When it comes to the things we wish were more abundant in our lives, sleep is first on the list (followed closely by cash and holidays, of course). But if feeling tired has become your daily default, there could be something more serious at play than simply not getting enough sleep. Instead of putting up with feeling perpetually exhausted, it’s time to take a close look at your health to find the root of the problem.
Low iron levels
Feel fatigued regardless of how much sleep you’re getting? Have dry nails or shortness of breath? Feel dizzy sometimes? You could be one of the 10 per cent of Australian women under 50 whose body has depleted iron stores. Iron deficiency can occur when your diet is lacking in iron or if your ability to absorb iron is impeded. The scary news? If you don’t get on top of it, your iron deficiency could turn into anaemia (a condition whereby your blood doesn’t produce an adequate amount of healthy blood cells).
If all of this is sounding very familiar, the first step to feeling full of energy again is heading to see your GP for a check-up and blood test. Some common ways to remedy low iron are upping your red meat intake, taking iron supplements, or in serious cases, having an iron infusion. As with anything where your health is concerned, take your doctor’s advice first and foremost.
You’re not exercising enough
Is your main form of exercise the small walk from your bus stop to work each day? It’s seems counterintuitive, but exercising more often will actually boost your energy levels. Farewell, exhaustion. In 2008, University of Georgia researchers studied a group of 36 volunteers who often felt tired and didn’t exercise regularly. They split the volunteers into three groups - a control group did no exercise, one group undertook 20 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise three times a week for a period of six weeks, and another group did low intensity aerobic exercise over the same period.
The results, published in the Psychotherapy and Psychosomatic journal, found that the two groups that exercised had a 20% increase in energy levels, compared to those who didn’t exercise at all. Lead author of the study, Dr Tim Puetz, said that believing a quick workout will leave us “worn out” when we’re already feeling tired isn’t true. “We have shown that regular exercise can actually go a long way in increasing feelings of energy - particularly in sedentary individuals,” Dr Puetz explained in a media release.
Your thyroid might just be a little, unassuming gland located in your throat but it can be responsible for you uttering “I’m so tired” around 43 times a day. About 5 per cent of Aussies are thought to have a prevalence of subclinical hypothyroidism - caused by slightly higher or lower levels of Thyroid Stimulating Hormone - which can manifest in symptoms of tiredness. As with any health issue, it’s important to head to your doctor to get a proper diagnosis and treatment plan tailored to your needs.
Your diet needs a rethink
If you can barely get through the morning without stifling multiple yawns, it might be time to look at the food you’re fuelling your body with. Opt for complex carbohydrates (like wholegrain bread, oats, nuts and seeds) over simple carbohydrates (think white bread, rice and pasta) as they release glucose into the blood slowly and gradually, meaning your energy levels will stay nice and constant. Be sure to also include plenty of iron-rich foods (hello read meat, spinach, baked beans) in your diet and boost your body’s ability to absorb it by coupling them with vitamin C-rich foods (think oranges and tomatoes). If you only do one thing to boost your energy levels, try to fit a banana into your everyday diet. With vitamins C and B6, potassium and protein, bananas really are nature’s energy bar.
If you are concerned about your health, wellbeing or sleep, your first port of call should be your GP, who will advise a correct treatment plan.