For the women yawning while reading this…
I’m more or less in a constant state of tiredness. It’s a struggle to climb out from under the duvet every morning, and, if I’m to be perfectly honest, bedtime is my favorite part of the day.
Somewhere in the afternoon I really start to lose my grip. Sometimes I nap on purpose, cocooning myself in a blanket on a lazy Sunday, but, most disconcertingly, other times I catch myself holding my head in the palm of my hand as I startle myself awake after dozing open-mouthed at my desk in the middle of my workday. In an office full of people.
There have been times when I’ve actually had to stand up, pace the meeting room, and then resort to quietly stretching in the background, because I’d already nodded off during a conference call.
I push through the fatigue, feeling pathetic all the while, comparing myself to the Arianna Huffingtons of the world who manage a schedule 1,000 times more hectic than my own. Maybe it’s her elaborate pre-sleep routine? But what’s a girl to do when you don’t have a bathtub to soak your sleepy body in Epsom salts?
At the same time, I complain over my morning coffee how I’m exhausted, despite perplexingly having slept for a solid seven-and-a-half hours the previous night. I declare it like I’m proud to be a part of a network of droopy-eyed women living busy, but exciting – albeit tiring – lives.
“Pushing through painful fatigue is even seen as a badge of honor, proof that women can ‘do it all,’ and earn extra admiration if they can appear to do it all effortlessly,” says Holly Phillips M.D.
“But it shouldn’t be that way.”
If you talk to anyone about getting quality sleep, including the experts, they will more often than not start by emphasizing the role of lifestyle, and for good reason. What you eat, how much and what time of day you exercise, and what time you go to bed each night can dramatically affect your energy levels. Then there’s caffeine, taking your smartphone to bed, and even the temperature of your bedroom.
But what do you do when you’re already making your best effort to stick to those good sleep guidelines and you’re still tired? These are the next three things you may need to check out…
Hypothyroidism is a condition in which your thyroid gland – a small butterfly-shaped gland located in the front of your neck responsible for producing hormones that affect nearly every part of the body – doesn’t produce enough hormones. Yep, like most issues in a woman’s life, it comes down to hormones.
Your thyroid is one of the most essential and yet underrated glands in your body; when it’s working, it keeps everything ticking along as it should. That includes everything from controlling your body temperature, to your heart rate, protein production, and metabolism. And when that little butterfly-shaped gland isn’t firing right, it can throw out the balance of your entire body, starting with your energy levels, which is why chronic fatigue is often a hallmark symptom of hypothyroidism.
If you also regularly feel cold – even when it’s warm – and lose a lot of hair and have difficulty losing weight, it’s worth asking your doctor for a thyroid check-up.
Depression is the most common mental health disorder in the United States, and its symptoms can lead to exhaustion. Sufferers may hardly sleep at all, or sleep too much and struggle to find motivation to get up in the morning.
Similarly, a racing anxious mind can prevent sleep or tire you out during the day, despite a full night’s rest. This is because long-term anxiety puts stress on your body as it tries to continuously produce adrenaline to help you cope in what your brain inaccurately perceives as a fearful situation.
The link between mental health and fatigue is not yet fully understood. It’s still possible that your sleepiness could stem from another medical condition, but what is clear, is that mental health issues can certainly increase existing fatigue and that fatigue can in turn fuel your depression and anxiety, so don’t leave it unchecked. Read this to find out if you could be suffering from depression.
Sometimes referred to as “tired blood,” anemia is a shortage of healthy red blood cells (the cells responsible for carrying oxygen to all parts of your body). It’s the most common blood disorder in the country, and one of its most common side effects is that it can make you feel extremely drowsy.
Anemia is sometimes confused with iron deficiency, but while a lack of dietary iron intake can certainly lead to anemia, it’s only one possible cause. Vitamin deficiency, family history, poor diet, or another pre-existing medical condition can all contribute to anemia.
Other symptoms to look out for besides feeling tired all the time, are yellowish or pale skin, shortness of breath, and dizziness. If any of these sound familiar to you, it’s important to speak to your doctor for further evaluation.
Comment: What have you tried to improve your exhaustion?
Josie is a Paris-based writer who has a disturbingly large collection of socks and is a self-professed bookworm with a genuine fascination for the weird and wonderful world of beauty products.