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The Causes of Women's Fatigue

Why are you so tired? We ask leading health experts what makes women so exhausted.

Vitamin D Deficiency continued...

Whatever the reason, too little of this essential vitamin can sap your bone strength, and some research links a deficiency of vitamin D to chronic fatigue syndrome.

What to do: A blood test can determine whether you're getting enough of your daily D. If not, a supplement can get you to the amount you need each day. The Institute of Medicine, which published new guidelines in 2010, recommends that most adults get 600 international units a day. For people 71 and older, the recommended amount climbs to 800 IU. At these amounts, you're getting enough D to benefit your bones without overdoing it and causing kidney problems or other side effects.

Iron Deficiency (Anemia)

When your blood can't carry enough oxygen to your body, you're bound to feel sluggish. "Anemia is more of a symptom than a disease," Fryhofer says. It could be a sign that you're losing too much iron in your blood during your period, or you may be deficient in other vitamins and minerals.

What to do: See your doctor for a blood test to find out whether you've got an iron deficiency or other medical problem that's affecting your red blood cell count. The solution could be as easy as taking an iron or B vitamin supplement.

Sleep Apnea

Your husband jokes that you sound like a buzz saw when you sleep, but snoring is no laughing matter. It could be a sign of sleep apnea, a condition that halts your breathing over and over again throughout the night. Every time your breathing stops, your brain jolts you awake to restart it.

"You are never getting a restful sleep, so your body never has time to recuperate and recharge," Fryhofer says. As a result, you end up feeling drained.

What to do: Being overweight can put pressure on your airway at night, which is why weight loss is the prescription to help sleep apnea. To help you breathe more easily while sleeping, a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device will keep air flowing into your airway. Once you get the hang of sleeping with a mask on your face, CPAP can "really change your life," Fryhofer says.

Lack of Sleep

While juggling a job, family, and a million other responsibilities, it's hard to squeeze in the full seven to eight hours of sleep you need each night. "A lot of women have a very hectic lifestyle and don't have a schedule that allows them to get sufficient sleep," says Hadine Joffe, MD, MSc. Joffe is associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and director of research for the Center for Women's Mental Health at Massachusetts General Hospital.

What to do: "You want to make sure when you want to go to sleep you can sleep," Fryhofer says. Get into a calming bedtime routine. Turn on soft music. Spray a whiff of lavender on your pillow to help calm your nervous system and encourage relaxation. Sip a cup of chamomile tea, a fragrant flower extract that some health experts believe helps ease anxiety. If you still can't fall asleep, go into another room and read or do another relaxing activity for about 15 minutes, then go back to bed and try it again.

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