I feel run down

Table of Contents

7 Warning Signs That Could Indicate You Are Feeling Run Down

The top 7 warning signs that indicate you could be run down

Setting aside the underlying cause of feeling run down as being indicative of another illness, the more common signs that you are run down include:

Sign Number 1 – Tiredness

Although it may seem rather obvious, tiredness can come about through lack of quality sleep. If you wake up in the morning, and instead of feeling refreshed you simply want to go back to sleep again, this is a sure-fire indicator that you’re not getting enough quality sleep. Note the use of the word “quality.”

Sleep happens in phases. There are 3 phases to non-REM sleep before you reach the REM sleep phase. If sleep is foreshortened, your body doesn’t get enough time to complete all the phases necessary for consolidating memories, carrying out muscle repair and releasing the hormones that are needed to control your growth and your appetite.

Sleep apnoea is a common cause of interrupted sleep. If affects both men and women but is more prevalent in the male.

The GP consultations that are available here at Broadgate walkin clinic London Wall can identify and isolate the causes of interrupted sleep.

Sign number 2 – Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is thought to affect as many as 250,000 people here in the UK at any one point in time. The most common symptom is feeling constantly tired and exhausted. There is no ready-fix for CFS but if you live and or work here in London, you can call at Broadgate Clinic London Wall for a diagnosis. The doctor you see will probably discuss lifestyle options with you, including your eating, sleeping, and exercise routines.

Sign Number 3- Difficulty with concentration and decision making

Lack of quality sleep can also lead to difficulty with concentration and making decisions. Some people may not have the classic “want to go back to bed” feeling when they get up, but may still have problems with concentration.

Sign number 4 – Underactive Thyroid

An underactive thyroid gland means you don’t have enough thyroid hormone (thyroxine) in your body. This can lead to you feeling tired. You might also put on weight and suffer from aching muscles.

Sign Number 5 – Eating too little or eating wrong foods

Your body needs a certain minimum amount of calories, vitamins and minerals to perform at optimum levels. If you are not eating enough, and your diet is not well balanced, you are starving your body of the fuel it needs, and this can lead to feeling run down.

It’s also important to eat the right type of food. Starting your day off with sugary, jam doughnuts for example will cause a sugar rush. As you come down from this, you body will become more sluggish.

Sign number 6 – Urinary Tract Infections

Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) are another common sign that you may be feeling run down. If you become overtired your immune system can suffer, and small annoyances like UTIs are often the outcome. UTIs can be easily diagnosed and treated by a visit to Broadgate Clinic London Wall.

As the symptoms disappear, the run-down feeling often disappears with them.

Sign number 7 – Depression

Depression isn’t only an emotional illness. It also has physical effects which can include felling fatigued or run down, suffering headaches, and losing your appetite. If these symptoms persist for more than 2 weeks, you should seek medical help.

Depression affects as many as 1 in every 20 people here in the UK and is something that we here at Broadgate Clinic London Wall see and treat regularly.

If you’re feeling run down, then be sure to arrange a same day GP appointment at Broadgate GP. We offer a range of sameday GP services covering everything from family planning to psychiatric support.

Why you feel tired all the time

Do you often ask yourself, “Why am I so tired all the time?” If so, this article may be the perfect read for you; we have compiled a list of some of the most common reasons for tiredness and what you can do to bounce back into action.

Share on PinterestThere are many reasons for tiredness, including a lack of sleep, poor diet, a sedentary lifestyle, stress, and medical conditions.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 15.3 percent of women and 10.1 percent of men regularly feel very tired or exhausted in the United States.

Tiredness can cause an array of problems. For example, around 1 in 25 adult drivers report falling asleep at the wheel each month.

About 72,000 crashes and 44,000 injuries each year are a result of drowsy driving, and that’s not to mention the estimated 6,000 fatal crashes caused by drowsy drivers.

Everyone feels tired at some point in their lives — whether it’s due to a late night out, staying up to watch your favorite TV show, or putting in some extra hours at work.

Often, you can put your finger on the reason you’re not feeling your best, but what about those times when you can’t pinpoint the cause of your tiredness? What makes you feel tired then?

Medical News Today have researched the possible explanations for why you could be feeling so drained and the steps that you can take to feel re-energized.

1. Lack of sleep

A lack of sleep may seem an obvious reason for feeling tired, yet 1 in 3 U.S. adults are consistently not getting enough of it.

Share on PinterestTiredness increases the risk of accidents, obesity, high blood pressure, depression, and heart disease.

People aged between 18 and 60 years need 7 or more hours of sleep every day to promote optimal health, according to The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society.

Getting under the recommended hours of sleep each night is not only associated with fatigue, impaired performance, and a greater risk of accidents, but it also has adverse health outcomes.

These include obesity, high blood pressure, depression, heart disease, stroke, and an increased risk of death.

If you struggle to fit in 7 hours of sleep, here are some tips to help you achieve a full dose of much-needed slumber:

  • Maintain a consistent sleep routine. Try to go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time each morning — even on the weekends.

  • Avoid naps. We need a certain amount of sleep within a 24-hour period and no more than that. Napping reduces the amount of sleep that we require the following night, which might lead to difficulty getting to sleep and fragmented sleep.

  • Limit time awake in bed to 5–10 minutes. If you find that you are lying awake in bed worrying or with your mind racing, get out of bed and sit in the dark until you are feeling sleepy, then go back to bed.

  • Ensure that your bedroom is quiet, dark, and a comfortable temperature. Any light that enters your room could disturb your sleep. Ensure that your room is dark and that light emitted from digital devices is out of sight. Cooler room temperatures are considered better to promote sleep than warmer temperatures.

  • Limit caffeinated drinks. Try not to consume caffeinated beverages after noon. The stimulating effects of caffeine can last for many hours after intake and cause issues with initiating sleep.

  • Avoid tobacco and alcohol before bed. Smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol before going to bed may cause fragmented sleep.

If you practice all the sleeping habits listed above and still wake up tired, it might be a good idea to contact your healthcare provider and discuss whether you have a sleep-related medical problem such as insomnia, obstructive sleep apnea, or restless legs syndrome.

2. Poor diet

The easiest way to banish tiredness is to make adjustments to your diet. Eating a healthful and balanced diet can make the world of difference to how you feel.

Share on PinterestEating a healthful and balanced diet can help to combat fatigue.

To improve your health and get all the nutrients you need — as well as eliminate fatigue — it is vital to choose a healthful mix of food from the five food groups, which are: fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy.

You can switch up your eating style today by implementing some of these small changes:

  • Eat the right amount of calories for your sex, age, weight, and activity level. Eating either too much or too little can make you feel sluggish.
  • Fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables. Be sure to focus on eating whole fruits and a selection of vegetables.
  • Ensure whole grains make up half the grains you consume. Examples of whole grains include brown rice, oatmeal, whole cornmeal, bulgur, and whole-wheat flour.
  • Shift to low-fat and fat-free dairy to help limit your calories from saturated fats.
  • Vary your protein routine. Try to choose lean poultry and meat, limit processed meats, choose unsalted nuts and seeds, and select some omega-3-rich seafood.
  • Cut down on sugar. Sugar can give you a quick rush of energy, but it wears off fast and might make you feel more tired. Avoid foods and drinks that have lots of added sugar.
  • Never skip breakfast. Regularly skipping breakfast can lead to you missing out on key nutrients and the energy that you need to kick-start your day.
  • Eat at regular intervals. Sustain your energy levels by eating three meals per day and limiting unhealthful snacks.
  • Drink enough water. Drinking water can help to prevent dehydration, which results in fatigue, unclear thinking, mood changes, overheating, and constipation.

3. Sedentary lifestyle

When tiredness sets in, sitting on the couch and relaxing could seem to be the only answer. But getting up and moving may be the best thing you can do to re-energize and eradicate fatigue.

Share on PinterestExercising can help to increase energy and reduce tiredness.

Research by the University of Georgia (UGA) in Athens discovered that compared with sitting quietly, one single bout of moderate-intensity exercise lasting for at least 20 minutes helped to boost energy.

An earlier study by UGA also found that when sedentary individuals completed an exercise program regularly, their fatigue improved compared with those who did not.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans suggest that all adults need 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week and muscle-strengthening activities that work all the major muscle groups on 2 or more days per week.

This may seem to be a lot of time spent exercising, but you can spread out your activity across the week and, in total, it is just the amount of time that you might otherwise spend watching a movie.

If you have not exercised for a while, start slowly. Begin with a brisk 10-minute walk each day and build up to walking fast for 30 minutes on 5 days per week.

Brisk walking, water aerobics, riding a bike, playing tennis, and even pushing a lawnmower can all count toward your time spent doing moderate-intensity exercise.

4. Excessive stress

Many situations can cause stress. Work, financial problems, relationship issues, major life events, and upheavals such as moving house, unemployment, and bereavement — the list of potential stressors is never-ending.

Share on PinterestExcessive stress can lead to physical and emotional exhaustion.

A little stress can be healthy and may actually make us more alert and able to perform better in tasks such as interviews, but stress is only a positive thing if it is short-lived.

Excessive, prolonged stress can cause physical and emotional exhaustion and lead to illness.

Stress makes your body generate more of the “fight-or-flight” chemicals that are designed to prepare your body for an emergency.

In situations such as an office environment where you can’t run away or fight, the chemicals that your body has produced to protect you can’t be used up and, over time, can damage your health.

If the pressures that you face are making you feel overtired or giving you headaches, migraines, or tense muscles, don’t ignore these signals. Take some time out until you feel calmer, or try some of these tips.

  • Identify the source of stress. Until you can recognize what is causing you to create and maintain stress, you will be unable to control your stress levels.
  • Keep a stress journal to identify patterns and common themes.
  • Learn to say no. Never take on too much — be aware of your limits and stick to them.
  • Avoid those who stress you out. If there is someone in your life causing you a significant amount of stress, try to spend less time in their company.
  • Communicate your concerns. Learn to express your feelings and concerns instead of keeping them bottled up if something is bothering you.
  • View situations in a different way. Try to look at stressful situations in a more positive light. For example, if you’re stuck in a traffic jam, see it as an opportunity to have some alone time and listen to your favorite tunes.
  • Look at the bigger picture. Think about whether the stressful situation will matter in a month’s time. Is it worth getting upset about?
  • Accept the things you are unable to change. Some sources of stress, such as an illness or the death of a loved one, are unavoidable. Often, the best way to deal with stress is to try and accept things the way they are.
  • Learn to forgive. We are all human and often make mistakes. Let go of anger, resentments, and negative energy by forgiving friends, family, and colleagues and moving on.

Physical activity is a significant stress reliever and releases feel-good endorphins. If you are feeling stress build up, go for a walk, take your dog out, or even put on some music and dance around the room.

5. Medical conditions

If you have made lifestyle changes to do with your physical activity, diet, stress levels, and sleep but still feel tired all the time, there could be an underlying medical condition.

Share on PinterestMany medical conditions, such as anemia, can make you feel tired.

Some of the most common conditions that report fatigue as a key symptom include:

  • anemia
  • underactive thyroid
  • diabetes
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • chronic fatigue syndrome
  • urinary tract infection
  • food intolerance
  • heart disease
  • glandular fever
  • pregnancy
  • vitamin and mineral deficiencies

If you are concerned that you have a medical condition that is causing you to feel tired, arrange an appointment with your healthcare provider to discuss your worries as soon as possible.

Fatigue: why am I so tired all the time?

Am I getting enough sleep?

It’s probably obvious to say that if you don’t sleep well at night you’ll feel tired during the day. You may have worries which keep you awake, you may suffer with insomnia, or you may have just developed bad sleep habits. Following our advice on how to get a good night’s sleep may help.

Am I under a lot of stress at the moment?

Coping with stress and worry can be very tiring. This is especially true if you can’t see an end to your troubles. You may have recently gone through an emotional shock such as a bereavement or a relationship break up. You may have worries about work, money or family. Even positive events like moving house or getting married can be very stressful and tiring. Find out more with our articles on stress, work-place stress, or how to cope and deal with your worries.

You can click on the image below to open the interactive worry tree infographic. For the best user experience, please view this interactive PDF on desktop, rather than on mobile or tablet devices. If the viewer you are using does not support this PDF, try opening it with Adobe Reader.

What am I eating and drinking?

What you eat and drink can affect how tired you feel. Drinks containing caffeine (coffee, tea and some soft drinks) may interfere with your sleep and so make you feel tired the next day. And if you drink alcohol in the evenings, this can wake you during the night. Eating a healthy balanced diet and keeping well hydrated may help you to feel less tired.

How active am I during the day?

You may feel you’re too tired to exercise – but being active during the day actually helps you beat tiredness and improves the quality of your sleep. Try starting some exercise, then build it up so you get the benefits of regular activity. Choose something you enjoy, perhaps doing it with friends or family, or join a group to keep you motivated. But don’t over exercise (as this can make you worn out). And don’t exercise too late at night – this can also affect your sleep if you’re too ‘wired’ to go to sleep so soon after exercising.

Medical reasons for tiredness

Most people who go to their GP because they feel tired all the time don’t have a medical problem. But tiredness can sometimes be due to an underlying illness, especially if you’re getting other symptoms as well. Many illnesses can make you feel tired, including:

  • depression
  • anaemia
  • underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism)
  • diabetes
  • sleep apnoea

Some medicines, such as beta-blockers, can also cause tiredness.

You can feel very tired during pregnancy – especially in the first 12 weeks.

You should see your GP if you’re worried about your tiredness, and especially if you have other symptoms. These might include unintended weight loss, unusual bleeding, shortness of breath, or new lumps or bumps that aren’t going away.

If there’s no other cause for your tiredness, and it goes on for over four months, you might have a condition called chronic fatigue syndrome. This is also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME). In a child or young adult, this condition may be suspected after only three months. Your GP will be able to explain chronic fatigue syndrome, and whether it’s a possibility in your case.

Talking to your GP

If you go to your GP, it may help to think about the answers to these questions so you can describe how you’re feeling.

  • How would you describe your tiredness – is it physical or mental exhaustion that you’re feeling?
  • Is it worse when you wake up, do you feel tired all day every day, or at certain times?
  • Can you remember when you first noticed feeling tired? Is there a particular event or time that it came on? Is it getting worse?
  • Have you noticed any other changes to your health?
  • How do your energy levels compare to how they were when you were feeling better?
  • Have you started or changed any medication recently?

Feeling better

There’s no magic cure for tiredness. If you’ve been tired for a long time it can take a while to get back to your normal self. Be kind to yourself and set realistic goals. Follow any advice your GP gives you, and try to get a good balance between work, rest and fun into your life.

Do you know how healthy you truly are? Bupa health assessments give you a clear overview of your health and a view of any future health risks. You’ll receive a personal lifestyle action plan with health goals to reach for a happier, healthier you.

Between work, your social calendar, trying to exercise regularly, and just life in general, it’s not surprising that you feel tired all the time. That’s just part of being an adult who (unfortunately) doesn’t get to take regular naps like you did as a kid. But there’s a difference between feeling tired because of all the things going on and feeling consistently wiped out.

Normal fatigue gets better with proper rest, but it’s not normal to feel persistent fatigue for more than a week, miss work and social engagements because you’re tired, or need excessive caffeine to get you through the day, Jenepher Piper, M.S.N., a certified registered nurse practitioner practicing family medicine at Hunt Valley Family Health, an affiliate of Mercy Personal Physicians, tells SELF. If you’re experiencing those symptoms, you need to flag your fatigue to your doctor.

There’s also a difference between being sleepy and being excessively fatigued. “Sleepiness is simply the drive to sleep. Falling asleep during concerts, sales meetings, or intercourse are sure signs of excessive sleepiness,” board-certified sleep medicine doctor and neurologist W. Christopher Winter, M.D., of Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine and author of the upcoming book, The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep Is Broken and How to Fix It, tells SELF. And, of course, there’s also fatigue that falls somewhere in between, like feeling totally wiped even though you know you got enough sleep.

If any of this describes you, don’t freak out and assume you’re seriously ill—there are a bunch of different reasons why you could be dragging ass lately, some more serious than others. Here are some fatigue-causing health issues that should be on your radar:

1. It could be PMS.

You probably associate premenstrual syndrome with crankiness and bloating, but fatigue is also a big part of the symptoms. “Feeling tired, even to the point of fatigue is a common symptom of PMS,” says women’s health expert Jennifer Wider, M.D. The fatigue part is caused by a few different factors that create the perfect storm of tiredness, she says, including hormonal fluctuations, bloating, and sleep disturbances.

2. You have seasonal allergies.

When you have seasonal allergies, you’re constantly trying to keep wheezing, coughing, and a runny nose at bay—all of which suck. But that requires your immune system to be in high gear to fend off allergens, Piper explains, and can leave you feeling wiped as a result.

3. You’re still getting over a virus.

When you start to feel better after having a virus, it makes sense that your energy levels should rebound at the same time, too. But unfortunately, it can take a little time. Your immune system works really hard to fend off an infection and that requires energy, Piper points out. As a result, you can still feel a little run down, even as the rest of you is feeling better post-sickness.

4. You might be depressed.

A huge part of depression is feeling helpless and hopeless, and that can drain your energy, licensed clinical psychologist Alicia H. Clark, Psy.D., tells SELF. Depression is often associated with changes to your sleep patterns, including sleeping more or experiencing insomnia (which can also make you tired). “If you aren’t sleeping well then you may be more tired, and in turn have more trouble sleeping,” Clark says. “Insomnia and mental health challenges are closely related and can exacerbate each other.” If you’re feeling fatigue alone, don’t assume it’s depression, but if you’re also having persistent feelings of sadness, low self-esteem, changes in appetite, and difficulty concentrating, talk to your doctor.

5. It could be celiac disease.

You probably already know that people with celiac disease can get diarrhea, gas, and vomiting if they ingest gluten, but it can also cause people to feel weak or fatigued even without gastrointestinal issues, according to the Mayo Clinic. If you notice you don’t feel great after having wheat, barley, or rye products, talk to your doctor about getting tested for celiac disease.

6. You could have sleep apnea.

If you stayed up all night watching OITNB, it makes sense that you’d be tired the next day. But if you got nine hours of sleep and are still struggling, it could be a sign of sleep apnea, says Dr. Wider, which is a potentially serious sleep disorder where your breathing stops and starts during the night. “Sleep apnea upsets the restorative nature of sleep, so fatigue is often seen with poor quality sleep,” Dr. Wider says. Unfortunately, since you’re sleeping when you experience sleep apnea, it can be tough for you to know if you’re actually suffering from it. But if you’re feeling fatigued and are still getting a ton of sleep, this should be on your radar.

7. You could be suffering from anxiety.

Sure, everyone experiences some degree of anxiety on a regular basis, but clinical anxiety is persistent. And, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, it can leave you exhausted and plagued with sleep disturbances. “Anxiety in particular can be draining,” Clark says. If you suspect that you’re suffering from anxiety, it’s a good idea to reach out to a mental health professional for help.

8. It could be chronic fatigue syndrome.

Chronic fatigue syndrome is a complicated disorder that causes extreme and unexplained fatigue. It may get worse with physical activity but it doesn’t get better when you rest, according to the Mayo Clinic. There’s no test to diagnose this, but doctors typically reach a diagnosis once other medical conditions like depression and sleep disorders have been ruled out.

9. You could have a thyroid condition.

Your thyroid helps impact several important functions of your body, including how fast or slow your heart beats and how well your bodily movements flow, Piper says. Having an underactive thyroid, a condition known as hypothyroidism, can slow down your bodily functions and leave you feeling tired, she says. On the flip side, hyperthyroidism, which is when your thyroid is overactive, speeds everything up and can cause insomnia and an inner restlessness that makes it tough to relax—leaving you wiped out as a result.

10. It might be anemia.

Anemia happens when you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to your body’s tissues—and having anemia can leave you feeling tired and weak, according to the Mayo Clinic. Other symptoms can include pale or yellowish skin, shortness of breath, and cold hands and feet. If you have one or several of these symptoms together, talk to your doctor. Anemia can often be resolved by taking an iron supplement, but a medical professional can guide you on next steps.

Related:

  • The Difference Between Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Just Being Really Tired All the Time
  • 12 Reasons Why You’re Always Tired
  • Drinking Too Much Caffeine Can Be Deadly—Here’s What You Need to Know

You May Also Like: 6 Signs You May Be Addicted to Coffee

Tiredness & fatigue

Fatigue is the feeling of being tired all the time, even after you have rested. Most of the time fatigue is your body’s way of saying you need to make some lifestyle changes. However, sometimes it can be a sign of an underlying condition.

Key points

  1. Fatigue is common. One in 5 people feel tired most of the time and 1 in 10 people experience ongoing tiredness. Women tend to feel more tired than men.
  2. If you are getting enough sleep, exercise and healthy food, and generally have a healthy, low-stress lifestyle and are still experiencing fatigue, talk to your doctor.
  3. It is unusual for tiredness on its own to be a sign that you have a physical health condition. It is more likely to be a sign that some part of your life is out of balance.
  4. See your doctor if your tiredness is combined with heavy periods, weight loss, a change in bowel habits, hair loss or extreme thirst.
  5. Blood and urine tests can rule out medical reasons such as anaemia, diabetes or underactive thyroid.
  6. If a medical reason has been ruled out, try to identify stressors or events in your life that may have triggered or be contributing to your tiredness. See also our separate page on chronic fatigue syndrome.

Image credit: BBH Singapore, Unsplash

What is fatigue?

Fatigue is the feeling of being tired all the time. It is different from the feeling of sleepiness you get at bedtime or tiredness after exercise or a late night. Fatigue may be physical (in your body) or psychological (in your mind).

You are more likely to experience fatigue if you have a physical or mental illness or are on a low-income. Women are more commonly affected than men.

What are the symptoms of fatigue?

Fatigue can cause a wide range of symptoms.

  • Physical: feeling tired all the time, headaches, lightheadedness, sore, aching or weak muscles, loss of appetite, prone to getting sick.
  • Mental: slowed reflexes and responses, poor decision making and judgement, short-term memory problems, poor concentration.
  • Emotional: moodiness, irritability, low motivation, feeling depressed and hopeless.

What causes fatigue?

Most of the time fatigue is not due to one thing, but a combination of psychological, physical and lifestyle factors.

Psychological

Psychological causes of fatigue are much more common than physical ones.

It’s common to feel fatigued if you are experiencing:

  • Anxiety– for example, worrying about something so much that it keeps you up at night.
  • Grief or emotional shock – for example, after the death of a loved one or a natural disaster.
  • Stress – including stress at work, juggling work and family commitments, low income, or even positive events, such as planning a wedding.
  • Depression – fatigue is a common symptom of depression.

Physical

It is common to feel tired when you are:

  • underweight, overweight or obese
  • pregnant or breastfeeding
  • sick or have a health condition such as anaemia, thyroid problems, coeliac disease or diabetes.
  • having cancer treatment such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy
  • taking certain medications – some medications and some combinations of medications can make you feel tired. The tiredness may improve as your body gets used to the new medication or new combination of medications. If you think your medication is causing fatigue, talk to your doctor. They may reduce or change your medication.

Lifestyle

Fatigue can also be caused by lifestyle factors.

  • Drinking too much alcohol: Drinking alcohol in the evening tends to make you wake up in the middle of the night. Drinking too much on a regular basis can affect your mood and your sleep.
  • Having a disturbed sleep pattern: Going to sleep at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning helps set your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle.
  • Shift work, looking after small children or even just sleeping in on the weekend, can throw your normal sleep pattern off balance. This means your body wants to be sleeping at times when you need to be awake.
  • Drinking too much caffeine Caffeine is a stimulant that can stress the nervous system and cause insomnia.
  • Not exercising regularly: Keeping active every day is one of the best things you can do to reduce stress and anxiety, help you sleep better and improve your sense of well-being. It seems counter-intuitive, but tiring yourself out with exercise means you’re less likely to feel fatigued.
  • Poor diet: Foods high in sugar provide a short-term energy boost that quickly wears off, making you feel more tired. A healthy, balanced diet provides your body with the energy and nutrients it needs to function at its best.

When should I see a doctor about tiredness?

Tiredness + other symptoms

See your doctor if you have fatigue plus any of the following symptoms:

  • heavy periods
  • weight change
  • a change in bowel habits
  • hair loss
  • extreme thirst
  • any other symptoms concerning you.

These may be signs of an underlying medical problem.

Tiredness as main symptom

If tiredness is your main symptom, and you are getting enough exercise and sleep, eating a balanced diet and have a low-stress lifestyle and are still experiencing fatigue, see your doctor for a check-up. See also our separate page on chronic fatigue syndrome.

Questions a doctor may ask include the following:

  • Do you feel drowsy or weak?
  • Do you feel down or depressed?
  • Has your fatigue developed slowly or suddenly?
  • Is it cyclical or constant?
  • What do you think the cause might be?
  • Have you experienced any significant life events recently?
  • Is your life in balance? Consider work, relationships, physical, emotional, social, sense of worth and recreation.

Your doctor may also:

  • take your sleep history, including how much sleep you get each night, what the quality of your sleep is like, and whether you snore, wake or stop breathing in the night
  • do a physical examination to check for signs of illness or disease
  • carry out tests to rule out physical causes, such as blood and urine tests.

What is the treatment for fatigue?

If you have a medical condition causing fatigue, treatment will focus on the condition. If there is no medical cause, treatment will focus on lifestyle factors.

Talking therapy (counselling) may be useful if you:

  • are worried or anxious
  • have experienced a major life event
  • are feeling low or depressed.

Self-care for tiredness and fatigue

Reducing stress, caffeine and alcohol intake, getting more exercise and sleep, and giving your body healthy food to fuel it will boost your energy and reduce fatigue. Read more about self-care for fatigue.

Learn more

Sleep and tiredness NHS, UK, 2018
Tiredness and fatigue Patient Info, UK, 2017
Tiredness Royal College of Psychiatrists, 2015

  1. Fatigue and TATT Patient Info Professional, UK, 2019
  2. The laboratory investigation of tiredness BPAC, NZ

Reviewed by

Dr Sharon Leitch is a general practitioner and clinical research training fellow in the Department of General Practice and Rural Health at the University of Otago. Her area of research is patient safety in primary care and safe medicine use.

Why am I always tired? Top reasons why you’re tired all the time and how to get your energy back

Do you struggle to get out of bed, feel constantly drained and rely on pick-me-ups such as protein bars, coffee and sugary treats to get you through the day?

If so, you’re far from alone. Research by market analysts Mintel reveal that one in three of us admit we’re permanently worn out because of the pace of modern life. As a result, sales of supplements such as ginseng, energy drinks and power bars have shot up more than 5% in the last year alone as part of our desperate bid to battle exhaustion.

No wonder figures from a survey by vitamin company Healthspan show a whopping 97% of us claim we feel tired most of the time, and doctors’ records reveal that 10% of people visiting their GP are there solely to investigate unexplained tiredness.

So much so that doctors have even created a handy acronym – TATT (Tired All The Time) – that they jot down in their notes when a patient complains of constant fatigue. Here, experts point to some of the causes – and how to deal with them.

1. You’re not exercising enough

Take a jog: Light exercise can reduce fatigue (Image: PA)

It might be the last thing you feel like, but avoiding exercise because you’re tired actually makes you feel worse.

In a University of Georgia study, sedentary but otherwise healthy adults who began exercising lightly three days a
week for just 20 minutes reported feeling less fatigued and more energized after six weeks.

This is because regular exercise makes your heart and lungs work more efficiently, delivering oxygen and vital nutrients around the body.

Reboot your energy: Next time you’re tempted to flop on the sofa, force yourself up for a brisk 10-minute walk – you’ll feel more alert for it.

2. You don’t sleep as well as you think

Switch off: Gadgets before bedtime can spell broken sleep

Recent research shows many of us survive on so-called ‘junk sleep’ – the kind when we wake up frequently throughout the night. It doesn’t replenish our energy levels as well as long stretches of continuous sleep.

Junk sleep can be caused by stress, but also by over-stimulating the brain too close to bedtime. For example, by checking emails or using tablets and smartphones that emit a blue light found to disrupt sleep by tricking the brain into producing ‘wake-up’ hormones right when you need to wind down.

Reboot your energy: To avoid junk sleep, you need to develop good sleep hygiene – which means going to bed at a set time, banning screens for an hour beforehand and developing a wind-down routine that prepares your body for sleep, such as a warm bath, followed by a milky drink and half-an-hour reading something easy-going.

3. Your coffee addiction is sapping your energy

Bitter truth: Coffee’s bad news for our brain chemistry (Image: Getty)

Although we think of caffeine as a pick-me-up, it actually makes us feel more tired once the initial surge wears off.

Dr Chidi Ngwaba, director of The Lifestyle Medicine Clinic, explains: “This is because our brain chemistry doesn’t like
being interfered with by stimulants, so it releases chemicals to dampen down the alert response.”

Coffee is also a serious sleep disrupter, with one study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine revealing that drinking it even six hours prior to bedtime meant poorer quality kip.

Reboot your energy: Avoiding caffeine will increase energy levels in the long run – but cut down gradually, cup by cup, to avoid headaches and irritability.

4. You have an iron deficiency

Boost your mettle: Dark greens are good source of iron

Figures show that around a third of women are low in iron often due to heavy periods.

Some have low enough iron levels to be anaemic. If you pull down your bottom eyelids and the inner rim looks pale rather than pink, it’s an indicator.

Reboot your energy: A blood test will pick up any iron problems and you’ll be prescribed tablets to boost levels.

If iron levels are at the lower end of normal, but not anaemic, Healthspan’s Head of Nutrition Rob Hobson says: “Include plenty of iron-rich foods in your diet, such as lean meats, dark green vegetables, pulses and dried fruits, and pair them with foods like citrus fruit high in vitamin C.”

Or try Spatone Apple (£10.75, Boots) which mixes natural liquid iron with vitamin C.

5. You’re missing out on vital B-vitamins

Stock up: It’s vital to eat food with B vitamins (Image: Getty)

Nutritionist Rob Hobson explains: “We all have increasingly busy lives, so it’s essential to provide the body with enough calories and vitamins to get through the day.

“B vitamins are particularly vital as they’re required by the body to convert the food you eat into energy.”

Reboot your energy: “You can find this group of vitamins in grains such as brown rice, barley and oats, as well as lean proteins such as oily fish and turkey,” says Rob.

Or try Healthspan Vitamin B Complex (£8.95 from healthspan.co.uk).

6. You are dehydrated

Hydro power: Water is vital for energy levels (Image: Getty)

Losing as little as 2% of your body’s normal water content can take its toll on your energy levels.

And it’s surprisingly easy to become dehydrated, especially as we tend to lose our thirst reflex as we get older.

Working in an air-conditioned office, going for a long walk or simply forgetting to drink regularly can quickly lead to depleted fluid levels.

This causes blood pressure to drop and means not enough blood gets to the brain or muscles. This can cause headaches, fatigue and loss of concentration.

Reboot your energy: Try to drink every two hours. If you’re not peeing regularly or your urine is very dark, it’s a sign you need to drink more.

“Water is best, but if you find it boring, add mint, basil, lemon or cucumber to liven up the flavour,” suggests Rob.

7. You’re overdosing on sugar

Not so sweet: You can crash after a sugar boost

Nutritionist Linda Foster says: “What many people don’t realise is that they can actually be made more tired by the very foods supposed to give them energy.

“Sugary energy drinks and snack foods such as biscuits, chocolate and crisps cause sharp spikes then dips in blood sugar that can leave you flagging, irritable and desperate for a mid-afternoon nap.”

Reboot your energy: Swap to low-sugar foods – and this includes avoiding white carbs such as bread and pasta which quickly convert to sugar in the body.

Linda says: “Instead choose wholegrain carbs such as granary bread, wholemeal pasta and brown rice which release energy more slowly. And eat them little and often to keep your blood sugar stable.”

8. You’re skimping on protein

Seeds of change: Get some protein into your diet

Surviving on fruit and salad might feel worthy, but avoiding protein in the form of meat, dairy and nuts will leave you exhausted, as it’s a vital energy giver.

“It also takes more time for protein to be broken down in the body, so the energy is released more slowly and it fills you up for longer,” explains Linda Foster.

Reboot your energy: Snack on protein to keep energy levels stable. Eating a minimum of a palm-sized amount of protein with meals, and eating seeds and nuts or nut butters can prevent tiredness. Good protein sources are meat, fish, cheese, tofu, beans, lentils, yogurt, nuts and seeds.

9. You’re storing up stress

Take a break: The stress of daily life can be exhausting

Naturopath Martin Budd, author of Why Am I So Exhausted?, says: “While a little stress helps to keep us on our toes, long-term stress – for example from work or relationship problems – can exhaust the body, as well as being emotionally draining.”

Reboot your energy: “It’s our response to stress that’s much more damaging to our health than the stress itself,” says Dr Chidi.

“So by learning how to diffuse stressful situations, we can reduce their impact.”

When stress strikes, instead of going frantic to fix things, try to slow down and take a break instead. Call a friend, walk the dog or do some yoga.

Try taking the herb rhodiola, which can help balance levels of the stress hormone cortisol: Rhodiola Stress Relief (£19.95, healthspan.co.uk).

10. Your thyroid is sluggish

Check-up: See a doctor if you think you have thyroid problems (Image: Getty)

Having an underactive thyroid – which means it’s not making enough of the hormone thyroxine – is a surprisingly common cause of unexplained fatigue, especially in middle-aged women.

Other symptoms of a thyroid condition include excessive thirst, weight gain and feeling cold.

Reboot your energy: See your GP who can give you a blood test. If an underactive thyroid is diagnosed, a simple once-a-day tablet can correct the problem – and most people get their normal energy levels back soon after starting treatment.

11. Log off

Man at computer (Image: Getty)

Dr Lipman, autor of Revive: End Exhaustion and Feel Great Again, believes people who over-use technology risk running out of steam. “In today’s world, many of us literally can’t switch off,” he says.

“We’re glued to our computers during the day, our phones on the way to and from work, and our laptops in the evening.

“Then there’s TV. All of these are stimulants and they can disturb your quality of sleep.”

Dr Lipman advises all his clients to switch off their laptops, TVs and mobile phones an hour — preferably two — before bed.

“Exposure to electromagnetic fields too close to bedtime stops the sleep hormone melatonin from being secreted as you fall asleep, which means you never reach the deep, restorative type of sleep we all need,” he says.

“This type of sleep leaves you feeling fully refreshed after seven or eight hours, plus it keeps your immune system strong.”

Dr Lipman suggests his patients wear an eye mask in bed: “Total darkness helps you fall into a deep restorative sleep.”

“Or invest in blackout blinds for their bedroom. Try a Moulded Blackout Eye Mask from M&S (£5).

12. Meditate for 12 minutes daily

(Image: Getty)

Cut back on multi-tasking. Focus on doing one thing at a time and give that all your attention. Meditation greatly improves your focus and memory, and in studies, subjects’ memories improved by an average of 10-20%, with some showing an improvement nearer 50%.

13. Put houseplants around your home

Spathiphyllum wallisii, Peace Lily (Image: Getty)

Keep your windows open as often as possible – indoor air is often far dirtier than air outside, swirling with dust mites, bacteria, particles from cooking, cleaning, smoking, pet dander and pollutants brought in from outdoors such as pollen and pesticides, all of which can reduce our ability to perform mental tasks.

Houseplants (particularly lady palm, dwarf date and peace lily) can be an effective way to purify the air in your home.

Three instant SOS energy boosters

Packs a punch: Bananas offer instant and slow release energy (Image: Getty)

  • Nosh a nana: Packed with natural sugars, and higher in starch than most other fruit, bananas provide the perfect blend of instant and slow-release energy.
  • Try this quick acupressure pick-me-up: Pinch the point between your thumb and forefinger, hold for two minutes then gradually release. It’s thought to stimulate energy flow.
  • Sniff yourself awake: Shake drops of aromatherapy oils like rosemary, lemon or juniper on a tissue and inhale for a few seconds.

Checking Facebook was wrecking my sleep: Claire Rees’ story

I’m a mum to Alice, nearly two, and I work part time as a health visitor.

I’m constantly on the go with my daughter and work.

Every morning I wake up shattered and rely on tea and sugary foods to keep me going.

I feel tired most of the time and also suffer from bloating.

So when I got a copy of Revive I couldn’t wait to read it.

I was wary that Gwyneth Paltrow was a fan – I just don’t have her time or money and need a plan that’s going to be easy and do-able.

Thankfully, all the advice is so simple and easy to follow.

The first thing I decided to tackle was my sleep – I started going to bed at the same time every night and wearing an eye mask.

Just doing this improved the quality of sleep as it clearly got me into a routine that my body liked so I woke up feeling more refreshed.

The next thing I did was cut back on sugar and alcohol, which made a difference to my energy levels and I looked less bloated.

But the biggest difference was avoiding technology. I often browse on my laptop in the evening and I didn’t realise how much it was disrupting my sleep.

I waste time on things like Facebook when I could be relaxing or having a bath – both of which would help me wind down and sleep better.

The best thing about this book is the sheer number of tips.

You don’t have to do all of them, just the ones that suit your life, to make a huge difference and stop you feeling like you’re running on empty.

12 Reasons You Feel Tired All the Time and What to Do About It

A sleep disorder like sleep apnea can be causing your tiredness. Sleep apnea is when your breathing pauses while you’re asleep. As a result, your brain and body don’t receive enough oxygen at night. This can lead to daytime fatigue.

Sleep apnea is a serious condition. It can cause high blood pressure, poor concentration, and lead to a stroke or heart attack. Treatment involves using a CPAP machine or an oral device to keep the upper airway open while you’re asleep.

9. Chronic fatigue syndrome

You may feel tired all the time if you have chronic fatigue syndrome. This condition causes extreme fatigue that doesn’t improve with sleep. Its cause is unknown.

There’s no test to confirm chronic fatigue. Your doctor must rule out other health problems before making a diagnosis. Treatment involves learning how to live within your physical limitations or pacing yourself. Moderate exercise may also help you feel better and increase your energy.

10. Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia causes widespread muscle pain and tenderness. This condition affects the muscles and soft tissue, but it can also cause fatigue. Because of the pain, some people with the condition are unable to sleep at night. This can lead to daytime sleepiness and fatigue.

Taking an over-the-counter pain reliever can help improve pain and sleep. Also, some people have had positive results with an antidepressant, as well as physical therapy and exercise.

11. Medication

Sometimes, medication can cause you to feel tired all the time. Think back to when you first noticed daytime sleepiness. Was this around the time when you started a new medication?

Check drug labels to see if fatigue is a common side effect. If so, talk to your doctor. They might be able to prescribe another drug, or reduce your dosage.

12. Diabetes

Feeling tired all the time can also be a symptom of diabetes. When you have diabetes, your body doesn’t make enough insulin. This can cause high blood sugar, which can affect your concentration and leave you feeling fatigued and irritable.

See a doctor for any unexplained fatigue that doesn’t improve. Keep in mind that fatigue can also be a symptom of other medical conditions like heart disease and cancer.

Takeaway

Some days are more tiring than others. It’s important to recognize ordinary sleepiness from excessive tiredness.

In most cases, excessive sleepiness can be fixed with some lifestyle changes. If you still feel worn out after trying to manage your fatigue on your own, talk to your doctor. You may have a sleep disorder or another medical condition that needs attention.

Photo: Twenty20

If you stifle yawns in 2 p.m. meetings and find yourself passed out cold during the previews on movie nights, you probably already know you’re run down. But there’s a big difference between being pooped out and being exhausted — and the signs aren’t as obvious as just feeling tired. It’s important to know the difference, because exhaustion can be downright dangerous.

“Sleep is one of the most under-appreciated facets of health,” says Dr. Wayne Scott Andersen, MD, medical director of Take Shape for Life. “The consequences of sacrificing it can ripple throughout various areas of your life. Exhaustion has been linked to issues with appetite regulation, heart disease, increased inflammation, and a 50 percent increase in your risk of viral infection.” Recent research also found a link between exhausted immune cells — bouts of little sleep can run down your immune system — and IBS symptoms.

So if you’re tired and you’re experiencing any of the symptoms below, it might mean you’re exhausted — and it’s time to devote some serious time to sleep, ASAP.

RELATED: Celebs Are Getting Energy Boosts from Oxygen Therapy, Should You?

6 Clues That You’re Totally Exhausted

1. Your lips are dry.

If your lips are cracked, your skin is scaly, and you’re suffering from frequent headaches, dehydration may be to blame. Yes, this is a common woe in cold-weather climates. But, if you’re feeling drained, you should know it goes hand-in-hand with exhaustion. “You feel more fatigued the more dehydrated you are,” says Michael J. Breus, PhD, a board-certified expert in clinical sleep disorders. “If you’re constantly craving something to drink or experience dry skin and lips, you might be dealing with a level of hydration that can lead to exhaustion.”

“You won’t retain knowledge very well, as your brain depends on sleep to re-process what you experienced during the day.”

Water affects so many systems within your body that it’s impossible to maintain your energy levels if you’re not drinking sufficient amounts of H20, he explains. “People often forget to hydrate because it just isn’t on their minds. Everyone’s different, but I always tell people you should drink water to the point where your urine is clear,” says Breus.

RELATED: You’d Never Guess These 7 Dehydration Symptoms

2. Your mind is all fuzzy.

Your brain needs sleep like a car needs gas; neither runs very well on empty. “Among other things, your body uses sleep to stabilize chemical imbalances, to refresh areas of the brain that control mood and behavior, and to process the memories and knowledge that you gathered throughout the day,” says Dr. Andersen.

This is especially important during the 90-minute period known as REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. When it’s disturbed, your mind might be sluggish the next day. “You won’t retain knowledge very well, as your brain depends on sleep to re-process what you experienced during the day,” says Dr. Andersen. Exhaustion can leave you vulnerable to forgetting important things, like a big meeting at work, or feeling especially irritable, says Dr. Andersen.

RELATED: 8 Signs You’re Way Too Stressed (And How to Deal!)

3. Your workouts have sucked.

Not crushing it at the gym like you usually do? Being exhausted causes every aspect of your life to suffer — including exercise, according to Dr. Andersen. “Exercising requires mental focus as well as physical activity,” Andersen says. “If your brain is falling behind because you are not well-rested, your ability to properly challenge your body will be limited — and that’s in addition to the many performance consequences that come with poor sleep.”

Another big sign: You can’t even bring yourself to make it to the gym. “Our bodies are programmed to find the easy way out, which was useful 10,000 years ago when survival was difficult. Today that means one night of lost sleep can lead to weeks of missed workouts and unhealthy meals,” says Dr. Andersen. (If it’s just a hit of motivation that you’re lacking, though, check out these 33 sources of workout motivation.)

RELATED: 4 Science-Backed Ways to Motivate Yourself to Work Out

4. You’re super stressed (and trying to ignore it).

It’s no surprise that stress can keep you up at night, but the way you deal with it is what might cause exhaustion-inducing insomnia, according to research in the journal Sleep. For the study, researchers asked nearly 2,900 men and women about the stress in their lives, including how long it affected them, how severe it was, and how they handled the pressure. A year later, the researchers found that people who coped with stress by distracting themselves, dwelling on the issues, or trying to completely ignore it had higher instances of chronic insomnia, which they characterized as three sleepless nights a week for a month or more. This can turn into a vicious cycle of stress and exhaustion fueling one other. The researchers suggest using mindfulness techniques to ease stress might be a better way to cope.

RELATED: What Mental Health Experts Do to De-Stress

“Even a single night of interrupted sleep could screw you up the next day.”

5. You’re eating more junk than usual.

Find yourself hitting up the office vending machine on the regular? “The more exhausted you are, the more you crave high-fat, high-carbohydrate foods,” says Breus. Exhaustion often corresponds with high levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. To decrease cortisol, your brain will often seek out a hit of the neurotransmitter serotonin. “ is a calming hormone. An easy way to access it is by ingesting comfort food full of carbs and fat,” says Breus.

Even worse, all that junk food can just wind up making you more exhausted. “With highly processed, highly glycemic foods like soft drinks, candy bars, or bagels, blood sugar and insulin levels will rise dramatically,” says Dr. Anderson. “The elevated insulin levels actually cause blood sugar to plummet, so your brain triggers cravings for something full of sugar, fat, and calories.” Then, it starts all over again. Instead of reaching for comforting junk, Dr. Andersen recommends fueling your body with healthy low-glycemic foods like fruits and whole grains that can help stabilize your blood sugar and keep your insulin levels from swinging wildly in either direction.

RELATED: 3 Guided Meditations for Productivity, Sleep and Cravings

6. You sleep poorly even once a week.

You probably know that chronic insomnia can trigger exhaustion. But did you know that even a single night of interrupted sleep could screw you up the next day? In a study in the journal Sleep Medicine, 61 study participants slept for eight hours for one night. The next night, their rest was interrupted by four phone calls that instructed them to finish a short computer challenge before they could continue sleeping. Researchers found that after a night of fragmented sleep, people experienced worse moods along with weaker attention spans, suggesting that interrupted sleep might be as detrimental as the exhaustion that comes with full-on sleep restriction.

Or, maybe instead of dealing with interrupted sleep, you just go to bed way later than you should. “Bedtime procrastination” is a buzzy term in sleep medicine. In a study in Frontiers in Medicine, researchers discovered that on nights when the 177 participants reported procrastinating their zzz’s, they slept less and with worse quality. Plus, they experienced more intense fatigue the next day. “Set your bedtime and stick to it, counting back seven hours from when you need to wake up to determine the ideal start to your sleep latency period, or falling asleep time,” advises Dr. Andersen. “Decrease stimulation 30 minutes before you plan to sleep by shutting off cell phones, televisions and other devices.” You might even want to try these snazzy orange glasses, too.

Ready to make a change? Check out these bedtime rituals to help you battle insomnia, yoga poses for better sleep, plus tips for the best nap ever.

Originally published January 2015. Updated August 2017.

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Everybody is tired—that’s just part of being a grownup. But even though it’s easy to dismiss your tiredness as just “one of those things” there comes a point when it’s not. When you’re feeling fatigued all the time, it might mean your body is trying to tell you something.

That’s what actress Mindy Cohn discovered before she was diagnosed with breast cancer. “I was walking around my neighborhood in Los Angeles and I suddenly got so tired,” the Facts of Life star tells People. “I just couldn’t go anymore. This was before Uber was really a thing, so I texted my friend Helen Hunt and said, ‘Something’s wrong with me. I need help.'” Cohn saw her doctor and was eventually diagnosed with breast cancer—and fatigue was her first major symptom.

Obviously not every bout of exhaustion should make your mind go to cancer, but when should you check in with a doctor about fatigue?

It’s important to know the difference between feeling tired and feeling fatigued.

Feeling tired or sleepy is when you’re having trouble staying awake and want to nod off, W. Christopher Winter, M.D., of Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine, and author of the book, The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep is Broken and How to Fix It, tells SELF. Fatigue, on the other hand, is when you’re seriously lacking energy.

“Normal” fatigue gets better when you’re able to rest (think: your arm gets fatigued after you do a bunch of bicep curls, but feels better 10 minutes later), and “normal” sleepiness gets better with more sleep. In most cases, fatigue is your body telling you to slow down, and you should probably listen to it.

But when fatigue regularly keeps you from doing the things you want to do, it’s a problem, Dr. Winter says. “That doesn’t mean ‘I can’t run 38 miles because I get fatigued,’ it’s more like ‘I have trouble getting up and down stairs,’ or ‘a walk from the parking lot to my office exhausts me,’” he says. And if this comes out of nowhere, it’s worth checking in with a doctor.

Many health conditions—sometimes serious ones—list fatigue as one of the symptoms.

When Dr. Winter sees patients who say they’re tired, he often tries to distinguish whether they’re sleepy or fatigued. “Sleepiness is pretty easy—it’s a defined group of problems,” he says. “But if they’re talking about fatigue, you could make a list a mile long of what could be causing it.” That list includes a deficiency in vitamins B12 or D, multiple sclerosis, type 2 diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease, to name a few.

Other conditions that are associated with fatigue include anemia, a thyroid issue, or even leukemia—all of which can make people feel incredibly rundown, Yvonne Bohn, M.D., an ob/gyn at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif., tells SELF.

“My patients definitely talk about being tired,” Dr. Bohn says. When she hears that, she starts asking questions to try to figure out what might be behind it. If there doesn’t seem to be lifestyle factors behind it (like caring for a new baby or training for a marathon), she’ll typically do a blood workup to try to figure out what’s going on. Mental health conditions, including depression, can also make people feel fatigued, Dr. Bohn points out, though they can’t be detected with a blood test.

And, yes, fatigue can be one symptom of cancer, though it’s not typically the first or most obvious sign of disease. “About one in five breast cancer patients experience severe fatigue as a symptom of breast cancer,” Heather Jim, Ph.D., an assistant member of the Health Outcomes & Behavior Program at Moffitt Cancer Center who studies fatigue and cancer, tells SELF. It’s not totally clear why this happens, but cancer can cause chronic inflammation which has been linked to fatigue, Dr. Jim says.