Ever had a day when you feel so tired you could just lie down on the floor, regardless of where you are, and drop instantly into a deep and dreamless slumber? Dr Lizzie Tuckey, medical director of Bupa UK says:
"It's a horrible feeling of bone-deep exhaustion, but for most of us, a good nights' sleep is all it takes for normal function to be restored. We all feel shattered from time to time - from juggling a busy job with family life, say. But frequently feeling tired for long periods takes its toll, and affects both your health and quality of life, and prolonged fatigue is something theRoyal College of Psychiatrists estimates affects one in 10 people. Don't just accept it - seek help sooner rather than later."
Here are some unexpected reasons why you're suffering, and how to sort your sleepiness out...
1. The blood tests your GP ran might not give you the full picture
On telling your GP you feel tired all the time, it's likely they'll run a full blood count, or FBC, which checks for levels of red and white blood cells in the body. Lorna Driver-Davies, a nutritional therapist at Wild Nutrition says,
"Be aware though, that a full blood count done by your GP might not check for vitamin B12 and ferritin (a protein in the blood that stores iron) and low levels of both can make you feel very tired. Specifically ask for these to be checked, and for a copy of your test results, which you can then discuss with your doctor."
An underactive thyroid can make you feel exhausted and affects 15 in every 1000 women, according to the NHS. Thyroid function should be assessed as part of a full blood count, but if it's not, ask your GP to test for this specifically. Iodine deficiency, which particularly affects pregnant women (because they're supplying their growing baby's needs as well as their own) and teenage girls (who may not consume enough dairy products, of which milk in particular is an important source) has a direct impact on thyroid health and is increasingly recognised by the World Health Organization as a growing concern. If you fall into this group, seek advice.
2. You're low in magnesium
Magnesium is an essential mineral that maintains healthy nerve and muscle function, as well as regulating blood sugar levels and blood pressure. But it's also essential for energy production – without magnesium, the body can't make adenosine tri-phosphate, or ATP, which is crucial for energy production. Lorna says
"Key symptoms are feeling tired, muscle cramps, aches and twitches, restless legs, problems sleeping and negative circular thoughts. It's hard to test for magnesium deficiency but the symptoms are 'red flags' in themselves. Increasing magnesium-rich foods, such as avocado, dried fruit and nuts and seeds can help, as can a supplement. Choose the best quality you can afford. Some people see an improvement in as little as three days."
3. You have post-viral fatigue
If you're still feeling tired after getting over a nasty illness, it could be that the virus is lingering and affecting the function of your mitochondria, which are tiny compounds in the body's cells that convert the energy in food into energy we can use. Lorna says,
"Other telltale symptoms include bloating and gassiness. From a nutritional perspective, this can be treated with herbs to frog-march the virus out once and for all, followed by probiotics to restore the function of the gut. Herbs are powerful cleansing and healing agents, though, so don't do this without the help of a trained professional."
4. You have a habit of multi-screening
Glued to your TV, smartphone and laptop every evening? If that triad of tech sounds familiar, you run the risk of exacerbating the very problem you're trying to solve during your 'downtime'. Lorna says,
"Not only do electronic screens emit blue light, which stimulates the brain (OK during the working day but a surefire bedtime disrupter) but it also affects the pituitary gland, which in turn affects your hormonal balance."
Turn off the tech for a quieter mind and more energised body.
5. You have persistently low mood / mild depression
We tend to think of fatigue as primarily a physical problem, but in fact, feeling tired all the time is one of the key symptoms of depression, says consultant psychologist Emma Citron.
"Both take the shine off life and decrease feelings of pleasure. Typical behaviours include cancelling the social engagements and get-togethers that boost our mood and energy levels, ostensibly because we feel tired but if you dig a little deeper it's often because of persistent low mood, which can also make us feel socially anxious. We become increasingly isolated and our depression deepens further – and so it becomes a vicious circle. If you suspect this is what's going on with you, seek help. We only have one life, and we owe it to ourselves to make sure we live it well. Think about how you'd advise a friend in a similar situation and follow your own advice. Be compassionate and look after yourself."