You might think it’s a Daylight Savings Time hangover, an insanely busy schedule, or feeling lazier than usual, but the real reason you’re exhausted could be one of these health problems.
When you visit your doctor and complain of feeling tired all the time, the first things they’ll often check for is anemia or thyroid disorder because you can detect those with a blood test, says Amy Shah, MD. “When a patient says ‘I’m tired,’ it’s such a broad term and could be so many things, but if someone says ‘I’m tired and feeling a little more short of breath,’ or, ‘I’m having trouble exercising,’ that tends to be anemia.” Anemia is when your blood doesn’t carry enough oxygen to the rest of your body and the most common cause of anemia is iron deficiency. Anemics may also experience feeling cold, dizzy, irritable, or have headaches in addition to feeling tired.
You’re tired because … you have a thyroid problem
If you have a thyroid issue, like an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism), in addition to feeling tired, you might also feel like your skin is really dry and you’re constipated a lot, along with the lack of energy, says Dr. Shah. (Don’t miss these other surprising thyroid symptoms that could indicate a problem.) Hypothyroidism is a condition that occurs when your thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough of certain important hormones. While women are more likely to have hypothyroidism, thyroid function tests can diagnose hypothyroidism easily and if you have an issue, your doctor may prescribe a synthetic thyroid hormone.
You’re tired because you … may have prediabetes or diabetes
When you have high blood glucose, your blood circulation may be impaired so cells can’t get the oxygen and nutrients they need and you feel tired, according to registered nurse blogger David Spero on Diabetes Self-Management.com. Low blood sugars levels also result in feeling fatigued, because there is not enough fuel for the cells to work well, he says on the blog. If your high glucose is causing blood vessels to get inflamed by sugar, that chronic inflammation can also make you feel fatigued, according to research.
You’re tired because … you’re depressed
If you feel like you’re tired all the time, don’t want to get out of bed in the morning, and/or have trouble sleeping, you could be suffering from depression. You primary care physician should do a depression screening during a regular visit, says Dr. Shah. Your doctor can use a screening tool to determine if you’re experiencing an ongoing depressive disorder, or whether a life stressor or alcohol affects your emotional state. “Depression, alcohol abuse, and fatigue are very tightly knit,” says Dr. Shah. Sometimes people will treat depression with alcohol and then be tired, she says.
You’re tired because … you have a leaky gut or food sensitivity
Your gut is supposed to be a very tight tube of cells where nothing from inside of the gut gets into the outside—like a pathway where the body absorbs what it needs without having things enter the rest of the body, says Dr. Shah. “If you’re eating poorly, especially a lot of processed foods, the gut cells can become a looser, net-like structure instead of a tight structure, and proteins that aren’t supposed to be in our bloodstream leak into our bloodstream, which creates an inflammatory response,” says Dr. Shah. The inflammatory response can manifest as bloating, fatigue, moodiness, headaches, or weight gain. If you have food sensitivities (to foods like wheat and dairy) you can feel fatigued, get rashes, and experience bloating or brain fog. “There’s no real good test for food sensitivities,” says Dr. Shah. Following an elimination diet of possible food culprits and then slowly introducing them back in may help you identify what you’re sensitive to. If you remove all wheat from your diet and feel great, and then add it back and feel lethargic, that could be a telltale sign of a food sensitivity to wheat, Dr. Shah says.
You’re tired because … you’re suffering from adrenal fatigue
“Adrenal fatigue isn’t a Western medicine term, it’s a functional medicine term, and a lot of Western doctors don’t recognize it as a medical [issue],” says Dr. Shah. There’s a disconnect because it’s hard to show with lab testing, she says. Most likely, it’ll show up on tests as adrenal insufficiency, or an endocrine or hormonal disorder that occurs when the adrenal glands do not produce enough of certain hormones, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. These hormone imbalances could be brought on by a stressful situation in your life, like family problems, or it could a constant stress at work, lack of sleep, over-exercising, having a poor diet, or drug or alcohol abuse, says Dr. Shah. Those circumstances can push your stress hormones high and then eventually leave you exhausted and depleted, like a bank account that you’re overdrawing on and not putting money back into.
You’re tired because … you have an infection
Doctors will often check for chronic infection as a cause of fatigue due to such infections as the Epstein-Barr virus (mononucleosis) or Lyme disease. Both of these medical issues can present with extreme fatigue.
You’re tired because … you have sleep apnea
f you have sleep apnea, your throat starts to close when you’re asleep, which is why people with the condition tend to snore. Not getting enough oxygen sounds scary, but your brain won’t let you suffocate. “The brain notices you’re not getting rid of your CO2, and it wakes up really briefly in an alarmed state,” Lisa Shives, MD, director of the Sleep Medicine Center at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, tells WebMD. Good for your breathing, but bad for your tiredness levels. Even though you keep waking up, those wakeful moments are too short for you to notice, so you won’t get why you’re so exhausted the next day.
You’re tired because … you have heart failure
When you have heart failure, your heart can’t keep up with body’s needs for blood, according to the American Heart Association. Your body will start to bring blood away from body tissues so it can keep vital organs fully supplied. With less blood in your leg muscles, even everyday activities can feel exhausting. Plus, blood gets backed up in your veins leading away from your lungs and leaks back into them, making you lose your breath suddenly. When you’re asleep, it could wake you up and make for a restless night.