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30 of the Best Short Stories You Can Read for Free

30 of the Best Short Stories You Can Read for Free

These are some of the best short stories around, and what makes them even more delightful is the fact that every one is absolutely free. If you love to read this article is just right for you.

1. “The Zero Meter Diving Team,” by Jim Shepard

“Mikhail lived a large portion of his life in that state of mind in which you take a risk and deny the risk at the same time, out of rage.”

A radioactive sign hangs on barbed wire outside a café in Pripyat.

    This story is about three brothers caught up in the horrific disaster that happened at Chernobyl on April 26, 1986. The startling consequences of the disaster make for a dramatic backdrop, as the brothers deal with the aftermath of the nuclear meltdown. “The Zero Meter Diving Team” is available for free, from BOMB magazine.

    2. “A Tiny Feast,”  by Chris Adrian

    “Titania was the only one among them ever to have ridden on a roller coaster, but she didn’t offer up the experience as an analogy, because it seemed insufficient to describe a process that to her felt less like a violent unpredictable ride than like someone ripping your heart out one day and then stuffing it back in your chest the next.”

    newyourker

      “A Tiny Feast” is for those who love fairy folk. In the story, a toddler is exchanged for a hobgoblin, but the tiny child has a very serious illness. The story is available for free from The New Yorker.

      3. “Lorry Raja,” by Madhuri Vijay

      “He taunted me about playing in the mud, as he called it, breaking chunks of iron ore with my hammer.”

      pix

        “Lorry Raja” is a short story about children and families in India. These families were coerced into forced labor to mine for iron to build the Olympic stadium in China. It is available to read from The Narrative Magazine. You will be required to submit an email address to access the full story.

        4. “Bluebell Meadow,” by Benedict Kiely

        “She spread the bullets on the table and moved them about, making designs and shapes and patterns with them, playing with them as if they were draughts or dominoes or precious stones.”

        pix

          The “Bluebell Meadow” is set during the Troubles in Ireland. It is about two teenagers that although in love have the chasm of religious ideals between them. It is available for free from Google Books.

           5. “A Beneficiary,” Nadine Gordimer

          “That Saturday: it landed in the apartment looted by the present and filled it with blasting amazement, the presence of the past.”

          nyorkere

            A woman discovers a shocking secret about her mother in “The Beneficiary.” The story is available for free from The New Yorker.

            6. “The Man On The Stairs,” by Miranda July

            “That is my problem with life, I just rush through it, like I’m being chased.”

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              This is a creepy and very short tale. It is available for free from Scribd.

              7. “Bullet in the Brain,” by Tobias Wolff

              “He was never in the best of tempers anyway, Anders—a book critic known for the weary, elegant savagery with which he dispatched almost everything he reviewed.”

              grid-cell-13422-1407857327-20

                A normal day in a bank turns to terror very quickly. You can find “Bullet In The Brain” at no cost here.

                8. “Safari,” Jennifer Egan

                “Lou is a man who cannot tolerate defeat—can’t perceive it as anything but a spur to his own inevitable victory.”

                grid-cell-11938-1407857294-31

                  “Safari” is about a dysfunctional group of people who go on an African safari. The story is quite poignant in its telling. It is available from The New Yorker.

                   9. “Hills Like White Elephants,” Ernest Hemingway

                  “I know you wouldn’t mind it, Jig. It’s really not anything. It’s just to let the air in.”

                  ehemigway

                    This story is set in Spain and is a conversation between a man and a woman waiting for a train. Ernest Hemingway liked to couch his stories with analogies. This story is no different. It is available to read for free here.

                    10. “Drinking Coffee Elsewhere,” by ZZ Packer

                    “She continued to cry, but it seemed to have grown so silent in my room I wondered if I could hear the numbers change on my digital clock.”

                    grid-cell-19429-1407874747-5

                      This is a coming of age story. A girl entering college questions her culture, her sexuality, and more. The story is available for free from The New Yorker.

                      11. “Hollow,” by Breece D’J Pancake

                      “On a knoll in the ridge, run there by the dogs, the bobcat watched, waiting for the man to leave.”

                      atlantic

                        This story is available through The Atlantic for free. The story is about a group of coal miners and the way they deal with the dangers of coal mining.

                        12. “Eveline,” by James Joyce

                        “She sat at the window watching the evening invade the avenue.”

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                        grid-cell-32707-1407856492-11

                          The story is one of several short stories from Joyce’s The Dubliners and is available for free. The story is about a young woman having second thoughts about leaving her homeland of Ireland.

                          13. “Interpreter Of Maladies,” Jhumpa Lahiri

                          “In its own way this correspondence would fulfill his dream, of serving as an interpreter between nations.”

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                            .

                            Ms. Lahiri won the Pulitzer Prize for this story in 2000. The story is about a family visiting India and their tour guide. The story is available for free  here.

                            14. “All Summer in a Day,” by Ray Bradbury

                            “The children pressed to each other like so many roses, so many weeds, intermixed, peering out for a look at the hidden sun. ”

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                              A great read by one of the most brilliant science fiction authors ever, Ray Bradbury. The story is set on Venus and centers on the children of those who have settled there. It can be downloaded at no cost here.

                              15. “A Perfect Day for Bananafish,” by J.D. Salinger

                              “With her little lacquer brush, while the phone was ringing, she went over the nail of her little finger, accentuating the line of the moon. She then replaced the cap on the bottle of lacquer and, standing up, passed her left—the wet—hand back and forth through the air.”

                              sa;

                                This is a story about an atypical day at the beach. The entire book can be downloaded for free here.

                                16. “Tiny Smiling Daddy,” by Mary Gaitskill

                                “Unless it was Kitty’s coldness, her always turning away, her sarcastic voice. But she was a teenager, and that’s what teenagers did.”

                                grid-cell-2552-1407857191-5

                                  The story revolves around the tumultuous teen years, although the child in the story is in her late twenties. The father reminisces about his daughter’s adolescent years. The story can be read for free here.

                                  17. “They’re Made Out Of Meat,” Terry Bisson

                                  “And why not? Imagine how unbearably, how unutterably cold the Universe would be if one were all alone …”

                                  grid-cell-19503-1407857260-5

                                    Aliens make a hilarious discovery. The story was nominated for the Nebula award in 1991. The story can be read for free here.

                                    18. “The Yellow Wallpaper,” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

                                    “If a physician of high standing, and one’s own husband, assures friends and relatives that there is really nothing the matter with one but temporary nervous depression—a slight hysterical tendency—what is one to do?”

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                                    grid-cell-1465-1407873388-29

                                      A story of a young woman’s descent into madness after the birth of her child. The user can choose which format to download. Available for free here.

                                      19. “All at One Point,” by Italo Calvino

                                      “We say hello—at times somebody recognizes me, at other times I recognize somebody—and we promptly start asking about this one and that one (even if each remembers only a few of those remembered by the others), and so we start in again on the old disputes, the slanders, the denigrations.”

                                      grid-cell-9365-1407881996-7

                                        This is a very short story that revolves around the very beginning of the universe. The story is available for free.

                                        20. “Italy,”by Antonio Elefano

                                        “I could only focus on you: your syncopated step, your forward lean, the way your legs seemed to disappear amidst the tables as you glided across the room.”

                                        grid-cell-13915-1407857133-18

                                          “Italy” is a bittersweet tale about a couple during many years of marriage. The story can be read for free here.

                                          21. “The School,” by Donald Barthelme

                                          “Well, we had all these children out planting trees, see, because we figured that … that was part of their education, to see how, you know, the root systems … and also the sense of responsibility, taking care of things, being individually responsible.”

                                          pix

                                            A story about an unusual school dealing with a rather mundane subject. The story can be read for free.

                                            22. “In the Penal Colony” by Franz Kafka

                                            “The Condemned Man, incidentally, had an expression of such dog-like resignation that it looked as if one could set him free to roam around the slopes and would only have to whistle at the start of the execution for him to return.”

                                            pix

                                              A man is condemned to die in a most unusual manner. Read the story for free.

                                              23. “Symbols and Signs,” by Vladimir Nabokov

                                              “After eliminating a number of articles that might offend him or frighten him (anything in the gadget line, for instance, was taboo), his parents chose a dainty and innocent trifle—a basket with ten different fruit jellies in ten little jars.”

                                              pix

                                                A couple goes to visit their son in a mental institution only to be turned away. The story is available from The New Yorker.

                                                24. “Gooseberries,” by Anton Chekhov

                                                “But surely a corpse wants that, not a man. And I hear that our intellectuals have a longing for the land and want to acquire farms. But it all comes down to the six feet of land.”

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                                                pix

                                                  A story about two brothers reestablishing themselves after their father’s death. The story is available here.

                                                  25. “Sea Oak,” by George Saunders

                                                  But she’s not bitter. Sometimes she’s so nonbitter it gets on my nerves.”

                                                  rock

                                                    A story about an aunt who refuses to stay dead. The story is available for free.

                                                    26. “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas,” by Ursula K. Le Guin

                                                    “But we do not say the words of cheer much any more. All smiles have become archaic.”

                                                    pix

                                                      A story about the price of utopia. The story is available for free here.

                                                      27. “The Veldt,” by Ray Bradbury

                                                      " A shadow flickered over Mr. McClean's hot face."
                                                      
                                                      pix

                                                        The story is about a murderous room. You can read it for free here.

                                                        28. “The Bear Came Over the Mountain,” by Alice Munro

                                                        “Her hair that was as light as milkweed fluff had gone from pale blond to white somehow without Grant’s noticing exactly when, and she still wore it down to her shoulders, as her mother had done”

                                                        The-New-Yorker-Magazine-for-iPad-1

                                                          The story is about a professor’s wife losing her memory. It was later adapted into a film, Away From Her. The story can be found in The New Yorker.

                                                          29. “The Nose,” by Nikolai Gogol

                                                          “Ivan Yakovlevitch donned a jacket over his shirt for politeness’ sake, and, seating himself at the table, poured out salt, got a couple of onions ready, took a knife into his hand, assumed an air of importance, and cut the roll open. Then he glanced into the roll’s middle. To his intense surprise he saw something glimmering there. He probed it cautiously with the knife — then poked at it with a finger.”

                                                          book

                                                            Two men awake to a very distressing morning. The story can be found here.

                                                            30. “Drown,” by Junot Diaz

                                                            “Days we spent in the mall or out in the parking lot playing stickball, but nights were what we waited for.”

                                                            grid-cell-31299-1407857373-32

                                                              A young man returns home from college only to find many things have changed. Read for free.

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                                                              Published on November 14, 2018

                                                              Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

                                                              Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

                                                              With our busy, always on lives, it seems that more and more of us are facing constant tiredness and fatigue on a regular basis.

                                                              For many people, they just take this in their stride as part of modern life, but for others the impact can be crippling and can have a serious effect on their sense of wellbeing, health and productivity.

                                                              In this article, I’ll share some of the most common causes of constant tiredness and fatigue and give you some guidance and action steps you can take to overcome some of the symptoms of fatigue.

                                                              Why Am I Feeling Fatigued?

                                                              Fatigue is extreme tiredness resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness.  It is a reduction in the efficiency of a muscle or organ after prolonged activity.[1]

                                                              It can affect anyone, and most adults will experience fatigue at some point in their life. 

                                                              For many people, fatigue is caused by a combination of lifestyle, social, psychological and general wellbeing issues rather than an underlying medical condition.

                                                              Although fatigue is sometimes described as tiredness, it is different to just feeling tired or sleepy. Everyone feels tired at some point, but this is usually resolved with a nap or a few nights of good sleep. Someone who is sleepy may also feel temporarily refreshed after exercising. If you are getting enough sleep, good nutrition and exercising regularly but still find it hard to perform, concentrate or be motivated at your normal levels, you may be experiencing a level of fatigue that needs further investigation. 

                                                              Symptoms of Fatigue

                                                              Fatigue can cause a vast range of physical, mental and emotional symptoms including:

                                                              • chronic tiredness, exhaustion or sleepiness
                                                              • mental blocks
                                                              • lack of motivation
                                                              • headache
                                                              • dizziness
                                                              • muscle weakness
                                                              • slowed reflexes and responses
                                                              • impaired decision-making and judgement
                                                              • moodiness, such as irritability
                                                              • impaired hand-to-eye coordination
                                                              • reduced immune system function
                                                              • blurry vision
                                                              • short-term memory problems
                                                              • poor concentration
                                                              • reduced ability to pay attention to the situation at hand

                                                              Causes of Fatigue

                                                              The wide range of causes that can trigger fatigue include:

                                                              • Medical causes: Constant exhaustion, tiredness and fatigue may be a sign of an underlying illness, such as a thyroid disorder, heart disease, anemia or diabetes.
                                                              • Lifestyle-related causes: Being overweight and a lack of regular exercise can lead to feelings of fatigue.  Lack of sleep and overcommitting can also create feelings of excessive tiredness and fatigue.
                                                              • Workplace-related causes: Workplace and financial stress in a variety of forms can lead to feelings of fatigue.
                                                              • Emotional concerns and stress: Fatigue is a common symptom of mental health problems, such as depression and grief, and may be accompanied by other signs and symptoms, including irritability and lack of motivation.

                                                              Fatigue can also be caused by a number of factors working in combination.

                                                              Medical Causes of Fatigue

                                                              If you have made lifestyle changes to increase your energy and still feel exhausted and fatigued, it may be time to seek guidance from your doctor.

                                                              Here are a few examples of illnesses that can cause ongoing fatigue. Seek medical advice if you suspect you have a health problem:

                                                              Anemia

                                                              Anemia is a condition in which you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to the body’s tissues. It is a common cause of fatigue in women.

                                                              Having anemia may make you feel tired and weak.

                                                              There are many forms of anemia, each with its own cause. Anemia can be temporary or long term, and it can range from mild to severe.[2]

                                                              Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

                                                              Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a condition that can cause persistent, unexplained fatigue that interferes with daily activities for more than six months.

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                                                              This is a chronic condition with no one-size-fits-all treatment, but lifestyle changes can often help ease some symptoms of fatigue.[3]

                                                              Diabetes

                                                              Diabetes can cause fatigue with either high or low blood sugars. When your sugars are high, they remain in the bloodstream instead of being used for energy, which makes you feel fatigued. Low blood sugar (glucose) means you may not have enough fuel for energy, also causing fatigue.[4]

                                                              Sleep Apnea

                                                              Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder where sufferers briefly stop breathing for short periods during sleep. Most people are not aware this is happening, but it can cause loud snoring, and daytime fatigue.

                                                              Being overweight, smoking, and drinking alcohol can all worsen the symptoms of sleep apnea.[5]

                                                              Thyroid disease

                                                              An underactive thyroid gland means you have too little thyroid hormone (thyroxine) in your body. This makes you feel tired and you could also put on weight and have aching muscles and dry skin.[6]

                                                              Common lifestyle factors that can cause fatigue include:

                                                              • Lack of sleep
                                                              • Too much sleep 
                                                              • Alcohol and drugs 
                                                              • Sleep disturbances 
                                                              • Lack of regular exercise and sedentary behaviour 
                                                              • Poor diet 

                                                              Common workplace issues that can cause fatigue include:

                                                              • Shift work: Our body is designed to sleep during the night. A shift worker may confuse their circadian clock by working when their body is programmed to be asleep.
                                                              • Poor workplace practices: This may include long work hours, hard physical labour, irregular working hours (such as rotating shifts), a stressful work environment, boredom or working alone. 
                                                              • Workplace stress – This can be caused by a wide range of factors including job dissatisfaction, heavy workload, conflicts with bosses or colleagues, bullying, or threats to job security.
                                                              • Burnout: This could be striving too hard on one area of your life while neglecting others, which leads to a life that feels out of balance.

                                                              Psychological Causes of Fatigue

                                                              Psychological factors are present in many cases of extreme tiredness and fatigue.  These may include:

                                                              • Depression: Depression is characterised by severe and prolonged feelings of sadness, dejection and hopelessness. People who are depressed commonly experience chronic fatigue.
                                                              • Anxiety and stress: Someone who is constantly anxious or stressed keeps their body in overdrive. The constant flooding of adrenaline exhausts the body, and fatigue sets in.
                                                              • Grief: Losing a loved one causes a wide range of emotions including shock, guilt, depression, despair and loneliness.

                                                              How to Tackle Constant Fatigue

                                                              Here are 12 ways you can start tackling the causes of fatigue and start feeling more energetic.

                                                              1. Tell The Truth

                                                              Some people can numb themselves to the fact that they are overtired or fatigued all the time. In the long run, this won’t help you.

                                                              To give you the best chance to overcome or eliminate fatigue, you must diagnose and tell the truth about the things that are draining your energy, making you tired or causing constant fatigue.

                                                              Once you’re honest with yourself about the activities you’re doing in your life that you find irritating, energy-draining, and make you tired on a regular basis you can make a commitment to stop doing them.

                                                              The help that you need to overcome fatigue is available to you, but not until you tell the truth about it. The first person you have to sell on getting rid of the causes of fatigue is yourself.

                                                              One starting point is to diagnose the symptoms. When you start feeling stressed, overtired or just not operating at your normal energy levels make a note of:

                                                              • How you feel
                                                              • What time of day it is
                                                              • What may have contributed to your fatigue
                                                              • How your mind and body reacts

                                                              This analysis may help you identify, understand and then eliminate very specific causes.

                                                              2. Reduce Your Commitments

                                                              When we have too many things on our plate personally and professionally, we can feel overstretched, causing physical and mental fatigue.

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                                                              If you have committed to things you really don’t want to do, this causes irritability and low emotional engagement. Stack these up throughout your day and week, then your stress levels will rise.

                                                              When these commitments have deadlines associated with them, you may be trying to cram in far too much in a short period of time.  This creates more stress and can affect your decision making ability.

                                                              Start being realistic about how much you can get done. Either reduce the commitments you have or give yourself more time to complete them in.

                                                              3. Get Clear On Your Priorities

                                                              If working on your list of to-do’s or goals becomes too overwhelming, start reducing and prioritizing the things that matter most.

                                                              Start with prioritizing just 3 things every day. When you complete those 3 things, you’ll get a rush of energy and your confidence will grow.

                                                              If you’re trying to juggle too many things and are multi-tasking, your energy levels will drop and you’ll struggle to maintain focus.

                                                              Unfinished projects can make you self-critical and feel guilty which drops energy levels further, creating inaction.

                                                              Make a list of your 3 MIT (Most Important Tasks) for the next day before you go to bed. This will stop you overcommitting and get you excited about what the next day can bring.

                                                              4. Express More Gratitude

                                                              Gratitude and confidence are heavily linked. Just being thankful for what you have and what you’ve achieved increases confidence and makes you feel more optimistic.

                                                              It can help you improve your sense of wellbeing, which can bring on feelings of joy and enthusiasm.

                                                              Try starting a gratitude journal or just note down 3 things you’re grateful for every day.

                                                              5. Focus On Yourself

                                                              Exhaustion and fatigue can arrive by focusing solely on other people’s needs all the time, rather than worrying about and focusing on what you need (and want).

                                                              There are work commitments, family commitments, social commitments. You may start with the best intentions, to put in your best performance at work, to be an amazing parent and friend, to simply help others.

                                                              But sometimes, we extend ourselves too much and go beyond our personal limits to help others. That’s when constant exhaustion can creep up on us.  Which can make us more fatigued.

                                                              We all want to help and do our best for others, but there needs to be some balance. We also need to take some time out just for ourselves to recharge and rejuvenate.

                                                              6. Set Aside Rest and Recovery Time

                                                              Whether it’s a couple of hours, a day off, a mini-break or a proper holiday, time off is essential to help us recover, recharge and refocus.

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                                                              Recovery time helps fend off mental fatigue and allows us to simply kick back and relax.

                                                              The key here, though, is to remove ourselves from the daily challenges that bring on tiredness and fatigue. Here’s how.

                                                              Can you free yourself up completely from work and personal obligations to just rest and recover?

                                                              7. Take a Power Nap

                                                              When you’re feeling tired or fatigued and you have the ability to take a quick 20-minute nap, it could make a big difference to your performance for the rest of the day.

                                                              Napping can improve learning, memory and boost your energy levels quickly.

                                                              This article on the benefit of napping is a useful place to start if you want to learn more: How a 20-Minute Nap at Work Makes You Awake and Productive the Whole Day

                                                              8. Take More Exercise

                                                              The simple act of introducing some form of physical activity into your day can make a huge difference. It can boost energy levels, make you feel much better about yourself and can help you avoid fatigue.

                                                              Find something that fits into your life, be that walking, going to the gym, running or swimming. 

                                                              The key is to ensure the exercise is regular and that you are emotionally engaged and committed to stick with it.

                                                              You could also walk more which will help clear your head and shift your focus away from stressful thoughts.

                                                              9. Get More Quality Sleep

                                                              To avoid tiredness, exhaustion and fatigue, getting enough quality sleep matters. 

                                                              Your body needs sleep to recharge.  Getting the right amount of sleep every night can improve your health, reduce stress levels and help us improve our memory and learning skills.

                                                              My previous article on The Benefits of Sleep You Need to Know will give you some action steps to start improving your sleep. 

                                                              10. Improve Your Diet

                                                              Heavy or fatty meals can make you feel sluggish and tired, whilst some foods or eating strategies do just the opposite.

                                                              Our always on lives have us reaching for sweets or other sugary snacks to give us a burst of energy to keep going. Unfortunately, that boost fades quickly which can leave you feeling depleted and wanting more.

                                                              On the other hand, whole grains and healthy unsaturated fats supply the reserves you can draw on throughout the day.

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                                                              To keep energy up and steady, it’s a good idea to limit refined sugar and starches.

                                                              Eating small meals and healthy snacks every few hours throughout the day provides a steady supply of nutrients to body and brain. It’s also important not to skip breakfast.

                                                              Eating a balanced diet helps keep your blood sugar in a normal range and prevents that sluggish feeling when your blood sugar drops.

                                                              11. Manage Your Stress Levels

                                                              Stress is one of the leading causes of exhaustion and fatigue, and can seriously affect your health.

                                                              When you have increased levels of stress at work and at home, it’s easy to feel exhausted all the time. 

                                                              Identifying the causes of stress and then tackling the problems should be a priority. 

                                                              My article on How to Help Anxiety When Life is Stressing You Out shares 16 strategies you can use to overcome stress.

                                                              12. Get Hydrated

                                                              Sometimes we can be so busy that we forget to keep ourselves fully hydrated.

                                                              Water makes up about 60 percent of your body weight and is essential in maintaining our body’s basic functions.

                                                              If we don’t have enough water, it can adversely affect our mental and physical performance, which leads to tiredness and fatigue.

                                                              The recommended daily amount is around two litres a day, so to stay well hydrated keep a water bottle with you as much as possible.

                                                              The Bottom Line

                                                              These 12 tips can help you reduce your tiredness and feeling of fatigue.  Some will work better than others as we are all different, whilst others can be incorporated together in your daily life.

                                                              If you’ve tried to make positive changes to reduce fatigue and you still feel tired and exhausted, it may be time to consider making an appointment with your doctor to discuss your condition.

                                                              Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

                                                              Reference

                                                              [1]Oxford English Dictionary: Definition of fatigue
                                                              [2]NHS Choices: 10 Reasons for feeling tired
                                                              [3]Verywellhealth: What is chronic fatigue syndrome
                                                              [4]Everyday Health: Why does type 2 diabetes make you feel tired
                                                              [5]Mayo Clinic: Sleep apnea
                                                              [6]Harvard Health: The lowdown on thyroid slowdown

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