Read below about fatigue, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your fatigue from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

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Fatigue Symptoms

Have you been feeling like your "get up and go" got up and went? You are not alone, at all. Many individuals complain of fatigue after those energetic years of childhood have passed — back when we could eat everything, sleep anytime, and had unlimited freedom full of play and lack of worry about of bills, work, and kids of our own.

Fatigue can be caused by many factors in our demanding, modern world [1]. Blue light, of all things, robs us of sleep quality and quantity; environmental toxins impact hormones that regulate sleep, and technology flies at us so fast it creates levels of stimulation we cannot even fathom anymore. We're constantly assailed with news, emails, and — again, more blue light.

Fatigue is not only brought on by excesses in lifestyle factors such as blue light and stress, but also lacks — you may feel fatigued, for example, if you're not spending enough energy exercising, eating right, or taking care of yourself.

The symptoms of fatigue are quite obvious and include feeling:

  • Sleepy
  • Tired
  • Weak
  • Unable to start or participate in usual activities
  • Unable to concentrate
  • Forgetful
  • Emotionally drained/moody
  • Nothing to do sounds like such a great idea
  • Feeling like your bones are heavy or leaden

Fatigue symptoms affect our abilities to function in our daily lives, impacting work, school, and family performance and dynamics. Let's review some of the common causes of fatigue, and what you can do to overcome fatigue.

Fatigue Causes Overview

  • Poor sleep hygiene/sleep deprivation: Sleep hygiene refers to habits that affect the quality of your sleep [2]. Having good sleep hygiene means being a selfish sleeper — which is a great thing to be, in this case. It means prioritizing sleep, eliminating lights and even digital clocks from your room, sleeping in complete darkness, avoiding late-night eating that will disrupt sleep, and trying to get to bed early so you can get eight to nine good, deep restorative hours of sleep.

  • Infection: Any infection — fungal, viral, or bacterial — can cause fatigue. Fighting illness or disease requires a lot of energy. The fatigue symptoms associated with illness are our signal to slow down. Sleeping during illness improves both recovery and survival rates. Sure, you can push through feeling "sick and tired," but chances are, you will just feel sicker, longer.

  • Depression : Fatigue (both mental and physical) can be a symptom of depression [3]. With depression, this loss of energy and feeling of exhaustion often persists even if you have adequate sleep. Some people with depression have bursts of enthusiasm and exuberance, but it is more common to have a loss of energy and great feelings of listlessness and lethargy.

  • Hypothyroidism: The thyroid is a gland that produces the hormones that regulate temperature and metabolism. Metabolic changes caused by hypothyroidism will cause fatigue because when the metabolism slows, your manufacture of energy slows as well, as you are not processing food into energy.

  • Lack of exercise/movement: Exercise gets your heart rate up, which will help you feel peppy and energetic. It also heals much of the damage that is done by sitting for long periods of time — and sitting, as you might have heard, is now being deemed more harmful to the body than smoking.

  • Medications: Individuals who take medications such as bipolar medications or those for allergies, arthritis, and fibromyalgia often complain of fatigue, as these medications tend to make you feel very tired/sleepy [1].

  • Vitamin and mineral deficiencies: Being deficient in minerals like iron or vitamins such as B vitamins, like B12, can cause great feelings of fatigue [4].

A.I. Health Assistant Causes for Fatigue

The list below shows results from the use of our A.I. Health Assistant by Buoy users who experienced fatigue. This list does not constitute medical advice.

  1. 1.Sleep Deprived

    Sleep is very important to health and adults should get a minimum of 7 hours each night. Sleep deprivation causes daytime sleepiness, fatigue, and headaches.

    Resolves with adequate sleep.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, daytime sleepiness, sleep duration less than 7 hours, difficulty concentrating
    Symptoms that always occur with sleep deprived:
    sleep duration less than 7 hours, daytime sleepiness
    Symptoms that never occur with sleep deprived:
    nausea or vomiting, being severely ill, fever, unintentional weight loss
    Urgency:
    Wait and watch
  2. 2.Depression

    Depression is a mental disorder in which a person feels constantly sad, hopeless, discouraged, and loses interest in activities and life on more days than not. These symptoms interfere with daily life, work, and friendships.

    Depression's course is highly variable, and it may last weeks, months, or years.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, depressed mood, headache, anxiety, irritability
    Symptoms that always occur with depression:
    depressed mood
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  3. 3.Fibromyalgia

    Fibromyalgia is a disorder that causes widespread pain, tenderness, and fatigue.

    Fibromyalgia is generally a lifelong condition

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, arthralgias or myalgias, anxiety, depressed mood, headache
    Symptoms that always occur with fibromyalgia:
    arthralgias or myalgias
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  4. 4.Iron Deficiency Anemia

    Anemia is a condition in which the body does not have enough healthy red blood cells, which deliver oxygen. Iron deficiency anemia occurs when the body does not have enough iron. Iron helps make red blood cells.

    Resolves with treatment

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, headache, shortness of breath, dizziness, heavy menstrual flow
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

    Fatigue Checker

    Take a quiz to find out why you’re having fatigue.

    Fatigue Quiz
  5. 5.Overactive Thyroid

    The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in the neck, just above your collarbone. It is one of your endocrine glands, which make hormones. Thyroid glands control how fast one burns calories and how fast the heart beats. If the thyroid is too active, it makes more thyroid hormones than the body needs. This is called hyperthyroidism.

    Great prognosis with high remission rates

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, anxiety, depressed mood, irritability, trouble sleeping
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  6. 6.Insomnia Disorder

    Insomnia is a very common sleep disorder that prevents one from falling asleep, staying asleep, or a combination of both.

    Condition is treatable with medication and behavior changes.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, irritability, difficulty concentrating, mild headache, insomnia
    Symptoms that always occur with insomnia disorder:
    trouble sleeping
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  7. 7.Hypothyroidism

    Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid, a butterfly-shaped organ inside the neck, no longer produces adequate levels of hormones. Thyroid hormones are essential for many bodily functions including breathing, heart rate, and metabolism.

    Most cases of hypothyroidism require lifelong hormone replacement therapy.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, depressed mood, difficulty concentrating, weight gain, muscle aches
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  8. 8.Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (Copd)

    COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is a chronic condition of the lungs and the airways in the lungs. Damage has occured due to long-term exposure to substances that irritate and damage the lungs, such as cigarette smoke or air pollution. This damage can cause symptoms like shortness of breath, decreased exercise tolerance and cough. A common cold or other types of infection can cause symptoms to worden acutely, this is called an exacerbation.

    Often a lifelong condition

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, cough and dyspnea related to smoking, cough, shortness of breath, trouble sleeping
    Symptoms that always occur with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (copd):
    cough and dyspnea related to smoking
    Symptoms that never occur with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (copd):
    rectal bleeding
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  9. 9.Obstructive Sleep Apnea

    Sleep apnea is a disorder in which the upper airway is obstructed during sleep, which causes poor sleep quality and frequent awakening.

    Sleep apnea is a lifelong condition but symptoms can be well managed with treatment.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, irritability, daytime sleepiness, trouble sleeping, sore throat
    Symptoms that always occur with obstructive sleep apnea:
    snoring or apneas
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

Fatigue Treatments and Relief

To avoid fatigue, sleep experts recommend:

  • Sleeping and waking on a regular schedule [5]
  • Eat a very balanced diet rich in plants antioxidants, energy-yielding phytonutrients, and amino acids — a balanced diet will help address any nutritional deficiencies that might be causing fatigue
  • Avoiding caffeine, especially in the afternoon (it will only disrupt sleep quality, even if you are sleeping long periods of time)
  • Avoiding alcohol and sleeping pills (these stimulants/drugs ruin sleep quality)
  • Avoiding all blue light-emitting devices during the two to three hours before going to bed
  • Use blackout curtains to eliminate all light that might filter through windows, waking you up and inhibiting sleep quality
  • Avoiding long afternoon or evening naps
  • Exercising in the morning or afternoon, but not in the evening
  • Getting sun exposure in the mornings. Early morning sun exposure tells your body it's daytime and helps your circadian rhythms "set" so your body will better recognize nighttime as well!
  • Avoiding eating too close to bedtime (within two hours)
  • Sleeping in a cool room

You should seek immediate medical care if you have fatigue and:

  • Symptoms of depression
  • Fever
  • There is no improvement despite adequate sleep
  • Think you might have been bitten by a tick

FAQs About Fatigue

Here are some frequently asked questions about fatigue.

Why am I so tired?

Fatigue can be caused by many things. Major causes may include psychological disorders (e.g. depression, anxiety, malnutrition), drugs (e.g. antidepressants, drug abuse, withdrawal, addiction), endocrine-metabolic disorders (e.g. hypothyroidism, diabetes), cancers, infections, cardiopulmonary diseases (e.g. chronic heart failure, COPD), rheumatoid disease, and disturbed sleep.

What are the symptoms of fatigue?

Fatigue can be manifested as difficulty or inability initiating activity (feeling generally weak); reduced capacity maintaining activity (tiring easily); and difficulty with concentration, memory, and emotional stability (mental fatigue). Tiredness, lack of energy, and excessive sleepiness are frequently used to describe fatigue.

Why am I sleeping so much?

Many causes can contribute to excessive sleepiness, which include insufficient sleep, sleep disorders (e.g. sleep-related breathing disorders or sleep-related movement disorders), medications (e.g. benzodiazepines, non-benzodiazepine sedatives, or antihistamines), certain neurological disorders (e.g. Parkinson disease), genetic disorders (e.g. Prader-Willi syndrome), medical conditions (e.g. hypothyroidism or obesity), and psychiatric disorders (e.g. depression or anxiety).

Why do I feel so weak and tired?

A variety of systemic disorders can give you the feeling of weakness without making you truly weak, which include cardiopulmonary (heart/lung) disease, joint disease, anemia, body wasting due to malignancy/chronic infectious or inflammatory disease, depression, and fatigue. Causes for primary muscle weakness include muscle diseases (myopathy), and damages to various parts of the nervous system.

What is chronic fatigue syndrome like?

Key features include easy fatigability and difficulty concentrating, and are often associated with additional symptoms (e.g. difficulty sleeping and muscle aches). Onset is often sudden and associated with a typical infection such as an upper respiratory infection or mononucleosis (mono). Excessive physical activity typically exacerbate the symptoms [6].

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Fatigue

  • Q.Are you experiencing a headache?
  • Q.Any fever today or during the last week?
  • Q.Have you lost your appetite recently?
  • Q.Have you had any changes in your weight?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our fatigue symptom checker to find out more.

Fatigue Quiz

Fatigue Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced fatigue have also experienced:

    • 6% Nausea
    • 5% Headache
    • 3% Abdominal Pain (Stomach Ache)
  • People who have experienced fatigue had symptoms persist for:

    • 35% Over a Month
    • 24% Less Than a Week
    • 19% Less Than a Day
  • People who have experienced fatigue were most often matched with:

    • 57% Depression
    • 42% Fibromyalgia
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

A.I. Health Assistant

Take a quiz to find out why you’re having fatigue

Fatigue Quiz

References

  1. Fatigue. U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Updated October 23, 2018. MedlinePlus Link.
  2. Sleep Hygiene. National Sleep Foundation. National Sleep Foundation Link.
  3. Targum SD, Fava M. Fatigue as a Residual Symptom of Depression. Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience. 2011;8(10):40-43. NCBI Link.
  4. Rao TSS, Asha MR, Rao KSJ, et al. Understanding Nutrition, Depression and Mental Illness. Indian Journal of Psychiatry. 2008;50(2):77-82. NCBI Link.
  5. Healthy Sleep Tips. National Sleep Foundation. National Sleep Foundation Link.
  6. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Updated August 8, 2018. MedlinePlus Link.