Have you ever experienced those days when you just can’t keep your eyes open? Whether you are chasing a two-year-old with a basket of laundry on your hip or trying to keep your eyes open in a never-ending staff meeting, there is no denying that there are many factors as to why many women feel tired all the time.
According to WebMD’s annual Year in Health survey, fatigue ranked as one of the top five health concerns women experience. Fatigue can present itself daily in the morning and again in the afternoon. (Hello, afternoon sugar crash!)
Let’s discuss the common causes of fatigue in women and strategies to resolve them.
5 Common Causes Why Women Are Tired All the Time
Mild fatigue is often a result of being dehydrated, which happens when your body is flushing more fluid than you’re taking in. With the increase in caffeinated beverages (think Caramel Macchiato from Starbucks) and alcohol consumption, more women are experiencing fatigue daily.
It is recommended to consume at least half your body weight in ounces of water each day. For example, a 130lb woman should be consuming 65oz of pure filtered water per day.
The caveat here is the water should be pure or enhanced with fruit like lemons or limes. Frequent consumption of artificially sweetened water could lead to other health problems, such as obesity, diabetes, gut imbalances, and possibly cancer or other life-threatening diseases.
So, how can you drink that much water in a day?
The trick is to space the amount of water equally throughout the day. Consuming one full 8oz glass upon waking is perfect to replenish what was lost during sleep. Be careful not to consume a large amount of water 20 minutes before or after a meal, which could disrupt your digestive enzymes in the stomach and lead to poor digestion.
A quick tip to determine if you are dehydrated or not is to assess the color of your urine. The darker the color, the more dehydrated you are.
2. Not Enough or Poor Quality Sleep
Adequate sleep quantity and quality are essential for women’s health and well-being. Unfortunately, almost 35% of women experience short sleep duration, which is characterized by less than seven hours of sleep per night according to the 2014 CDC census.
Even one night of poor or interrupted sleep can lead to daytime drowsiness, trouble with memory and concentration, and impaired performance at school and work. Chronic sleep deprivation increases your risk for injury, accidents, illness, and even death.
There are biological conditions unique to women like menstrual cycles, pregnancy, and menopause that affect how well women sleep. As women age, there are changes in their bodies and hormones that can affect the quality of their sleep.
Physical factors can also disturb women’s sleep, such as arthritis, breathing problems, and hot flashes. Many women deal with increasing sleep problems in the years in the perimenopausal phase (before) and post-menopausal phase (after).
Night sweats, a common symptom of the menopausal transition, are uncomfortable and can last for many years. Along with sweating and feeling hot, there is an increase in heart rate and possibly feelings of worry. In severe cases, night sweats can wake women up as often as every hour. This can keep them from getting enough sleep and cause them to feel tired during the day.
Before considering medication, try making changes to your lifestyle first. Improving your sleep quality can be as simple as improving your sleep hygiene and implementing a bedtime routine, such as:
- Avoid screen time two hours before bedtime.
- Refrain from eating two to three hours before bedtime.
- Lower the temperature in your bedroom and try drinking small amounts of cold water before bed.
- Choose a calming nighttime routine, such as reading, meditation, and/or prayer.
- Avoid alcohol, spicy foods, and caffeine. These can make menopausal symptoms worse.
- Sleep in a cool, very dark room. Try adding black-out window coverings and turning off or unplugging any TVs or Wi-Fi devices in the bedroom.
- Go to bed at the same time every night.
As your sleep improves, you will find that you can think, work, and interact with others better. You will also feel healthier and be able to enjoy life more than ever before.
3. Sedentary Lifestyle or Lack of Exercise
Exercise is not just for looking good in skinny jeans anymore. It turns out that exercising also reduces fatigue.
According to a University of Georgia study, low-intensity exercise can decrease fatigue by 65 percent. Low-intensity exercises include walking, swimming, rollerblading, and rowing, just to name a few.
When working with new clients, I always recommend that they start slow. Just two to three times per week of low-intensity movement for 20 minutes is a perfect start for most individuals. Pick a movement you enjoy, set a time in your schedule, and promise yourself to follow through.
Walking in nature, rollerblading, or bike riding with your children are excellent examples of low-intensity exercise that will also boost your mood and enhance family bonding. Always check with your primary care physician before starting a new exercise program.
4. Too Much Stress
Extended periods of stress with inadequate recovery periods can lead to chronic fatigue. Prolonged stress is very dangerous for women’s bodies and hormones.
Stress causes the adrenal glands—a small gland that sits right on top of the kidneys—to produce a variety of hormones including adrenaline and the steroids aldosterone and cortisol. Elevated levels of cortisol can lead to blood sugar imbalance, adrenal fatigue, and weight gain.
According to StressTalk, chronic stress can also cause fatigue by suppressing your immune system and thus, causing new infections as well as reactivating old latent viruses in your system.
To keep your stress in check, try evaluating what is causing the stress in your life. Is it work? Home? The children or your spouse? Is it your long to-do list?
It is impossible to avoid all stressors in your daily life, but it is possible to reframe the way you look at your stress.
Try adjusting your mindset and instead of being overwhelmed with having so much to do or take care of, be thankful for the busy, blessed life you have instead. Just that simple reframe could reduce your cortisol levels and put your body back in the “rest and digest” state you need to live in to thrive.
Meditation is another excellent stress reducer and is an easy practice to implement. You can meditate for as little as five minutes and still get all the great benefits of the practice, such as improved mood, lowered blood pressure, and less depression and anxiety.
Find a quiet space, and set a timer for five minutes, so you can relax and not worry about the time. You can set your phone to play meditation music or use aromatherapy to enhance your practice as well.
Close your eyes and relax. Take a few deep breaths from your diaphragm and release the tension in your body. Focus on a five-count breath:
- Slowly inhale from the belly
- Then into ribs
- Then into chest
- Up into the crown of the head
- Then gently hold the breath for the fifth count
Reverse this process on the exhale for another count of five, exhaling from the crown, chest, ribs, and belly, pausing on the last bit of breath out of the body, then beginning again.
Concentrating on your breath while you are imagining releasing your stress and tension helps give you something to focus on while also reaping the potent benefits of deep breaths.
5. Poor Eating Choices
An everything bagel with a sugary coffee for breakfast, a ham sandwich with a bag of chips and a diet coke for lunch, and a drive-thru meal after the kid’s baseball game might sound like a pretty normal Tuesday for most women. But eating the Standard American Diet, otherwise referred to as SAD, could be a direct cause of your fatigue.
This pattern of high-carb, high-sugar, low-fiber, low-nutrient diet leads to constant surges in blood sugar and subsequent crashes thereafter. A typical American woman consumes roughly 60 pounds of sugar per year. That’s more than three times as much sugar as we should—and that can take a toll on our health and well-being.
Although all sugar provides the body with energy, how quickly the body breaks it down affects the blood sugar levels. The body breaks down simple sugars quickly, causing a spike in blood sugar levels. Other types of sugar, such as fiber and some starches, are broken down more slowly which helps to keep blood sugar levels constant.
As women age, the increased demand on the pancreatic cells can make them wear out, leading to a decrease in insulin production known as insulin resistance. This condition can lead to diabetes, liver disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and heart problems.
Other risk factors for women who consume a high sugar diet range from the blues and bloating of PMS to increased odds of miscarriage, gestational diabetes, birth defects, and a higher risk for the hormone disorder polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). That’s why it’s important for women to lighten up on the sweets and limit intake of added sugar to the daily recommendation of 6 teaspoons a day.
In my practice, I always recommend going back to basics—eliminating processed food and re-introducing whole natural foods to boost energy levels, reduce brain fog, and even lose weight. Filling your plate with a good quality protein source, such as grass-fed pasture-raised beef, chicken, or wild-caught fish, high-fiber carbohydrates, and good-quality fats is all you need to ward off fatigue.
An example of an easy balanced breakfast would be overnight oats topped with fresh berries and a handful of walnuts.
Whether you are a woman in your 30s or your 50s, fatigue can plague you at any point. But fatigue doesn’t have to be a debilitating part of your life anymore. Implementing these five strategies will help you get on the right track to boosting your energy levels and leaving the brain fog and energy crashes in the dust.
Featured photo credit: Kinga Cichewicz via unsplash.com
|WebMD: The Causes of Women’s Fatigue
|Healthline: Are You Dehydrated? Our Pee Color Chart Will Tell You
|CDC: Data and Statistics – Sleep and Sleep Disorders
|UGA Today: Low-intensity exercise reduces fatigue symptoms by 65 percent, study finds
|StressTalk: Can Stress Cause Fatigue And Tiredness
|PubMed.gov: The Standard American Diet and its relationship to the health status of Americans
|Heart.org: How much sugar is too much?
|Cleveland Clinic: Insulin Resistance