There could be numerous reasons for feeling fatigued. However, when it's a daily occurrence, then it's time to figure out the root cause. Here's what you should know. As a disclaimer, this information cannot replace a trip to the doctor for more serious symptoms.
Understanding Your Fatigue
Fatigue is often described as feeling like your body is heavy. As a result, it may be harder to perform daily activities. Fatigue is considered as a nearly "constant state of weariness" is expressed as feeling a heaviness in your chest or in even your brain and limbs. Consequently, thought processes may be slower, and it's harder to be productive. Fatigue goes beyond exhaustion.
Fatigue From Physical Over-Exertion
If 'your sort of fatigue' has your body feeling physically over-exerted, then it could be due to these two sub-divided categories of fatigue:
Central fatigue references your central nervous system and the "transmission of signals from your brain to the muscle." A lack of mental clarity can also indicate CNS fatigue.
Peripheral fatigue is related to your muscles and is commonly related to exercise or illness. In short, it's known as muscle fatigue. This sort of fatigue happens by depletion of "phosphate compounds, glycogen, or acetylcholine." It can also occur when too much "lactate acid or other metabolites" build up within the body during exercise. Proper recovery and rest can help you overcome peripheral fatigue or an "overactivity-induced decline in muscle function that originates from non-central nervous system mechanisms."
Mental Weariness Arising From Sleep Issues
According to Skybrary, mental fatigue's number one culprit is "loss or interruption of normal sleep patterns." They name three sorts of sleep-related fatigue sub-categories:
Transient fatigue happens quickly within 1-2 days of experiencing extreme sleep restrictions.
Cumulative fatigue is prompted by mild sleep restrictions occurring over a series of days.
Circadian fatigue (waking up during your sleep cycle) typically happens between 2 a.m. and 5:59 a.m. when individuals should be sleeping deeply. If you're experiencing disruptions in your sleep patterns, it may be due to sleeping habits, work-life balance, or travel. Better sleep hygiene should correct this unless cumulative fatigue is caused by "genetic predispositions, age, or a medical condition."
Note, feelings of wakefulness dip from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. because of the natural drop in body temperature as hours grow late. (Hence, the afternoon slump.) Thus, disruptions in the circadian cycle will intensify afternoon fatigue.
Track Your Fatigue to Find Relief
If fatigue is a common or unexplained occurrence for you, we suggest tracking how you feel each day. Acquaint yourself with your body's 'normal' by assembling a baseline understanding of your daily habits and tracking them.
When finding your 'baseline' you should keep a record of:
- Tracking when you take your daily vitamins and what's in them. Are you meeting the daily recommended value for vitamin B12?
- It would be best if you tracked when you take prescribed medications. How do you feel if you take them in the morning versus the evening? Discuss with your doctor beforehand for medications with strict instructions.
- Write down how many hours you slept and the quality. It wouldn't hurt to keep a dream journal as well, so you can understand if stress or worry is under-handing a good night's rest.
- Track how much water you drink and adjust that amount to see if it impacts your feelings of fatigue. If you want to track hydration, it's important to stay consistent. To know if you're drinking enough, write down if your urine was dark, bright, or light throughout the day.
- Actively try to lower your stress levels. Incorporate a daily mindfulness practice like meditation or walking. Journal a line or two recording your mood when you wake up and go to sleep.
- Keep a food journal. Rice, olives, strawberries, tomatoes, and cow's milk contain melatonin. Enough melatonin-rich foods early in the day could add to your feelings of tiredness. Undernutrition can also cause fatigue.
- Always write down other symptoms that could indicate illness as the root cause of fatigue, share with your doctor if you visit.
Take a Scientific Approach
The pathway to relief is illuminated when you can isolate how a small change impacted you. Don't make too many changes at once to define which exact practice was the magic key to feeling more energized. For example, by tracking how much water you drink, you can notice if you weren't drinking enough water for feeling your best. "Will eight more ounces of water in the morning, before eating, perk you up?"
Since every person's body is different, hydration tracking will always be more accurate than generic hydration guidelines.
When To Call The Doctor
If you're wondering if fatigue warrants a trip to your family doctor, the rule of thumb is two weeks. It's time to make an appointment if your fatigue persists for more than two weeks, you've made an effort to reduce stress, are maintaining a healthy diet, and are staying hydrated. Take your fatigue journal with you so your doctor can more accurately assist you.
By keeping a daily record for at least two weeks, you can become acutely aware if you need to see a doctor or if you simply spent too long being oblivious to your body's needs.
If you suspect your diet is behind your fatigue, ask your doctor to refer you to a nutritionist, some insurances cover the cost. On the other hand, suppose you suspect poor mental health is the reason for your chronic fatigue. In that case, we suggest a therapist, or at the very least, you can try this behavioral therapy: anti-anxiety journal.