Are you tired? Answer the following questions to find out if you need to worry. If your child is feeling tired, then you should see a doctor.
Feeling exhausted is so common that it has its own acronym, TATT, which stands for "tired all the time".
Dr Rupal Shah, a GP in south London, says tiredness is one of the most common complaints she sees in her surgery. “I see loads and loads of patients who complain of feeling exhausted, even though they’re sleeping well. Often it’s been going on for several months.”
At any given time, one in five people feels unusually tired, and one in 10 have prolonged fatigue, according to the Royal College of Psychiatrists. Women tend to feel tired more often than men.
“It’s unusual to find anything physically wrong. Most of the time, fatigue is linked with mood and the accumulation of lots of little stresses in life,” says Dr Shah.
If you want to work out how you became tired in the first place, it can help to think about:
- parts of your life, such as work and family, that might be particularly tiring
- any events that may have triggered your tiredness, such as a bereavement or relationship break-up
- how your lifestyle may be making you tired
Physical causes of tiredness
There are lots of health complaints that can make you feel tired. Not just the well-recognised ones like anaemia and thyroid problems, but also more surprising ailments, such as diabetes , food intolerance and a sleeping disorder called sleep apnoea .
Read more about the medical causes of tiredness.
Being overweight or underweight can cause tiredness. That’s because your body has to work harder than normal to do everyday activities. If you’re underweight, you have less muscle strength, and you may feel tired more quickly.
Pregnancy, especially in the first 12 weeks, can also sap your energy.
Psychological causes of tiredness
Psychological tiredness is far more common than tiredness that's caused by a physical problem.
One key reason is anxiety , which can cause insomnia and, in turn, lead to persistent fatigue. A survey by the Mental Health Foundation found that nearly a third of the population are severely sleep-deprived, often because of job and money worries. The Foundation’s report, Sleep Matters, suggests a link between insomnia and low energy levels.
The worries and strains of daily life can be exhausting – even positive events, such as moving house or getting married. Emotional shock, such as bad news, bereavement or the break-up of a relationship, can make you feel drained.
Mental health problems such as depression or anxiety can make you feel more tired. They can also prevent you from getting a proper night's sleep.
If you think your tiredness may be rooted in low mood, try this short audio guide to dealing with your sleep problems.
Lifestyle causes of tiredness
Tiredness can often be attributed to lifestyle factors, such as drinking too much alcohol, or having a bad diet. If you drink alcohol in the evening, it tends to wake you in the middle of the night. If you drink a lot regularly, it can make you depressed and affect your sleep. “I’m always surprised to find how often patients who complain of tiredness are drinking far too much,” says Dr Shah.
If you have a disturbed sleep pattern – for instance, if you work night shifts, sleep in the day or look after young children – it can be difficult to get a good night’s sleep, and you’ll feel tired during the day.
Read more about how to change your lifestyle to boost your energy.
How to tackle tiredness
It may be common to feel tired all the time, but it isn’t normal. If you’re worried, see your doctor for advice and reassurance. “We can rule out anything serious,” says Dr Shah. “Just knowing there’s nothing wrong can be reassuring in itself.”
Now read why lack of sleep is bad for you.
Why do I get tired after eating?
Feeling tired and sleepy after eating can be a normal bodily response. It can be caused by several factors, including:
- hormones released during digestion
- eating foods that contain the amino acid tryptophan, which can encourage sleepiness
- lack of good quality sleep, which can make you feel more tired after eating
- lack of regular exercise, which puts you at risk of low energy in general
Feeling tired after a meal can sometimes be a sign of an underlying medical condition, including:
- food intolerance or food allergy
- obstructive sleep apnoea
- underactive thyroid
- coeliac disease
Speak to your doctor if you regularly feel tired after eating.
Why can’t I sleep even though I’m tired?
If you cannot sleep even though you feel tired this is a sign of insomnia. Insomnia is a condition in which a person has problems sleeping.
It can be caused by many things, including:
- stress, anxiety or depression
- jet lag
- shift work
- a room that is too hot or cold
- an uncomfortable bed
- alcohol, caffeine or nicotine
- recreational drugs, such as cocaine or ecstasy
How much caffeine is too much?
Most healthy adults can safely consume up to 400 milligrams (mg) of caffeine a day. This is equivalent to around four cups of brewed coffee, two energy drinks or 10 cans of cola. However, the effect of caffeine on the body differs from person to person. You may need to cut down on caffeine if consuming caffeine causes symptoms, including:
- jitters or nervousness
- fast heartbeat
- frequent urination or inability to control urination
- stomach upset
- muscle tremors
You may also need to cut down on caffeine if you are taking certain medicines. Speak to your doctor or pharmacist to find out if caffeine may affect any medicines you are taking.
How should you sleep when you’re pregnant?
When you are pregnant, it is safest to go to sleep lying on your left or right side. This is because falling asleep on your back may affect blood flow and oxygen to a growing baby. Research suggests that, after 28 weeks, falling asleep on your back may double the risk of stillbirth.
The position you fall asleep in is the position most people sleep in for longest. Do not worry if you wake up on your back during the night. Instead, just turn over and go back to sleep on your side.
If sleeping on your side feels uncomfortable, try supporting your bump with pillows and putting a pillow between your knees.
Do antibiotics make you tired?
Tiredness is not a common side effect of taking antibiotics. However, different people respond differently to medicines. Speak with your doctor if you are worried about any side effects from taking antibiotics.
Why do I wake up tired?
Several sleep disorders can leave you feeling tired when you wake up. These include:
- obstructive sleep apnoea
- sleep movement disorders, such as restless legs syndrome, teeth grinding, and periodic limb movement disorder
However, you may also feel tired on waking up due to conditions that cause general tiredness, including:
- chronic fatigue syndrome
- underactive thyroid
- coeliac disease
- glandular fever
Why does my body feel weak?
Feeling weak can be caused by a wide variety of factors and conditions. Common causes of general weakness include:
- medical conditions, such as the flu, thyroid disease, anaemia, diabetes, heart failure, vitamin B-12 deficiency, depression or anxiety
- a lack of sleep
- medication side effects
- certain muscle diseases or loss of muscle e.g. from inactivity
- reduced physical fitness
Weakness in specific parts of the body may be caused by something different. Common causes of weakness in specific muscles include:
Does depression make you tired?
Yes, tiredness or low energy can be a symptom of depression.