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Tiredness

Tiredness is a common feeling that everyone experiences, due to a mental or physical toll on the body, or sometimes both. There are many reasons as to why someone may be tired, but if the problem persists then it could be indicative of a medical condition.

  • One of the most common complaints 
  • Can be caused by an illness or lifestyle factors
  • There is no specific treatment for tiredness

If you are concerned about tiredness, you can book a consultation with one of our GMC-registered clinicians to discuss symptoms, treatments and prescriptions (where suitable), via our online video service between 9.30am and 4.30pm, five days a week.

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Possible causes

Tiredness can be attributed to a wide range of different lifestyle factors or physical and mental conditions. 

Lifestyle factors

  • Alcohol consumption can have a significant impact on quality of sleep, which in turn can make someone more tired. 
  • Not getting enough exercise, or conversely getting too much exercise, can affect tiredness.
  • Staying up late following a night shift at work, or caring for a newborn baby, is likely to make sleeping patterns more irregular.

Psychological factors

  • Tiredness is a common symptom of depression and anxiety-related disorders. These conditions may result in difficulties partaking in certain activities, or they may manifest as a sense of worthlessness.
  • Stress and worry can interfere with your ability to sleep, and so cause tiredness.
  • Other potential triggers for tiredness may include bereavement or other emotional circumstances.

Physical factors

Common physical causes include:

  • Anaemia (a lack of iron in the blood) 
  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Diabetes
  • Hyperthyroidism, which is an underactive thyroid
  • Sleep apnoea, where breathing problems interfere with sleep

Other possible physical causes include:

  • Undergoing cancer treatment in the form of chemotherapy or radiotherapy
  • Pregnancy
  • Vitamin deficiency
  • Side effects from a medication you are taking

It should be noted that the above lists aren’t exhaustive; fatigue is a very common occurrence and can be a symptom of many health conditions. 

Diagnosing the cause of tiredness

There are three criteria for diagnosing tiredness, but it is not always possible to identify fatigue using clinical symptoms alone.

In the first instance, a doctor will establish what a patient’s medical history is. This is so they can find out whether the tiredness is associated with any other condition. A doctor will ask whether you have any other symptoms, how you’ve been sleeping and how your general mood has been. They will also ask how much alcohol you are currently drinking and whether you are on any medication for another condition.

Following this, a clinician may want to examine you to check for conditions such as cancer or hyperthyroidism. Lumps or swelling on the body can be indicative of these health problems. A GP may also consider any possible psychological causes.

A doctor may also run blood tests to help identify if any physical illness is the root cause. A blood test can either rule out or confirm the presence of conditions such as diabetes and anaemia, or vitamin deficiencies. 

Page last reviewed:  11/06/2020
Types of Treatment

How is tiredness treated?

Addressing the underlying cause is key to treating tiredness. Lifestyle and medication adjustments may be necessary, and if a particular mental or physical condition is the cause, it will need to be treated to help alleviate tiredness.

If a physical illness is deemed to be the cause of tiredness, a doctor will want to treat it as soon as possible. For example, anaemia can be treated with iron supplements to improve the balance of iron in the body and prevent tiredness from persisting. 

Another common condition that causes tiredness is an underactive thyroid, which can be treated with thyroid hormone replacement drugs such as levothyroxine. You can also purchase vitamin supplements over-the-counter to address a vitamin deficiency.

There are many lifestyle adjustments that can be made to help with tiredness. Regular exercise and a consistent sleeping pattern is essential for the body to rest properly, and limiting alcohol consumption to 14 units a week will also help.

Assigning time in your day to relax and focus on yourself is vital to addressing tiredness. Naps during the day are not advised as they can make it more difficult to sleep in the evening. 

Mental disorders can be difficult to treat, but cognitive behavioural therapy is the first-line treatment for depression and anxiety conditions. A psychiatrist can help change behavioural patterns which could be having an influence on how someone is sleeping. If stress is a persistent issue and is causing chronic tiredness, then it might be necessary to consider changing an aspect of life that is causing the stress. For example, embarking on a career change, or booking a holiday to give yourself time to unwind.

If you feel that your tiredness is a problem, you may want to speak to a clinician about how you can improve your energy levels. Our GPhC-registered doctors are available for an online consultation between 9.30am-4.30pm, five days a week. They can recommend treatment options, provide prescriptions where required and issue advice about whether you need an examination.

Page last reviewed:  11/06/2020
Questions and Answers

How long is it normal to be tired for?

It’s very common to feel tired for a day or two following a lack of sleep, or having over-exerted yourself, for a period of time. 

However, if you feel tired for over a week and you cannot work out why, you should have a discussion with your GP.

Is tiredness serious?

Tiredness is not usually a serious condition, as it can typically be improved by making changes to your lifestyle.

However, if it’s persistent, it could be an indication that your body is struggling to cope with a condition such as anaemia, or an underactive thyroid.

Can I get treatment for tiredness?

Typically you won’t require treatment for tiredness, but in the event that you’re experiencing a physical or mental condition, you can make an appointment with your  GP, or use our online video consultation service.

How can I prevent tiredness?

It’s important to make sure you eat and drink properly throughout the day to maintain energy levels.

Consuming less alcohol and caffeine may also help with tiredness, as can exercising regularly and establishing a regular sleeping pattern.

Can I speak to a doctor about tiredness online?

Our online video consultation service is available should you wish to speak to a clinician about your condition. Our clinicians can be consulted between 9.30am and 4.30pm, Monday to Friday, and are able to offer advice regarding your symptoms, provide prescriptions and issue referrals to specialists for treatment, where required. 

Page last reviewed:  11/06/2020

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