Tired of fatigue?

Laura Mappas
Monday, April 18, 2011

Feeling tired and exhausted on a regular basis? Find out more about fatigue, what triggers it and how you can boost your energy levels.

Fatigue is a symptom rather than a specific disorder. The triggers are wide and varied and the effects are tiring, to say the least. A person suffering from fatigue has slower reflexes, making the condition the major cause of single vehicle crashes on rural roads in Australia. And a sudden loss of energy means sufferers are unable to function normally in daily life.

Does this sound like you?

If you're battling a lack of energy, you may be suffering from fatigue. Some of the symptoms are:

  • Exhaustion
  • Feeling tired in the morning
  • Feeling rundown
  • The inability to bounce back after an illness
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle soreness after exercise
  • Depression
  • Loss of energy
  • Poor short-term memory
  • Food cravings
  • Dependence on caffeine, sugar or alcohol
  • "Second wind" after 6pm

Triggers

A wide range of triggers can set-off fatigue, including:

An undiagnosed medical condition
Unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as too much or not enough sleep Workplace issues such as stress, night shift or unemployment Feeling stressed or anxious

Chronic fatigue syndrome
The debilitating effects step up a notch when a long-time sufferer is diagnosed with chronic fatigue. Chronic fatigue can strike any age group, including children, and the onset can be either slow or sudden.

Often triggered by a viral infection, stress or by prolonged stretches of insomnia, chronic fatigue often starts out as mild fatigue — nothing a good night's sleep won't fix, right? Wrong. The symptoms persist and usually worsen over time and a good night's sleep does nothing to reduce the feelings of exhaustion.

The worst part is that there is currently no diagnostic test that accurately diagnoses chronic fatigue, meaning that a sufferer has to endure months and months of sleeplessness, energy loss and often bouts of depression while doctors try and pinpoint the problem. A diagnosis is usually made by excluding all other illnesses after six months of continuing symptoms.

Insomnia
Fatigue and insomnia go hand in hand. In fact, insomnia is defined as poor sleep followed by daytime fatigue. The cycle is ongoing. More than one-third of the world's population will suffer from insomnia at some point. The triggers of this initially short-term sleep-depriving disorder are varied, ranging from stress or a new sleep environment to an illness or stimulating medication.

Insomnia sufferers often get frustrated and annoyed by the fact that they can't sleep, but it is this heightened emotional state that then contributes to the problem, keeping them awake. Instead, try focusing your energies on keeping a sleep diary so that you can pinpoint your sleeping patterns, also make sure you don't nap during the day and avoid stimulants such as caffeine and alcohol.

Time for an energy boost?

The effects of fatigue can be life changing. Some people don't have the energy or motivation to go to work, study or even socialise, while others suffer from depression.

Here are some simple ways to re-energise:

  • Get some shut-eye — easier said than done for insomnia sufferers, but a good night's sleep will give your energy levels a big boost.
  • Tackle emotions and stress — fatigue may have an emotional and a physical component.
  • Diet — fatigue can lead to binge eating and carb cravings, which can lead to over-eating. It's then a vicious circle, as eating too much can once again lead to fatigue.
  • Stay hydrated — not drinking enough water can cause fatigue, sleeplessness, muscle weakness and headaches.
  • Get moving — regular physical exercise is the key to regulating your metabolism and getting your muscles ready for rest.
  • Stop smoking — smokers typically have lower energy levels than non-smokers.


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