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November 28, 2019

Why am I so tired? Common conditions and associated symptoms

Screen Shot 2019-11-28 at 16.29.33As we head into the last month of the 2019, and for many of us the busiest month too, we can find ourselves getting more and more tired, as we try to balance work, the holidays, and visiting family and friends. What’s more, at this time of year, particularly in climates where the weather is getting colder, there are many more illnesses and colds going around, which can all contribute to us feeling a little less spring in our step. We’ve rounded up some of the common causes of tiredness and fatigue, varying from the more serious conditions to look out for, to the less serious such as simply not getting enough shut eye.


Mild bacterial and viral infections, such as a stomach bug or the flu, can really set us back. We’ve all experienced a cold or the flu virus, and while the body tries to combat the virus and recover, we certainly have depleted levels of energy. If you’re unsure whether you have the flu or just a cold, have a read of our blogpost on the subject. Likewise, we’ve written about stomach pains and gastroenteritis, otherwise known as the winter vomiting bug. There are a good many viruses and bacteria that thrive when the weather starts to change in the winter months, and the fact that many people travel around the country or even world visiting friends and family, means they can get passed around much more easily at this time of year. Good hygiene and staying healthy and warm are your best lines of defence against any nasty stomach bugs and similar viruses. And if you do catch one, rest and fluids are your next line of defence.

Lack of sleep and sleep disorders

Feeling sleepy? The simple answer may be that you’re not getting enough sleep, or at least not good quality sleep. Sleep is a fascinating subject, and although we’ve been doing it since the dawn of time, it is still a relative mystery to the medical world. We’re still not entirely sure why we sleep or what happens when we sleep, but we certainly know that once deprived of it, bodily functions tend to decline extremely quickly. We do know that the body goes through sleep stages, known as NREM and REM, alternating between the two. Interruptions to this cycle, or not enough of one of the stages, can cause our bodies to not be well rested enough. Stress, children, poor diet, and other illnesses can all contribute to this happening. As well as this, there are a few sleep disorders that people can have, all of which obviously contribute to feeling tired when we are awake:

  • Sleep apnea - difficulty breathing whilst asleep
  • Insomnia - difficulty achieving or maintaining sleep
  • Restless Leg Syndrome - twitching or tingling in the limbs whilst asleep
  • Narcolepsy - ‘sleep attacks’ during the day

Chronic fatigue syndrome

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), is a long term neurological condition with many complex symptoms and little known about the causes. If you’ve been experiencing extreme tiredness for quite a few months, and other conditions have been looked into and ruled out, you may want to consider CFS with your doctor. It’s difficult to diagnose, and unfortunately has no cure yet, but getting a diagnosis can lead to you getting some help with symptoms such as tiredness. We wrote a blogpost this time last year on CFS, which you can check out here.

Depression and SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)

For many, winter is a difficult time with many strains on mental wellbeing. Pressures on seeing families that you may not want to visit, and financial strains as the holidays edge closer, among other things, can contribute to mental health decline and cases of depression and suicide increase around the winter months. Depression causes severe tiredness, with many people unable to get out of bed or find the motivation to get dressed. If you are struggling, there is always help out there and you are never alone. We’ve written about mental health and suicide prevention before and this blogpost has some of the helplines and websites that can offer support.

This time of year also brings with it an increased amount of cases of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This is a particular type of depression that is triggered by changes in the seasons, as a specific part of our brain reacts to the sun and our circadian rhythm is disturbed by the shorter days. We’ve written more in depth about SAD here.

Vitamin B12 deficiency and diet

We all know we need to eat our fruit and veg to ensure we get all our vitamins, but do you know each and every vitamin or mineral and its purpose? Our bodies exist on a very complex balance of nutrients that we get from our food and keeping track of it all can be almost impossible, especially when we get busier. If you’re feeling a little more run down than usual, take a look at your diet and ask if something significant has changed, or whether there is more of a certain food group that may help. Sugar heavy diets can bring on fatigue, as can not having enough protein. The times we eat and the portions are also very important. One vitamin to highlight that often gets forgotten is the vitamin B12. This is vital for the body to metabolise the cells in your body, and produce red blood cells. Not having enough B12 therefore causes your body to become weaker and more tired, as it struggles to carry enough oxygen around your body efficiently. You can take B12 as a vitamin supplement, but it is also abundant in foods such as poultry, eggs, yeast and marmite.

Iron deficiency

We wrote quite recently about iron deficiency anemia and how one of the main and most debilitating symptoms is tiredness. Similarly to vitamin B12 deficiency, iron is essential in producing healthy blood cells, and without enough of those our body can’t transport oxygen efficiently around the body, and our energy levels therefore decrease significantly. Blood tests can help determine whether you have iron deficiency or not, and treatments usually include iron supplements and changes in diet.

If you’re concerned about your tiredness and think it may be more than simply being busier around this time of year, place all your symptoms in the Isabel Symptom Checker and review the results with your doctor.



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