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Why am I so tired?

Dr Cindy Pan outlines some common factors that cause tiredness and ways to boost energy levels.

(Q) I feel tired all the time. I wish I knew what was wrong with me and what I should do about it.

(A) Tiredness is often a result of simple lifestyle factors, such as lack of quality sleep, excessive physical exertion, poor diet, emotional upheaval or stress.


In some cases, however, there may be an underlying medical abnormality such as anaemia, a viral illness such as influenza or glandular fever, a hormonal imbalance such as an underactive thyroid, or diabetes, a heart problem, low blood pressure, chronic fatigue or cancer.

It could even be a side effect of certain medications.

If the problem has been going on for weeks and isn't abating, or is getting worse, it's important to seek medical advice. Your doctor can ask about the duration and pattern of your symptoms, your family history and recent life events.

They may examine you physically and, if necessary, order further investigations such as blood and urine tests or X-rays.

In many cases, it's difficult to identify any specific underlying medical cause for fatigue.

Simple lifestyle changes or behaviour modification may improve energy levels, though.

Keeping regular hours and simply getting sufficient sleep may be factors. Check whether your diet is balanced and nutritionally sound, with sufficient protein, vitamins, carbohydrates and minerals.

It may seem counterintuitive to expend energy when you're feeling exhausted, but regular exercise can help your energy levels enormously.

A graded exercise regimen starting slowly and building up gradually with something simple such as regular walking - can build fitness, maintain muscle mass and strength.

It can also improve mood, motivation and overall wellbeing, as well as improving sleep quality, appetite, concentration, alertness, immune function and cardiovascular health.

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