Medically reviewed by Neka Miller, PhD on March 27, 2020. Written by Caitlin Boyd. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
Do you find yourself often thinking, "Why am I tired all the time?" Fatigue is a common challenge among busy women. If you have a packed schedule, you may notice that you're often exhausted. Sometimes, fatigue is a sign that you're over-scheduled. But in other cases, feeling run-down can be a symptom of a health problem—like hormone imbalances. Read on to learn more about possible causes for your fatigue.
The Everlywell at-home Women's Health Test may help you get to the bottom of your fatigue. This test measures ten key hormones in your body. Your results can be a good starting point for understanding whether a hormone imbalance is making you feel tired.
During the day, your energy level may rise and fall. You might feel alert at certain times of the day but groggy at others. Changes in your energy level are often linked to your natural circadian rhythm. Your circadian rhythm tells your body when to feel energized and when to feel tired. Many women feel tired during the midafternoon and evening, as their circadian rhythm shifts hormone levels.
Lack of sleep can also contribute to daytime sleepiness. Healthy women typically need between seven and nine hours of sleep per night. If you're experiencing excessive daytime sleepiness, you may simply need more sleep.
But if you often sleep for more than 10 hours and still feel exhausted, it's time to take a closer look at your health. Ongoing fatigue can be a sign of a chronic health problem and should be discussed with a healthcare provider. Treatment may boost your energy levels and help you feel more alert.
Fatigue can be an early warning sign of an oncoming cold or flu. If you're getting sick, you may also develop a fever or swollen glands. Minor infections usually clear up without treatment. But if you have symptoms that don't resolve on their own, see your healthcare provider. A stubborn infection may need prescription medication.
If you feel tired or run-down, it can be hard to stay active. But a sedentary lifestyle can worsen your fatigue. Studies show lack of exercise also increases your risk of health problems, including mood disorders.
Studies have also shown that physical activity boosts your mood and energy levels. So if you struggle with low energy levels, gentle activities like yoga or swimming may help. A consistent exercise routine may improve your sleep quality, too.
Lack of sleep can trigger daytime grogginess. But sleeping well can sometimes be a struggle. Sleep disorders like insomnia may leave you awake night after night. If you don't get enough rest, you may eventually suffer from sleep deprivation.
Insomnia can be a symptom of mental or physical illness. Your healthcare provider can help determine what's causing your sleepless nights. Treatment or counseling may resolve the problems so you get a good night's sleep.
Some women feel tired during the day even if they spend many hours asleep. If you feel exhausted after a full night's rest, you may have sleep apnea. People with this sleep disorder stop breathing several times during the night. Left untreated, sleep apnea increases your risk of heart disease, including heart attacks and strokes. Your healthcare provider can offer more information about sleep apnea testing and treatment.
Women with some mental health conditions, like depression and anxiety, can have trouble sleeping soundly. These conditions may interfere with your sleep quality and disrupt your hormone levels. But treatment can help—so talk with your healthcare provider to learn more about mental health treatment options that may be right for you.
Your body relies on essential vitamins and minerals for fuel. If you aren't getting enough nutrients, your body may have trouble performing important functions—making you feel tired or sluggish throughout the day.
Most nutritional deficiencies respond to dietary changes or supplements. But without treatment, nutritional deficiencies can sometimes lead to serious health problems. Your healthcare provider can check for nutritional deficiencies. They can also screen you for chronic health conditions that cause nutritional deficiencies. For example, your provider may suggest testing for celiac disease, a condition that prevents your body from absorbing nutrients.
Your thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of your throat. This gland controls many essential hormones in your body. If it doesn't work properly, you can develop a serious hormone imbalance. Women are especially at high risk for thyroid problems.
If you have thyroid disease, you may feel tired or run-down. You might also experience:
Thyroid hormones also help control your menstrual cycle. Hormone imbalances can contribute to heavy periods, missed periods, or infertility, according to research. Let your provider know if you’re experiencing any of these.
Related: What causes heavy periods?
Most thyroid disorders can be managed with prescription medication. If you do have a thyroid condition, such as an underactive thyroid, your provider can use your Everlywell at-home Thyroid Test results to help determine which treatment option to move forward with.
Red blood cells carry oxygen throughout their bodies. If you don't have enough red blood cells, you may have anemia. Anemia can prevent your tissues from getting enough oxygen. People with anemia often feel cold, sluggish, or weak. Some may experience other symptoms, such as:
There are many different types of anemia, and some are linked to serious health problems. But in women, anemia is often a sign of low iron levels. Iron deficiency anemia can result from dietary changes or menstrual disorders. Being a vegan or vegetarian increases your risk for anemia. Having a heavy period can be a risk factor, too.
If you develop anemia, you may need to take iron supplements. Eating iron-rich foods also helps increase the number of red blood cells in your body. Your healthcare provider can offer more information about eating a well-balanced diet.
If you aren't getting enough sleep, changing your sleep habits can be a good first step. For example, avoid having stimulants like caffeine late in the day because this can keep you up at night and lead to extreme fatigue over time. You may also need to make changes to your sleep environment. If loud noises or bright lights wake you up, try a white noise machine or blackout curtains.
Try to stick to a well-balanced diet. Avoid sugary and processed foods and drinks. These products can spike your blood sugar and leave you feeling tired later on.
High levels of stress can leave you feeling tired and interfere with your sleep. Stress can also disrupt your hormone balance and induce cravings for sugary foods. If you're having trouble managing your stress, your healthcare provider can help. They may recommend seeing a therapist for expert care.
Chronic fatigue can be a sign of:
Various blood tests can help reveal nutritional deficiencies. If you're low on certain vitamins, supplements may help boost your energy levels. Be sure to talk to your healthcare provider before starting a new supplement. Taking too much of certain vitamins may be harmful to your health, so it's best to hold off on supplements unless your provider confirms that you need to take them.
Check for imbalances in 10 key hormones with the at-home Women's Health Test, which gives you easy-to-read results you can share with your healthcare provider. Also consider the at-home Thyroid Test to check in on 3 key thyroid hormones, plus thyroid antibodies.
1. Circadian Rhythms. National Institute of General Medical Sciences. URL. Accessed March 27, 2020.
2. How many hours of sleep are enough for good health? Mayo Clinic. URL. Accessed March 27, 2020.
3. Cold Versus Flu. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. URL. Accessed March 27, 2020.
4. Influenza (flu). Mayo Clinic. URL. Accessed March 27, 2020.
5. Ellingson LD, Kuffel AE, Vack NJ, Cook DB. Active and sedentary behaviors influence feelings of energy and fatigue in women. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2014;46(1):192–200. doi:10.1249/MSS.0b013e3182a036ab
6. Always Tired? 7 Hidden Causes for Your Fatigue. Cleveland Clinic. URL. Accessed March 27, 2020.
7. Kline CE. The bidirectional relationship between exercise and sleep: Implications for exercise adherence and sleep improvement. Am J Lifestyle Med. 2014;8(6):375–379. doi:10.1177/1559827614544437
8. Insomnia. Mayo Clinic. URL. Accessed March 27, 2020.
9. Sleep apnea. Mayo Clinic. URL. Accessed March 27, 2020.
10. Harvey SB, Wessely S, Kuh D, Hotopf M. The relationship between fatigue and psychiatric disorders: evidence for the concept of neurasthenia. J Psychosom Res. 2009;66(5):445–454. doi:10.1016/j.jpsychores.2008.12.007
11. Celiac Disease. MedlinePlus. URL. Accessed March 27, 2020.
12. Thyroid Diseases. MedlinePlus. URL. Accessed March 27, 2020.
13. Koutras DA. Disturbances of menstruation in thyroid disease. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1997;816:280–284. doi:10.1111/j.1749-6632.1997.tb52152.x
14. Anemia. Mayo Clinic. URL. Accessed March 27, 2020.
15. Vitamin deficiency anemia. Mayo Clinic. URL. Accessed March 27, 2020.
16. Iron deficiency anemia. Mayo Clinic. URL. Accessed March 27, 2020.
17. Sleep tips: 6 steps to better sleep. Mayo Clinic. URL. Accessed March 27, 2020.
18. Thayer RE. Energy, tiredness, and tension effects of a sugar snack versus moderate exercise. J Pers Soc Psychol. 1987;52(1):119–125. doi:10.1037//0022-35126.96.36.199
19. Stress symptoms: Effects on your body and behavior. Mayo Clinic. URL. Accessed March 27, 2020.
20. Could a vitamin or mineral deficiency be behind your fatigue? Harvard Health Publishing. URL. Accessed March 27, 2020.
21. Low potassium (hypokalemia). Mayo Clinic. URL. Accessed March 27, 2020.
22. Feeling Fatigued? Could It Be Magnesium Deficiency? (And If So, What to Do About It!). Cleveland Clinic. URL. Accessed March 27, 2020.