Poll five people and odds are good at least one of them cops to feeling tired. In fact, chronic exhaustion is so pervasive the medical field has coined a new acronym for the condition: TATT, or “tired all the time.”
This helps explain why there are countless resources devoted to teaching people how to get better sleep. While that information is hugely important, it’s not the end-all be-all of fatigue. Sometimes, tiredness isn’t the result of poor sleep habits. It can also stem from a variety of conditions that have been proven to zap people of their mental and/or physical energy.
If you’re chronically exhausted and sleep tips aren’t cutting it, it may be time to consider these more surprising reasons for feeling TATT.
Anemia can take many forms, each characterized by a deficiency of the red blood cells needed to sufficiently distribute oxygen throughout the body. This can lead to exhaustion, which may be present all the time, or may ramp up during physical activity. Other symptoms of anemia include shortness of breath, dizziness, pale skin, odd food cravings, headaches, feeling cold, and irritability.
What to do about it: If you’re experiencing these symptoms, consult a medical professional for an evaluation. They can tell you whether or not you’re anemic, what type of anemia you have, and the best treatment for you.
Anxiety can provoke drowsiness in several ways. For starters, it can make you toss and turn all night long, which prevents quality sleep. Racing thoughts can also drain you of energy during the waking hours—mental and physical tiredness are actually common symptoms of anxiety. Other symptoms of anxiety include irritability, trouble concentrating, restlessness, a pervading sense of dread, muscular tension, shortness of breath, headaches, and stomachaches.
What to do about it: A number of lifestyle factors can help keep anxiety in check. These include stress reduction techniques such as daily exercise, meditation, yoga, listening to music, developing a social support system, and scheduling time for doing things you enjoy. If these strategies aren’t doing the trick, it may be time to chat with a mental health professional.
Anyone who’s ever enjoyed a big Thanksgiving meal knows food can make you sleepy. But for people with food sensitivities, that sleepiness happens more than one day out of the year. In fact, feeling physically fatigued and/or mentally sluggish after eating a certain food is one of the best indicators that you are sensitive to it.
Other signs a food isn’t jiving with your body include bloating, belching, gas, and/or loose stools after eating; chronic constipation; and/or muscle and joint pain that sets in after meals. People with celiac disease or gluten sensitivities are especially prone to these symptoms, but anyone with a food allergy is at risk.
What to do about it: Keep a food diary to track how you feel after eating certain foods. If a food seems linked to undesirable symptoms, consider an elimination diet to see if these symptoms improve. You can also consult a medical professional for a food sensitivity test and/or a stool analysis that can offer more insight.
Seasonal allergies send your immune system into overdrive, which taps your body’s energy reserves. Congestion can make it hard to get a good night’s sleep, and many over-the-counter medications designed to treat seasonal allergies list daytime drowsiness as a side effect. All these factors explain why even a mild case of hay fever can provoke fatigue.
What to do about it: Lifestyle choices can help you weather seasonal allergies more effectively. These include eating healthy, changing your clothes once you get home so you don’t track allergens throughout the house, keeping air conditioner filters clean, and avoiding common allergens. If you’re not sure what your allergy triggers are, consult a medical professional.
Sleep apnea can wreak havoc on a person’s body in a number of ways, not the least of which is persistent fatigue. That’s because sleep apnea prompts your breathing to stop and re-start throughout the night, thus preventing sound sleep and causing exhaustion. It also puts sufferers at a heightened risk for cardiovascular disease, depression, diabetes, memory loss, and car and work accidents.
What to do about it: If you suspect you have sleep apnea, consult a medical professional immediately. They can help you get tested and identify viable treatment options.
More than 30 million Americans have a thyroid disorder, many of whom experience sleepiness. The thyroid produces hormones that regulate heartbeat, metabolism, and body temperature, among other duties. When a person’s thyroid is underactive, it doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormones; when it’s over-active, it produces more than necessary. This results in a cascade of symptoms, including exhaustion, depression, anxiety, changes in appetite, mental sluggishness, sleep disturbances, and rapid changes in weight.
What to do about it: If you suspect your thyroid may be over- or under-performing, set up an appointment with an endocrinologist. There are a number of simple blood tests—thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) test, Free T3, and Free T4 tests—which provide insights into whether your thyroid may be at the root of your exhaustion.
The solution to tiredness isn’t always as simple as “get more sleep.” Instead, the antidote to exhaustion depends on the reason you feel fatigued in the first place. By considering a variety of medical and lifestyle factors, you’ll be on your way to identifying what makes you tired all the time—and get one step closer to rejuvenation.