If you’re lacking energy and nodding off at all hours of the day, you may be experiencing “fatigue.” According to Elaine K. Luo, M.D, “Fatigue is a term used to describe an overall feeling of tiredness or lack of energy. It isn’t the same as simply feeling drowsy or sleepy. When you’re fatigued, you have no motivation and no energy. Being sleepy may be a symptom of fatigue, but it’s not the same thing.”
There are many causes of fatigue such as lifestyle factors, mental health, and physical health conditions. Lifestyle factors include physical exertion, lack of sleep, grief, boredom, emotional stress among many others. Mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, and seasonal depressive disorder may also cause you to feel fatigued.
There are medical conditions that list fatigue as a side effect such as anemia, arthritis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, sleep disorders (insomnia, sleep apnea), cancer, diabetes, and many more.
When should you see a doctor?
While fatigue is normal, Luo recommends seeing a doctor if you experience one of the following:
- can’t think of anything that might account for your fatigue
- have a higher-than-normal body temperature
- have experienced unexplained weight loss
- feel very sensitive to colder temperatures
- regularly have trouble falling or staying asleep
- believe you may be depressed
She also recommends seeing a doctor if you have any other related symptoms along with your fatigue as they may be symptoms of a more serious illness. Are you experiencing any of the following symptoms paired with your fatigue?
- rectal bleeding
- vomiting blood
- severe headache
- pain in your chest area
- feelings of faintness
- irregular heartbeat
- shortness of breath
- severe pain in your abdominal, back, or pelvic region
- thoughts of suicide or self-harm
- thoughts of harming another person
Howard LeWine, M.D. and Editor in Chief, Harvard Men’s Health Watch, suggests seeing a doctor if your fatigue “gets worse or lasts longer than a week or two.” He notes if fatigue lasts longer than a week or two, it may be related to an underlying illness especially if you experience symptoms such as a low-grade fever, shortness of breath, or loss of appetite along with your fatigue.
LeWine explains your doctor may perform other tests to see if you have any underlying issues such as sleep apnea and hyperthyroidism. However, Lewine finds it that most people simply need some rest and a good night’s sleep to bounce back from fatigue.