Persistent fatigue can be very distressing, whether at work or when spending time with family and friends. It can limit an individual in everyday life, which in turn has a negative effect on the psyche and general well-being. Fatigue can have various causes such as illness, sleep disorders, poor nutrition, lack of exercise and stress.
In this article, we have explained the most important questions about fatigue. We've also picked out the best tips and tricks to combat fatigue to help you re-energize your life. We also explain which foods and activities have a positive effect on your sleep for good sleep quality.
the essentials in brief
- Persistent tiredness can have a negative effect on people's everyday lives. Be it psychological well-being or performance.
- Factors such as diet, lack of exercise, illnesses, sleep disorders and stress can be the cause of constant tiredness.
- If the tiredness is not caused by illness, there are various ways to fight it with a change in diet, exercise and targeted stress reduction.
Definition: what is persistent fatigue?
Fatigue is the need for rest or sleep. These can be physical or psychological needs. If you are continuously tired for more than 6 months, this can be referred to as chronic fatigue, which can have physical or psychological causes.
Background: What you should know about fatigue
In this section, we address the most important questions about fatigue. There are a number of reasons that can trigger your fatigue. Here you will find background information that can help you to solve your problem.
What causes persistent fatigue?
Causes of persistent tiredness can be an incorrect diet and the resulting vitamin deficiency, lack of exercise, sleep disorders, stress or an illness. Taking medication can also affect your physical well-being and thus lead to fatigue. Temperature, alcohol consumption and environmental influences such as pollution also play an important role.
Fatigue often comes with negative psychological well-being. Being constantly tired leads to listlessness and makes it more difficult to cope with everyday life. This can lead to more serious mental illnesses such as depression.
How does diet affect fatigue?
Our sleeping patterns can be influenced by certain nutrients in our food. (1) More specifically, these nutrients affect serotonin and melatonin synthesis, which have a significant effect on sleep and sleep quality. Conversely, sleep can also affect eating habits. (2) A healthy diet therefore has a positive effect on sleep and sleep quality.
Avocados, oily fish and dark chocolate also reduce your fatigue. (Image source: Ola Mishchenko / unsplash)
Lack of sleep and poor sleep quality are linked to unhealthy eating habits and overeating. In addition, people with non-restorative sleep also eat more often. (2) This means that poor diet and poor sleep can create a vicious circle as they affect each other.
What is the relationship between exercise and persistent fatigue?
It is often said that sport has a positive effect on the body and the psyche. In the following, we have selected scientific evidence for the connection between sport and fatigue. A clinical study has shown that exercise has a positive effect on patients with MS. More specifically, there is a significant improvement in fatigue and depression in patients who have practiced yoga and water sports over a long period of time. (3)
Strength and endurance sports have a positive effect on your general well-being. (4)
Another study states that exercise plays an important role in fatigue in cancer patients. Namely, fatigue is significantly reduced and, according to the study, works even better than pharmaceutical options. (5)
It follows that if you exercise for a long time, this can have a positive effect on your fatigue. The general physical and mental well-being are also increased over time.
Why can you be tired all the time despite getting enough sleep?
Sleep is not the only factor affecting fatigue. Various reasons such as diet, exercise, illnesses and mental health can also be causes of tiredness. Of course, it is difficult to filter out what is the reason for your tiredness. Since it could also be a combination of these factors, we advise you to gradually change your diet, exercise and reduce stress through yoga or breathing exercises.
In addition, factors such as alcohol consumption, chronic lack of sleep, toxins and pollutants in the environment, and poorly ventilated rooms can increase your tiredness. (6) If these changes do not have a positive effect on your fatigue in the long term, you should consult a doctor, as your fatigue could be caused by an illness.
What diseases cause constant fatigue?
It's not just your lifestyle that affects your fatigue. Here we have listed some diseases that can be the reason for tiredness.
|infection||flu or cold. Fatigue usually subsides after a few days|
|anemia||Anemia, mostly due to iron deficiency. Fatigue can be relieved with iron infusion, supplements, or an iron-rich diet. Usually lasts a few weeks to months.|
|hypothyroidism||easily treatable with medication|
|Cancer||Fatigue cannot be a symptom of blood or lymph node cancer. Cancer therapies also cause fatigue.|
Other medical conditions such as sleep apnea, mental illness, migraines, and low blood pressure can also increase fatigue. To find out the reason for the fatigue, the doctor goes through the following questions:
- How long has the tiredness lasted?
- Is everyday life affected by tiredness?
- Are there other symptoms besides tiredness?
- Are medications taken regularly?
- Have you gained or lost a lot of weight lately?
For this purpose, a blood test and other physical tests are usually carried out to get to the bottom of the cause.
How can constant tiredness affect the body and the psyche?
Persistent tiredness and listlessness can be bad for the body and the psyche. If you often feel restricted in your performance at work and in your free time and have the feeling that you cannot fully develop, your well-being decreases. You often make poorer choices when it comes to diet and exercise.
When fatigue takes over, it is difficult to break out of this vicious cycle. It is important to get enough sleep, to eat a diet rich in vitamins and minerals and to exercise. Even if the tiredness does not decrease because it has another cause, at least the well-being increases through the healthy lifestyle.
Fighting chronic fatigue: The best tips & tricks against persistent fatigue
Being constantly tired in everyday life can have a negative effect on well-being. In the following section we have listed tips and tricks on how to combat your fatigue.
improve sleep quality
Sleep quality is measured on two levels, namely a distinction is made between subjective and objective sleep quality. The former is assessed by the individual based on sleep duration, number of awakenings, well-being after waking up and time taken to fall asleep.
Factors such as total sleep time, time to fall asleep, and REM latency are measured to objectively measure sleep quality. There are large differences between the objective and subjective measurement for people with sleep disorders. (7)
For a good sleep quality, it is recommended not to consume alcohol, tea, coffee or cigarettes 2-4 hours before sleep. (Image source: Damir Spanic / unsplash)
A study tested how stress affects the quality of sleep in medical students. The result states that the relationship between stress and sleep quality is significant. Namely, students with more stress sleep less well, which also negatively affects their performance. (8th)
For a good well-being and good performance, we advise you to monitor your sleep quality. If necessary, you can make lifestyle changes to improve the quality of your sleep. Tips and tricks on how to improve your sleep quality follow in the next section.
Tips to sleep better
In this section, we will show you the advantages and disadvantages of various activities before bed so that you can see what has a positive and what has a negative effect on falling asleep and thus on your sleep quality.
|Screen||Apps for meditation, music, audio book||Light has a negative effect on the sleep rhythm|
|Sports||moderate sport up to 60min promotes sleep||Excessive exercise has a negative effect on falling asleep|
|To read||With reading you can switch off your everyday worries and thoughts and thus sleep better||Going over bedtime if the book is too exciting will shorten your bedtime|
Pre-sleep activities affect both sleep quality and falling asleep. If you use your cell phone or laptop for an audio book or a meditation before bed, and you turn the screen brightness down very low or do not look at the screen at all, this has a positive effect on your sleep. However, if you use your cell phone to watch films or play games, this can have a negative effect on your sleep.
It's exactly the same with sports. Moderate exercise before bed has been shown to promote sleep, as long as you don't overdo it. By reading before falling asleep you can direct your thoughts to the book and thus switch off.
diet and exercise
Since nutrition affects sleep and the quality of sleep, you should make sure that you eat a diet rich in vitamins. B vitamins play an important role when it comes to the release of neurotransmitters. Above all, thiamine, also known as vitamin B1, is essential for the brain functions involved in the formation of melatonin. (9) Melatonin is a sleep hormone that affects the quality of your sleep. (10)
Vitamin B1 is found in all animal and vegetable foods. Whole grain products, legumes and pork are particularly rich in vitamin B1.
A vitamin D deficiency is also a factor that can affect your fatigue. People who are not able to spend much time outdoors, children, the elderly and pregnant women are particularly susceptible to vitamin D deficiency. Nicotine, alcohol, obesity, medication, stress, competitive sports and too little sun play an important role in the cause of the deficiency. Individuals with vitamin D deficiency have a significantly poorer sleep quality, which affects fatigue.
Not only vitamins have an effect on sleep, but also minerals. One study tested the relationship between magnesium and sleep in patients with insomnia. The result shows a significant improvement in sleep quality, sleep time and waking up in the morning when taking magnesium supplements. (11)
The following foods contain a lot of magnesium: pumpkin seeds, wholemeal flour, nuts, bananas, legumes and broccoli.
With a healthy diet, you can positively influence your sleep, which in turn has a positive effect on your eating habits.
Contrary to popular belief that exercising in the evening has a negative effect on sleep, a study has shown that exercising in the evening does not have a negative effect on sleep. In fact, it does the opposite. However, sleep can be negatively affected if you exercise very excessively less than an hour before sleep.
Avoid stress and relax
Since stress has a negative effect on your tiredness and your general well-being, we recommend that you relax every day. Yoga, breathing techniques , and other forms of light exercise are ideal for this.
If you are not a yoga type, going for a walk, jogging or strength training will also help against tiredness and improve your well-being. (Image source: Oksana Taran / unsplash)
One study measured that yoga and mindfulness had a better effect on relaxation than doing mindfulness exercises with a mobile phone app. (12) Mindfulness means being in the here and now and paying attention to the moment without judgment. Don't underestimate how psychological stress can affect your energy. You can counteract stress-related fatigue by simply coping with yoga, meditation and exercise.
Fatigue, the feeling of having to rest or sleep constantly, is not a comfortable feeling and makes it difficult for an individual to be productive. In addition, it can greatly reduce well-being, because you have no drive, no desire for work, family and friends. Exercise, diet, stress, sleep and illness are all possible triggers for fatigue. You can easily counteract some of these causes yourself with tips and tricks.
With our explanations of the causes of tiredness and tips and tricks on what you can do about it, we hope we could help you to improve your well-being and make your everyday life more energetic. Note that if your fatigue doesn't improve over time, you'd better see a doctor as it could also be fatigue related to illness.
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- Razazian N, Yavari Z, Farnia V, Azizi A, Kordavani L, Bahmani DS, Holsboer-Trachsler E, Brand S. Exercising Impacts on Fatigue, Depression, and Paresthesia in Female Patients with Multiple Sclerosis. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2016 May;48(5):796-803. doi: 10.1249/MSS.00000000000000834. PMID: 26656775.
- Suter E, Marti B, Tschopp A, Wanner HU. Effects of jogging on mental well-being and seasonal mood variations: a randomized study with healthy women and men. Switzerland Med weekly 1991 Aug 31;121(35):1254-63. German. PMID: 1925456.
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