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Fatigue means extreme tiredness. It can, of course, be caused by a lack of sleep, but illness and stress are also likely factors.


  • Extreme tiredness

What causes fatigue?

Aside from a lack of sleep there are many things that can cause fatigue.

Top of the list is anaemia caused by a lack of iron. Anaemia means you do not have enough red blood cells. You need these to carry oxygen around your body which is how your body gets its fuel. Without this you are running on empty. Anaemia can occur due to a low-iron diet, heavy periods, during pregnancy, or because of bleeding in the stomach or intestines caused by certain diseases.

Fatigue can also be brought on by infections and illnesses ranging from flu to cancer. Fatigue is also an early warning sign for diabetes, and common in people who are feeling stressed or suffering from depression.

A person’s metabolism can affect how tired or energetic they feel. People with a low metabolism rate (which means their body turns food into energy slowly) may feel they need a lot of sleep. Conversely those with a very high metabolism may feel tired because their high pulse rate makes it hard for them to rest.

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) is a condition that causes exhaustion together with muscle pain and headaches. Although not directly treatable ME is a real condition which can be managed.

How is fatigue treated?

How fatigue is treated will depend on the underlying causes. If the condition is non-specific general lifestyle changes may be sufficient to give you a new lease of life. Ironically a lack of exercise can make you feel tiredness. To beat fatigue: exercise regularly, eat healthily taking in a full range of vitamins and minerals, cut back on alcohol and lose excess weight.

If lifestyle changes don’t pep you up then consult a doctor to rule out medical causes.

Sufferers of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) may be offered ‘Graded Exercise Therapy’ (GET) - a structured exercise programme devised by a trained specialist in CFS.