Are You Simply Tired, Or Could It Be a Case of Chronic Fatigue?

Here's what you should know about this frequently misunderstood health condition.

What causes chronic fatigue - mature man suffering exhaustion
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What Causes Chronic Fatigue?

Are you tired all the time? If yes, yours is a common complaint (though not a formal diagnosis). Part of the difficulty in overcoming chronic fatigue is that many things can cause it, from alcohol to anxiety, overcaffeination to medication.

Sometimes this exhaustion points to an underlying medical problem. Your doctor can narrow the list of possible culprits by asking about other symptoms and ordering blood work to check for anemia, hypothyroidism, diabetes and so on.

If you’ve already ruled out illnesses and conditions, the trouble likely lies in your lifestyle. Putting a spring back in your step could be a simple matter of tweaking daily habits: getting outside more often, for example, drinking more water or meeting the recommended target of seven to nine hours of sleep every night.

Relief from chronic fatigue - woman drinking coffee in the morning
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Relief From Chronic Fatigue

Consider Losing Weight

Another well-known contributor to persistent fatigue is carrying extra pounds—obese people traditionally report higher rates of tiredness. Though the root cause isn’t quite clear, this lethargy is frequently attributed to sleep apnea, metabolic issues and psychological distress. Achieving a healthy weight will help boost energy levels, but be careful to pace your efforts: over-exercising and crash dieting are surefire ways to deplete your batteries even further.

Adjust Your Schedule

Even if you are getting enough shut-eye, your schedule might be the problem. “Let’s say you lean naturally toward going to bed late, past 1 a.m., for instance,” says Till Roenneberg, a chronobiologist at Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich. “If that’s the case, social norms [such as office hours that begin at 9 a.m.] will conflict with your biological clock,” which controls metabolism, physiology, behaviour and cognition.

In a perfect world, sufferers of what Roenneberg dubs “social jet lag” would be able to adjust their personal and professional lives to match their bodies. But if your timetable is inflexible, try pushing your sleep cycle forward by absorbing lots of bright light in the morning and keeping to dim environments in the evening.

Here’s expert advice on how to fix your sleep schedule.

Reader's Digest Canada
Originally Published in Reader's Digest Canada

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