Common Causes of Fatigue

Woman with a laptop slouching over and yawning.

Fatigue affects people for many different reasons, and should not be confused with occasional, common tiredness. While ‘tired’ can be addressed by catching up on sleep or making sure that you are eating enough nutritious food, fatigue is defined as continuing to feel extremely tired in the presence of adequate sleep and proper nutrition.


Common Fatigue Causes


Lack of Physical Activity

It may seem counterintuitive that engaging in physical activity could make you feel less fatigued, but research shows that physical exercise works to boost energy and reduce fatigue. 1 Engaging in physical activities, especially when starting without excess energy, can be very daunting, so small steps are a great way to begin. Commit to a short walk around the block or 5 minutes of yoga every day and slowly build from there. There are many free fitness videos with 5-7 minute routines that can help jumpstart your exercise imagination.


Food Sensitivities

An unidentified food sensitivity can be the source of fatigue in many cases. 2 You may want to speak to a naturopathic doctor to implement an elimination diet for a period of time and see whether you notice an increase in energy. Common food sensitivities include dairy, gluten, soy, corn, and eggs but any food could potentially be causing a reaction.


Too Much Caffeine

Let us introduce you to the vicious caffeine cycle. You are tired, so you consume caffeine (coffee/tea/energy drinks). However, overconsumption of caffeine can also cause fatigue, or exacerbate symptoms by depleting you further. So you consume more caffeine, to combat the tiredness, which depletes you further…and so the cycle goes.

Drinking coffee, especially in the afternoon and evening, can interfere with sleep quality, causing grogginess the next day. 3 Try cutting out your afternoon coffee/tea or caffeine altogether (replacing it with water or herbal tea) and see if you feel more refreshed. *Note that some people will experience a headache with the rapid removal of caffeine from the diet and may need to taper down their consumption if they want to avoid a withdrawal headache.


Poor Sleep Quality

Getting a good night’s sleep isn’t just about the number of hours you are in bed and asleep. Did you know that you can sleep a full 8 hours and yet not truly rest your body? One way to determine if this is the case is to ask yourself, do you consistently sleep 7-8 hours and not wake rested? Are you needing a nap many days of the week?

There are many reasons why sleep may not be deep enough to induce true restful sleep. Some common causes include: stress, anxiety and depression, excess caffeine or alcohol, pain, frequent urination, restless leg, and room or bed ambience (room temperature, bed/pillow comfort). 4  Parasomnias (like sleep walking/talking) and more serious conditions such as sleep apnea should also be considered and assessed by a doctor. Listen here for some tips to better sleep.


Chronic Stress

Studies show that excessive stress is a major cause of fatigue. 5 Of course, stress is a part of life and it is impossible to completely eliminate stress from your day-to-day life, but learning how to manage it in a healthy way can be valuable in minimizing the negative impacts of stress. Avoidance of stressors and inadequate coping skills are associated with worse sleep outcomes. 5 Try reducing stress by cutting out expendable stressors and learning healthy coping skills like daily meditation to deal with the rest. 6


If you would like help addressing the root cause of fatigue to take a whole person approach to wellness:


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