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Women's Health

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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.

Sleep Apnea continued...

"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.


Depression and fatigue are both common in women, and the two conditions appear to fuel one another. People who are depressed are more than four times as likely to be tired, and those who are fatigued are almost three times as likely to be depressed. The stress and worry that are hallmarks of depression can keep you tossing and turning all night, and if you drag through every day you're bound to feel miserable.

What to do: "Treating the depression will give you more energy," Fryhofer says. Talk to your doctor about how you're feeling. He or she will want to know when your symptoms began, how long they have lasted, and how severe they are. Together, you can then determine the best course of treatment, which may include antidepressants, psychotherapy, or both. 

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Reviewed on March 11, 2011

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