Yawn... a nap would be great right about now. Everyone feels tired once in a while. Exhaustion is normal after physical exertion, prolonged stress or lack of sleep. However, if you still feel tired after a good night’s sleep or if rapid exhaustion is affecting you on a daily basis, there may be an underlying organic reason as well as psychological stress at play. In this article, we look at possible causes and symptoms, and provide tips.
Definition of fatigue
Fatigue is the physical need for rest. Basically, it is a normal physical response. It is our body’s way of telling us that it needs to rest. However, severe or persistent fatigue may be indicative of a health issue. It is often accompanied by listlessness and a decline in physical or mental performance. There are three types of fatigue:
- Short-term fatigue (lasting less than one month)
- Persistent fatigue (lasting between one and six months)
- Chronic fatigue (lasting more than six months)
Causes of fatigue
Fatigue can be caused by many things. For example, mental and physical stress, illnesses, nutritional deficiencies, drugs, stimulants and intoxicants, or physiological issues. The following list is not exhaustive:
- Lack of sleep or sleep disorders
- Lack of exercise
- Obesity, anorexia or malnutrition
- Fatty, high calorie food
- Poorly ventilated rooms
- Anaemia, e.g., due to iron , vitamin B12 or folic acid deficiency
- Heart failure and cardiac arrhythmia
- Infections such as flu, colds, pneumonia or mononucleosis
- Mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety or burnout syndrome
- Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)
- Diabetes mellitus
In addition to these general causes and diseases, fatigue can also occur after surgery. Stimulants and intoxicants such as alcohol or cannabis, along with certain medicines such as antidepressants, antihistamines (anti-allergic agents), sedatives or painkillers, can also make you tired. If you notice or suspect that you are experiencing side effects, you should consult a medical professional.
Symptoms of fatigue
Fatigue manifests differently in everyone. However, it is usually experienced as physical or mental exhaustion. Listlessness, lack of motivation or concentration problems are also common when you feel tired. Possible concomitant symptoms include headaches, loss of appetite and sensitivity to cold.
As the symptoms and causes can be quite broad, it is worth seeing a medical professional if the fatigue is frequent, prolonged and does not improve with sufficient sleep, rest and exercise.
Tips to combat fatigue
These everyday tips may help you to beat fatigue and feel better overall again, unless you have a serious illness:
- Get enough sleep and/or improve your sleep hygiene.
- An occasional power nap can work wonders (please note: if you suffer from insomnia, a short siesta may not be suitable).
- Try and get more exercise or play more sport, but do not overexert yourself. Regular walks in the fresh air stimulate the circulation.
- If the fatigue is stress-related, try to incorporate stress reduction measures such as yoga, autogenic training or progressive muscle relaxation into your daily routine.
- Make sure you eat a balanced diet. A drop in performance or lunchtime slump is usually common after a big lunch. Therefore, make sure you eat a light meal.
- You should also drink enough fluid in the form of water or unsweetened tea.
- A cold shower or contrast bath therapy can have a stimulating effect.
- In addition to drinking coffee in moderation, you can also take herbal preparations; for example, guarana, ginseng or golden root.