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What causes fatigue?

What causes fatigue?

Feeling constantly tired or weak can have a negative impact on your life. The first step to resolving fatigue is to identify the underlying cause.

Lifestyle insight
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Why am I always tired?

Feeling constantly tired or weak can have a negative impact on your life. The first step to resolving fatigue is to identify the underlying cause.

For many people, fatigue is caused by a combination of factors including lifestyle, social or psychological issues and general wellbeing2,3. Fatigue can also be a symptom of an underlying medical condition2. However, many cases of fatigue are usually not due to any serious condition and can be self-managed4.

Causes of fatigue

Examples of some common causes that may trigger fatigue2:

Lifestyle (e.g. lack of sleep or regular exercise, work-related stress, alcohol and drugs)

Emotional (e.g. depression, grief, anxiety, emotional stress)

Medical (sometimes fatigue may be a sign of an underlying illness such as a thyroid disorder, heart disease or diabetes)

Is your lifestyle causing your fatigue?

Are you getting enough regular sleep? Or are you sleeping too much? Do you exercise regularly? Common lifestyle factors that may be contributing to your fatigue include:

  • Lack of sleep – are you getting 8 hours? Is your sleep disturbed?
  • Too much sleep – do you sleep more than 11 hours a night?
  • Alcohol – did you know alcohol is a depressant and disturbs your sleep patterns?
  • Smoking or caffeine – these substances stimulate your body, and can sometimes cause insomnia
  • Lack of exercise – do you have a sedentary lifestyle? Regular exercise can help to boost energy levels and help you sleep
  • Poor diet – do you have a balanced diet? Or do you live off quick fix foods like chocolate bars and energy drinks?
Could your job be causing you to feel overtired?

Is your job very stressful? Do you have enough time to see your friends and family? Are you satisfied in your career? Do you work unfriendly or irregular hours? Issues related to your job or work place can be known to cause fatigue.

Are there psychological or emotional factors involved in fatigue?

Psychological factors such as depression, anxiety, stress and grief can lead people to feel fatigued. If you are constantly stressed or worried, your body becomes exhausted, and fatigue can set in.

Is your fatigue a result of a medical condition?

Many medical conditions can result in the feeling of tiredness or fatigue. Common medical causes include thyroid disorder, heart disease and diabetes. Some medications can also cause fatigue as a side-effect. 1,2 If you are worried that your fatigue may be caused by an underlying illness, make sure you talk to your doctor.

Is your ‘always on’ attitude preventing your from taking a break?

In today’s busy world, it’s easy to get caught up with never-ending commitments – whether it’s work, socially or additional activities you are trying to squeeze into your day. If you never give yourself time for some proper rest, you may find yourself feeling fatigued.

How can I beat fatigue?

The good news is that, for most people, fatigue is easily resolved. Mild fatigue is usually short lived, and will often get better on its own or with some simple lifestyle changes4. Whether that’s removing stressful factors, getting more sleep, improving your diet or exercising more regularly – here’s some tips to help reduce fatigue and give you more energy.

  • Eat more often - Keep up energy with regular meals and healthy snacks
  • Exercise regularly - Regular exercise boosts energy – even 15 mins a day   
  • Improve your diet - Consider losing weight if you are carrying excess weight
  • Sleep - Get a good night’s sleep
  • Reduce stress - Take part in a relaxing activity
  • Talk - If you are experiencing emotional stress
  • Cut caffeine - Avoid caffeinated drinks
  • Reduce alcohol - Especially before you go to bed
  • Drink water -To maintain hydration


eMedicineHealth. Fatigue. Available at: https://www.emedicinehealth.com/fatigue/article_em.htm#what_is_fatigue Accessed April 2018.
BetterHealth Channel. Fatigue. Available at: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/fatigue Accessed April 2018.
Safe work Australia. Fatigue. Available at: https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/fatigue Accessed April 2018.
Health direct. Self-help tips to fight mild fatigue. Available at: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/self-help-tips-to-fight-fatigue Accessed April 2018.

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