More Than a Sleep Problem, Why You’re So Tired

By: Dr. Alwyn Wong | Brain Function | Wednesday, November 14, 2012 - 04:33 PM

causes of tiredness and sleep problemIf you’re having sleep problems, you’re not alone. Approximately 30-50% of the population suffer from insomnia at some point in their life, with approximately 10% suffering from chronic insomnia. How you deal with insomnia can have a significant negative impact on your health, including your mental health. Determining the cause of your insomnia is important so that you can make the necessary changes to experience better sleep. Developing good sleeping habits will help to improve your physical and mental health, allowing you to enjoy life to its’ fullest.

What is Insomnia?

Insomnia is a symptom meaning you have difficulty going to sleep, staying asleep or both. When symptoms last less than a week, it is called transient insomnia. When insomnia symptoms last between one and three weeks, it is called short-term insomnia. When symptoms last over three weeks, it is considered chronic insomnia.

Causes of Tiredness Sleep Problems & Insomnia

There are many things that can cause feelings of tiredness and insomnia, including:
Anemia – this is a very common cause of tiredness, especially in menstruating women. Determining if you’re anemic is simple; your doctor has to perform a simple blood test. If you are anemic, you can change up your diet to include more leafy greens and protein or add in an iron supplement as anemia is often caused by iron deficiency.

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Celiac disease – this condition occurs when your body is intolerant to gluten. In addition to feeling fatigued, you may notice other symptoms such as diarrhea, weight loss and possibly anemia. If you are diagnosed with celiac disease, following a gluten free diet will ease your symptoms and help to increase your energy.

Thyroid problems – tiredness can be caused by an under-active thyroid. Again, your doctor can determine if this is the cause of your tiredness with a simple blood test. Medications to correct thyroid hormone levels can help to correct this problem. An underactive thyroid can also cause mental health symptoms such as difficulties with concentration and memory.

Diabetes – uncontrolled diabetes can have an array of symptoms, including fatigue. If you notice fatigue, in combination with vision change, excessive thirst and urination speak to your doctor to rule out diabetes.

Sleep apnea – if you think you get enough sleep yet you always feel tired, you may be suffering from sleep apnea and not even know it. Sleep apnea is a chronic disorder that can cause sleep problems because you have pauses in your breathing throughout your sleep. This means the quality of your sleep is decreased and you may feel tired during the day. If your doctor suspects that you may have sleep apnea, they may refer you to a sleep lab to get tested. If it turns out that sleep apnea is the cause of your sleep problems, there are treatment options available.

Mental Health & Your Sleep

While there are many physical problems that can cause tiredness and insomnia, your mental health status can also affect your sleep. Mental health conditions that could be the cause of your tiredness include:

Depression – usually your tiredness will be accompanied by feelings of sadness and loss of interest in activities that you once enjoyed. If these symptoms persist, speak to your doctor as you may be suffering from depression and referral to a mental health specialist may be warranted.

Stress & Anxiety – if you’re constantly stressed and anxious and worrying about life, you may suffer from short-term insomnia. However, if your stress isn’t dealt with, it can turn into chronic insomnia. Speaking to a mental health professional will help you learn how to deal with your anxiety in a healthy manner which will help to improve your sleep pattern.

Changes That You Can Make to Help Decrease Sleep Problems

Often times, simple changes to your lifestyle can have a significant impact on your sleeping pattern. Try making these simple changes to see if they have a positive effect on the quality of sleep that you experience.

Diet – you may be tempted to reach for coffee or candy to give you a boost throughout the day, but these dietary items can causes spikes in your blood sugar levels according to WebMD. If you want to have lasting energy throughout the day and fewer sleep problems, try eating a healthy balanced meal consisting of lots of fruits and veggies, lean meats, and whole grains. Additionally, eating a balance diet will help to keep your mental health in check.

Exercise – getting enough physical activity is important for a healthy lifestyle, but exercising in the hours before bedtime can actually create sleep problems. Avoid exercising for 3-4 hours before you intend to go to sleep, this will help your body unwind and relax in preparation for bed. Not only will exercise promote sleep, it will also help promote optimal mental health.

Sleep – may people just don’t get enough sleep. Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bedtime, turn off the TV and make your bedroom a place that promotes sleep. Avoid using your bedroom as a multi-purpose room where you read, email, work, etc. Keeping the bedroom a place where you can get a good nights’ sleep will help to prevent sleep problems.

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