or coping with stress generally. 

What am I eating and drinking?

What you eat and drink can affect how tired you feel. Drinks containing caffeine (coffee, tea and some soft drinks) may interfere with your sleep and so 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, keeping well hydrated and losing any excess weight may help you to feel less tired.

Image showing hydration level by urine colour

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 beat tiredness. Try starting some exercise, then build it up so you get the benefits of regular activity. Choose something you enjoy, perhaps doing it with friends or family, or join a group to keep you motivated. You can even use your day at work to get more active.

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 illnesses can make you feel tired, including:

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

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

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.

If there’s no other cause for your tiredness, and it goes on for over four months, you might have a condition called chronic fatigue syndrome. This is also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME). In a child or young adult, this condition may be suspected after only three months. Your GP will be able to explain chronic fatigue syndrome, and whether it’s a possibility in your case.

Feeling better

There’s no magic cure for tiredness. If you’ve been 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 get a good balance between work, rest and fun into your life.

Steve Iley
Medical Director at Bupa UK

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