We all get tired from time to time, but for many people low energy is a daily occurrence. Low energy is anything less than feeling that you have enough energy to do all of the things you want to do. If your energy levels are good you won’t have slumps of energy or periods throughout the day where your energy wanes.
So why do we get tired? The answer is not complicated, but can be multifaceted. Let’s explore the most common reasons for fatigue.
Not getting enough sleep
This one is a bit of a no brainer – if you don’t sleep enough your energy will be low. Many people stay up too late and wake up too early, getting far less than their 8 hours a night on a regular basis. Not many people can function on less than 7 hours a night, with most of us needing 8 to fully replenish and restore our bodies.
Then there is the problem with not being able to get to sleep or stay asleep, which eats into your sleep hours. This is linked with the next cause of fatigue.
Your adrenals are little crescent shaped glands that sit on top of your kidneys. It is their job to release cortisol, a hormone that helps your body deal with stress and keep you energized during the day. When you have high levels of stress, or even low levels of unrelenting stress, your adrenal glands become depleted which leads to tiredness. The 3pm slump is a classic sign of adrenal depletion.
The other effect of your adrenals working overtime is they can start producing cortisol when they are not meant to – at night when you’re meant to be asleep. High cortisol may stop you from being able to fall asleep and can also wake you up during the night. This can turn into a vicious cycle where your adrenals are keeping you awake so you can’t sleep, which further depletes your adrenals and so forth. If a holiday to the Bahamas isn’t an option, a trip to a naturopath or acupuncturist will help to break this cycle and get you sleeping properly again.
To make energy within your cells, you require many nutrients, but the B group vitamins, magnesium, and coenzyme Q10 are the most important. A deficiency in B vitamins can show up as fatigue, mood issues and sleep problems. A deficiency in magnesium can cause symptoms like muscle cramps, nervousness, irritability and anxiety. Magnesium is used up more rapidly with stress so is commonly deficient if your stress is high. Coenzyme Q10 is needed in the citric acid cycle (how your cells produce energy) but also helps to keep your blood oxygenated which helps boost energy reserves. Those that are taking statin drugs (cholesterol lowering drugs) will be deficient in CoQ10 as these drugs greatly reduce the production of this important nutrient in the body.
Iron deficiency can also lead to fatigue as it stops your red blood cells from being able to carry oxygen around the body. Signs of iron deficiency are fatigue, feeling dizzy or light headed, losing your breath easily when walking up hills of stairs and bruising easily. To get assessed for nutrient deficiencies, see a naturopath or nutritionist.
Other causes of fatigue
Nine times out of ten correcting the above causes will alleviate fatigue, but sometimes there can be other issues that play a role. Some people suffer from post-viral or post-bacterial fatigue, where the initial infection has cleared up but the body has not recovered. Hormonal imbalance can play a role – low testosterone can cause fatigue in both men and women. Allergies are another cause of fatigue, often accompanied by a feeling of tiredness around the eyes, or heaviness behind the eyes.
Fatigue is something that we treat every single day at the clinic. It is important to get on top of fatigue, as the more energized you are the more likely you are able to look after yourself. When we’re tired we tend to buy more takeaway food and eat more convenience foods, which in turn can make you feel even more exhausted.