Portarlington psychologost Dr Eddie Murphy from Operation Transformation on the reasons for prolonged fatigue

Dr Eddie examines the reasons why some people feel constantly tired.
Often I see patients who complain of feeling exhausted, even though they are sleeping well, ongoing for months. At any given time, one in five of us feels unusually tired, and one in 10 have prolonged fatigue, mostly women, according to the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

Often I see patients who complain of feeling exhausted, even though they are sleeping well, ongoing for months. At any given time, one in five of us feels unusually tired, and one in 10 have prolonged fatigue, mostly women, according to the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

Its worth a check up with your GP but it is unusual to find anything physically wrong. Mostly fatigue is linked with mood and the accumulation of stress.

GPs may do a blood test to rule out medical causes such as anaemia or  underactive thyroid gland.

These are more likely if there are also symptoms like heavy periods, weight loss, a change in bowel habits, hair loss or extreme thirst.

First try to work out why you became so tired. Is your work or family life particularly tiring? Is there an event that may have triggered tiredness, ie a bereavement or break-up? Or is your lifestyle making you tired?

Psychological causes

Stress and anxiety can cause insomnia and 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. Their report, Sleep Matters, suggests a link between insomnia and low energy levels.

The strains of daily life can be exhausting, even positive events, such as moving house or getting married. Emotional shock, such as bad news or bereavement can make you feel drained. Mental health problems such as depression or anxiety can make you more tired. They can also prevent a proper night’s sleep.

Lifestyle causes

Tiredness can often be caused by lifestyle, such as drinking too much alcohol, or eating unhealthily. If you drink alcohol in the evening, it tends to wake you in the middle of the night. And 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 drink too much.

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.

top tips

1. Get a health check-up.

2. Eat smaller amounts often to beat tiredness, rather than a large meal.

3. Perk up with exercise

You might feel too tired to exercise, but regular exercise makes you feel less tired and gives you energy.

4. Lose weight.

If your body is carrying excess weight, it can be exhausting.

5. Sleep well.

Go to bed and get up in the morning at the same time every day, avoid short naps during the day.

6. Reduce stress.

Stress uses up a lot of energy. Introduce activities you enjoy, it may be gardening, a workout or meeting friends.

7. Cut out caffeine.

Gradually stop all caffeine drinks (includes coffee, tea and cola) over three weeks. Stay off it for a month to see if you feel less tired.

8. Drink less alcohol.

Drinking in the evening helps you fall asleep but you sleep less deeply. The next day you’ll be tired even if you sleep for eight hours.

9. Drink more water. 

Sometimes you can feel tired simply because you’re mildly dehydrated.

10. Stop being a couch potato. Sitting in one position for long periods saps energy. Lack of light and fresh air is a key cause of tiredness. Get out for a 10 minute walk at least once a day or when you’re most tired. You’ll be exposed to more natural light and you’ll feel more alert.