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Friday, April 30, 2010

Why you are always tired

Tired all the time? Maybe it's just that you need more sleep. Maybe it's a lot more

Many doctors will tell you the most common problem they see in their day-to-day practice is patients complaining they are tired. So tired in fact they find it difficult to function – and naturally that gets in the way of doing a good job or
 getting ahead in your career.

The vast majority of the tired are women.

We are not talking here about being tired because the kids or acting up, or the jerk in the next apartment deciding he needs the Rolling Stones to help HIM get ready for his shut eye half way through the night.

No, we are talking about being tired ALL the time despite getting a regular seven or eight hours of sleep a night.

So let's look at some of the common reasons for being so tired - and how to handle it. Most often sleep deprivation is caused by minor problems. But there are times when it is a sign of a more serious condition.


This is the most common cause of tiredness in women, particularly those in their reproductive years. Often caused by blood loss, sometimes due to heavy periods or recent childbirth, anemia results in a reduction of circulating red blood cells that carry oxygen to every part of the body. There can be other reasons, of course, ranging from kidney disease to vitamin deficiencies including iron, folic acid or vitamin B12. On top of lethargy, symptoms can include irritability, dizziness or feeling cold.

Some things you can do to help you feel better? Eat more iron-rich foods like red meat broccoli or spinach.

If you're tiredness lasts more than a week or so, see your doctor who will do a simple blood test to confirm anemia. She may also order other blood work to find out if you're are suffering from:

An Under-Active Thyroid

The American Thyroid Foundation says 17% of women will develop a thyroid problem by age 60. In a way this is reassuring to those who feel they are the odd (and tired) ones out.

In many ways the thyroid is the gas pedal of the body. Take your foot off the gas and your car will lose power and slow down. Same with your body's energy.

An under-active thyroid will slow you down and make you feel tired, sluggish and perhaps depressed. Again thyroid problems can be diagnosed with a blood test effectively treated with medication.

Excess Caffeine Consumption

Most of us think of coffee as a picker-upper. And it is, unless you drink too much. It is understandable if you are tired you consume more coffee to get, and keep, you going. But in some cases this can have the opposite effect.

So if you are a heavy coffee drinker try cutting down or eliminating it from your diet. And remember high levels of caffeine can also be found in tea, soft drinks, energy drinks (like Red Bull) and even in some medications.

Urinary Tract Infections

In some women tiredness is a sign they have a urinary tract infection (UTI), sometimes so low-grade they are unaware they have it. Urinary infections can be traced back to sexual activity or improper wiping - from back to front. If an infection is found sulpha drugs or antibiotics will usually clear it up.

Sleep Apnea

This all-too-common condition occurs during sleep when you stop breathing for short periods many times during the night. It is common among snorers and people who are overweight. They invariably report feeling exhausted despite sleeping all night. In fact their breathing malfunction has seriously interfered with their sleep.

Sleep apnea should not be taken lightly. Apnea is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. To make a definitive diagnosis you may be referred to a sleep lab where your sleep and breathing are monitored overnight. People diagnosed with the condition are often advised to lose weight and if they smoke to quit. For severe cases there are mechanical devices that help you breathe easier when you're asleep.


Many medications can interrupt sleep. Among the most common villains are over-the-counter preparations for colds and allergies. These medications contain antihistamines, which tend to cause drowsiness. To offset this are other ingredients are added to keep you awake and head off drowsiness during the day. But they can also keep you awake at night.

If you suspect one of these cold/flu medications might be keeping you awake look for one specifically designed for nighttime. Prescription drugs including those for depression or attention deficit disorder can also leave you tossing and turning. If you suspect a prescription drug may be keeping you up, talk to your family doctor or pharmacist.

Heart Disease

Fatigue and shortness of breath can sometimes be a sign of heart trouble. If you feel unusually tired after exercise or sex for example, it may be worth a trip to the doctor just to rule out heart disease. Chances are it's not a heart problem. On the other hand, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Remember heart disease is a major cause of death is women as well as men.

So while most of the advice above is for women much can be applied to men.

Derek Cassels


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