Fatigue: why am I so tired all the time?

Dr Luke Powles
Clinical Director, Health Clinics Bupa Global and UK
14 November 2018

We all feel tired from time to time; a busy family and social life, a few late nights, deadlines at work – whatever the reason, tiredness can catch up with all of us at times. But you may have realised that you’re feeling tired all the time, perhaps for no apparent reason, and it can really start to get you down. 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.

Feeling tired all the time may be common, but that doesn’t mean it’s something that you should think is normal or 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?

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.

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. Even positive events like moving house or getting married can be very stressful and tiring. Find out more with our articles on stress, work-place stress, or how to cope and deal with your worries.

You can click on the image below to open the interactive worry tree infographic. 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. 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 and keeping well hydrated 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 and improves the quality of your sleep. 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. But don’t over exercise (as this can make you worn out). And don’t exercise too late at night – this can also affect your sleep if you’re too ‘wired’ 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 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.

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?
  • 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 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.

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
Clinical Director, Health Clinics Bupa Global and UK

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