Easy tiredness, also known as fatigue is a subjective feeling of exhaustion, weakness or low energy before, during or after carrying out routine activities. It’s commonplace in our clinics to hear people lodge complaints like, ‘I get easily tired these days doctor and I don’t know why’. In fact, statistics has shown that at least 10% of people globally are experiencing fatigue at every point in time.
Evidently, tiredness is a non-specific complaint and myriads of factors may be responsible for it ranging from simple lifestyle habits such as lack of sleep to more sinister physical or mental problems. Hence, it becomes the responsibility of the attending physician to unravel the culprit each time he is faced with this complaint. If you have observed that you get easily tired, here are some of the more common reasons you need to watch out for:
1. Lack of sleep
Experts recommend an average of 6 to 8 hours of sleep daily and the circadian rhythm of the brain is naturally set to favour night sleep as against daytime sleep. Hence, a reversal of this natural order can lead to persistent tiredness, particularly in people who run night shifts such as nurses, doctors and security personnel. Another unhealthy sleep habit is to sleep during the day as this practice makes it less likely that you will have a sound sleep at night. Similarly, if you are the type that must sleep very late and get out of bed very early in the morning, you deprive yourself of the natural refreshment and renewal of energy that only sleep can give.
2. Poor nutrition
You are what you eat. Hence, your dietary choices go a long way in determining how strong and agile you feel. If you prefer to consume sugary junks of little or no nutritional value, you may experience wild fluctuations in your blood sugar levels and this leaves you tired almost always. Evidently, a balanced diet comprising proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals and water all in the right proportion is what your body needs to function optimally. If you are the kind of person that is too choosy about foods, you may need to explore available food options with your dietician.
3. Low blood level
Anaemia refers to low blood levels, in lay man’s language. It is a medical condition in which the haemoglobin concentration of the blood is below the normal range expected for age, sex and geographical location. This is probably the reason why many people get easily tired with little or no activity since it is the blood that transports oxygen and vital nutrients to various body tissues such as the brain and muscles. Therefore, when the blood level is low, mental and/or physical fatigue is the result. Your blood level may be low if your diet does not contain enough vitamins and minerals such as iron and folic acid needed to form new red blood cells or if you have infections like malaria which leads to destruction of existing red blood cells.
Cancer is another reason why a person can get tired easily, either from the cancer itself or the treatment for it (chemotherapy). The reason for this is that cancer cells compete with normal body cells for available nutrients and space. For instance, in the bone marrow where red blood cells are normally produced, a lineage of defective blood cells are usually manufactured at the expense of functional cells in leukaemias (blood cancers) leading to anaemia and increased risk of infections. To make matters worse, while destroying cancer cells, some of the available anti-cancer drugs also destroy normal body cells in the process.
Arguably, maintaining a healthy weight is one of the most effective ways to stay fit and strong at all times. Understandably, obese individuals are more likely to get exhausted bearing their own extra weight and often complain of body pains, frequent sweating and fatigue even after light activities. The best treatment for them is to eat healthily and get some exercise to burn excess fat. In fact, lack of exercise in itself can lead to tiredness. Also, note that obesity is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes in which the body is unable to utilise available glucose to provide energy for itself leading to persistent tiredness.
6. Heart and lung conditions
The heart is the organ responsible for pumping blood throughout the body and this blood gets enriched with oxygen in the lungs. Hence, any condition that disrupts the function of these two vital organs will lead to shortage of nutrient and oxygen supply to body tissues which result in tiredness. Little wonder, easy fatigability is a common complaint among patients with congestive heart failure, pneumonia, asthma, tuberculosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Fortunately however, once the underlying disease condition is treated, the feeling of tiredness abates.
7. Mental conditions
According to the United States National Institutes of Health, more cases of fatigue have a mental cause rather than a physical cause. Tiredness is a common accompanying symptom of several mental ailments like depression, anxiety, grief, chronic sleep disorders and eating disorders. Obviously, a lot of these ailments are interconnected. For instance, someone who is bereaved, having lost a loved one could easily become depressed and withdrawn from others. He suddenly loses interest in pleasurable activities and finds it difficult to sleep at night or even eat well. This vicious cycle goes on with disastrous consequences if medical attention is not sought on time for such an individual.