CareNow® - April 26, 2019

We’ve all been there: The alarm clock goes off and we hit snooze one too many times until we’re rushing to get out the door and into the office on time.

While pushing the snooze button can be the way some of us usually start our day, if you are having to drag yourself out of bed every morning and struggle to keep your energy up throughout the day, you’re likely wondering what’s making you so tired.

If you struggle from regular exhaustion and fatigue, it’s important to identify the cause.

If you're struggling with insomnia and need immediate support, walk-in or check-in online to your nearest CareNow for advice from our physicians.

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Or learn more below about some reasons why you may be tired all the time.

Causes of extreme fatigue

There are many conditions that can cause extreme fatigue. It could be something as simple as a lack of sleep, lack of physical activity, jet lag, unhealthy eating habits, excess physical activity, use of drugs or alcohol, and unhealthy eating habits.

However, the more serious causes of extreme fatigue can be cancer, heart disease, diabetes, traumatic brain injury, depression and acute liver failure. If extreme fatigue is plaguing you, it’s important to see a provider so you can get to the bottom of it.

Tired after eating

Many people complain of feeling tired or having difficulty concentrating after eating. But what causes this? Food rich in protein or high in carbohydrates may cause you to become sleepier than other foods. Eating too much at any given time, such as a large lunch, can also cause sleepiness or an afternoon slump.

To prevent the feeling of fatigue after you eat, try eating small meals regularly, get a good night’s sleep, take a stroll after eating and avoid drinking alcohol with meals.

Lack of sleep

Many people boast about their ability to get very little sleep each night; however, lack of sleep is one of the most obvious causes of chronic fatigue. Although “lack of sleep” isn’t a bona fide medical condition, it can be symptomatic of a stressed or busy lifestyle.

If you’re struggling from regular lack of sleep, you should determine how much sleep you truly need. While sleep needs vary from person to person, the average adult should aim for eight hours each night.

Your provider may recommend that you get more until your daytime sleepiness has resolved.

Signs of insomnia

Whether you’re experiencing short-term insomnia (which typically lasts for days or weeks) or long-term insomnia (which lasts for a month or more), there are certain signs that what you’re experiencing isn’t normal. These include:

  1. Trouble falling asleep at night
  2. Constantly waking up throughout the night
  3. Waking up too early
  4. Irritability, depression or anxiety
  5. Anxiety about sleep
  6. Increased errors or accidents
  7. Feeling unrested after a night’s sleep
  8. Exhaustion during the day

How common is insomnia?

Insomnia affects an estimated 25 percent of Americans. Nearly 50 percent of adults experience occasional insomnia, with 1 in 10 suffering from chronic, or long-term, insomnia.

Insomnia is also twice as common in women as it is in men, and it is more common among older men and women.

Insomnia and depression

Caused by abnormalities in mood-regulating chemicals in the brain, depression is a condition that can lead to fatigue, insomnia and extreme exhaustion.

It’s common for someone suffering from depression to have difficulty sleeping, oftentimes struggling to fall asleep or waking up multiple times throughout the night. Those with depression may also have trouble waking up in the morning and may oversleep regularly.

In addition to insomnia, depression can cause sluggishness, lack of motivation, loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyable, a change in appetite or weight, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, feelings of sadness or emptiness, and regular thoughts of death or suicide.

If you’re concerned that you may be struggling with depression, see your provider. Your provider can prescribe a medication to alleviate the symptoms and recommend a therapist who can help you understand and work through your feelings.

Can anemia cause insomnia?

Anemia, or iron deficiency, can cause restless leg syndrome, a condition that causes an uncontrollable urge to move your legs, which can keep sufferers from sleeping. If you suspect you are anemic, see your provider and incorporate more iron rich foods into your diet.


When the thyroid gland fails to produce enough thyroid hormone, it is called hypothyroidism. This is a common condition, for women in particular, affecting as many as 60 million people in the U.S. alone.

Because your metabolism is controlled by your thyroid hormones, when your levels are low, you may notice that you feel tired and cold and are gaining weight. If you’re worried that you have hypothyroidism, your provider can order blood work done that will help to diagnosis your conditions.

How to treat insomnia due to anxiety

There are more than 40 million Americans who suffer from long-term sleep disorders, with an additional 20 million reporting occasional sleeping problems. For many, stress and anxiety may be the cause.

If you have a sleeping disorder that you believe is caused by stress and anxiety, your provider can offer a proper diagnosis and refer you to a mental health professional or sleep disorder clinic. Cognitive-behavioral therapy and medication may be recommended to treat your sleep disorder.

Meditation, regular exercise and relaxing music can also help.

Insomnia vitamin deficiency

Vitamin D deficiency is extremely common and can cause poor sleep, but in general vitamin deficiencies do not cause insomnia. In fact, studies show a correlation between people who take vitamins and insomnia.

With that said, a balanced diet full of vitamin-rich foods is important for an overall healthy lifestyle.

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is one of the most common causes of daytime sleepiness. It is characterized by pauses in breathing or shallow breathing throughout the night. The pauses in breathing can last for just a few seconds or up to an entire minute—and this can happen as many as 30 times each minute!

When breathing returns to normal after a pause or shallow breathing, it is typically accompanied by a snort or choking sound, which can be disruptive to you and your partner.

If you’re suffering from sleep apnea, you will likely experience headaches and a sore throat in the morning, difficulty remembering things, trouble concentrating, irritation and depression.

When left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to fatigue, heart disease, stroke or even sudden death. If your provider suspects that you have sleep apnea, he or she will usually recommend a sleep study.

Types of sleep apnea

There are three main types of sleep apnea: obstructive, central and complex.

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea

    This is the most common form. It occurs when the throat muscles intermittently relax and block the airway, causing breathing to repeatedly stop and start during sleep. A noticeable sign of obstructive sleep apnea is snoring.

  • Central Sleep Apnea

    is a disorder that causes your breathing to stop and start during sleep. It occurs because your brain doesn’t send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing. Central sleep apnea may be the result of other conditions, such as heart failure or stroke, as well as sleeping in high altitudes.

  • Complex sleep apnea

    is a combination of obstructive and central sleep apnea. This can occur when someone with obstructive sleep apnea develops central sleep apnea while using continuous positive airway pressure as a treatment for sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea symptoms in women

Women with sleep apnea have more subtle symptoms than men, who typically record loud snoring. Women snore much lighter and tend to have shorter apneic events.

Because of their different symptoms, women are often misdiagnosed with other disorders like fatigue, mood disturbances, depression and headaches, and they are more likely than men to be prescribed medications (like an antidepressant) instead of a sleep study.

Hormonal insomnia

Many women begin to experience insomnia as a result of menopause. As the ovaries decrease their production of estrogen and progesterone, hormones that promote sleep, it can cause difficulty sleeping. A reduced level of estrogen may also leave women susceptible to environmental and other factors that can disrupt sleep.

A provider can help determine the best course of action if you think menopause or other hormonal changes are causing insomnia.

PMS insomnia

Symptoms caused by hormone changes during menstruation can also cause insomnia.

These PMS (premenstrual syndrome) symptoms include bloating, cramps, frequent urination, irritability, heavy menses and breast tenderness. If PMS is keeping you awake at night, you may notice extreme fatigue, heightened irritability (due to exhaustion) and lack of concentration.

How to prevent insomnia

There are several things that you can do to prevent sleep apnea:

  1. Try to avoid sleeping on your back as this makes it more likely for your tongue and soft tissues to obstruct your airway.
  2. Sew a tennis ball into a pocket on the back of your pajamas top to keep yourself from rolling onto your back while you sleep.
  3. Elevated the head of your bed by 4 to 6 inches.
  4. Use a nasal dilator, saline spray, breathing strips or neti pot to open your nasal passages.

If you believe you’re suffering from sleep apnea, consider visiting your local CareNow® for a proper diagnosis. Our team of medical professionals can recommend a sleep specialist if they believe you have sleep apnea.

Before your appointment, be sure to use the Web Check-In® feature so you don’t have to wait in the lobby! 

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Disclaimer: Patients’ health can vary. Always consult with a medical professional before taking medication, making health-related decisions or deciding if medical advice is right for you.