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5 surprising reasons you’re so fatigued

Why are you so tired even after a full night’s sleep?

“I think people are surprised how often there isn’t one single answer to what is causing their fatigue,” says Brett Prylinski, D.O., a family medicine physician at Piedmont. “Fatigue is tough to prove with a lab test. We can test for thyroid problems or abnormal hormone levels, but the majority of people with fatigue don’t have an underlying health issue. This is why it’s crucial to make positive lifestyle changes if you want to have more energy.”

Here are five common reasons for fatigue that aren’t related to an underlying health condition.

Cause #1: Lack of a daily routine

“One of the biggest things I recommend to people with fatigue is establishing a good routine,” says Dr. Prylinski. “It’s extremely difficult to address fatigue in people with abnormal schedules.”

A consistent routine reduces the decisions you have to make each day and decreases stress. Try:

Cause #2: Your diet

Perhaps you eat more takeout meals than you used to because of a demanding promotion or eat foods you wouldn’t normally choose because your significant other enjoys them. If your diet has changed or if you consume many processed foods, you may notice you have more fatigue. An unhealthy diet can cause blood sugar instability and inflammation

“Before seeing a doctor for fatigue, take a look at your diet and try to eat in a healthier, more balanced way,” he says.

Cause #3: Lack of exercise

“Our bodies were made to exert a certain amount of energy,” says Dr. Prylinski. “When you don’t get enough physical activity, your body won’t function properly and perform as well as it should.”

Exercise can make a difference in your energy levels because it balances your hormones and helps set your circadian rhythm, promoting better sleep.

Cause #4: Unmanaged stress

“I think people underestimate how much their mood affects their energy levels,” he says. “Managing stress is crucial to helping your body function at its highest level.”

Exercise is a cornerstone of stress management because it increases the body’s feel-good hormones, including endorphins and serotonin.

“Exercise can make as big an impact on stress as any medication that increases serotonin – with none of the side effects,” he explains. “If you can manage stress through exercise, that is absolutely the best way to start.”

Cause #5: Major life changes

Major life changes – starting a new job, having a baby or moving – can alter your circadian rhythm, increase your stress and throw off your routine, all of which contributes to fatigue.

“I see fatigue in people of all ages, but young adults tend to notice it sooner because they expect to be healthy and have energy,” he says. “Older adults may assume fatigue is part of getting older, so they don’t see a physician about it.”

If you’re in the midst of big life events, focus on stress management, good nutrition, exercise and establishing a good routine.

When to see a doctor for fatigue

Dr. Prylinski suggests looking for these red-flag symptoms:

  • A major shift in energy despite a healthy routine

  • Feelings of depression or anxiety

  • Night sweats

  • Shortness of breath

  • Unexplained weight loss 

“If you don’t see any major changes or concerning symptoms such as these, I recommend working on your lifestyle habits first,” he says. “If your fatigue doesn’t improve in four to six weeks, follow up with your primary care physician.”

Check out more health and wellness tips from Living Better experts.

Dr. Prylinski practices at Piedmont Physicians East Paces Buckhead Family Practice, located at 371 East Paces Ferry Road Northeast, Suite 300, Atlanta, Ga., 30305. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Prylinski or another primary care physician online

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