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Always Tired? 4 Possible Reasons, And What You Can Do About It

By Michael Howard
Excessive daytime fatigue is oftentimes the result of sleep deprivation, which has a number of potential causes. We asked an expert to help explain four of them.

If you consistently feel fatigued and run-down, it's worthwhile to consider both your sleep patterns and your general health for possible explanations. Constant fatigue can be a sign that you’re not getting enough sleep at night, or that your sleep isn’t restful enough. Discover four common causes of chronic daytime fatigue and how you should address them.

Sleep Apnea

“Sleep apnea is a common disorder,” Katherine Hall, a sleep psychologist and sleep coach at Somnus Therapy, tells WebMD Connect to Care. “It’s a serious one because it stops your breathing while you’re asleep. This is typically caused by the muscles in the back of your throat relaxing too much during sleep, causing your tongue to fall back and obstruct your airway. You aren’t getting enough air into your lungs, so you might snore or make choking noise as you try to breathe while asleep.”

Sleep apnea is diagnosed using a sleep study, which can be done at a sleep center or at home with a portable test kit.

The most reliable treatment for the condition is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, according to Mayo Clinic. “This is a machine attached to a mask that you wear over your nose and mouth at night,” Hall says. “The machine sends out a steady flow of air which helps to keep your airway open.”

Narcolepsy

If you experience random episodes of extreme drowsiness in the daytime—to the point where you nod off without meaning to—narcolepsy could be to blame.

“Narcolepsy is a lifelong disorder, although it can be managed so you can live a full life,” Hall explains. “If you have narcolepsy, you may feel uncontrollably tired during the day even if you have slept well the night before. You might find that this tiredness increases to an overwhelming degree at random times during the day, often without warning. You may even fall asleep suddenly.”

While there is no cure for narcolepsy, it can be mitigated with some medicines and lifestyle changes, states the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Some lifestyle changes, according to Hall, include taking regular naps, establishing a consistent sleep routine, getting daily exercise, and avoiding stimulants before bed.

Circadian Rhythm Disorder

In the context of sleep, circadian rhythm refers to your sleep-wake cycle, which is regulated by your body’s 24-hour “internal clock,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Circadian rhythm disorders cause you to be awake when you should be asleep, and vice versa.

“Two common circadian rhythm disorders are delayed sleep-wake phase disorder (DSP) and advanced sleep-wake phase disorder (ASP),” Hall says. “If you have DSP, your typical sleep pattern is delayed by 2 hours or more. This means that you will go to bed and wake up later than what is considered ‘normal.’ ASP is essentially the opposite of DSP. If you have ASP, your sleep pattern will be shifted forward, causing you to go to sleep and get up much earlier than ‘normal.’”

When treating a circadian rhythm disorder, Hall notes that “establishing a routine is key. You should keep your bedtime and ‘wake’ time as consistent as possible. Yes, even on weekends! Consistency is likely to result in more restful and restorative sleep.”

She adds that light therapy and melatonin supplements can also be beneficial.

Restless Leg Syndrome

According to the Mayo Clinic, restless leg syndrome (RLS) is characterized by a compulsion to move your legs, typically at nighttime. The urge to move around usually results from an uncomfortable sensation.

“You might feel a crawling, creeping, tingling, or itchy sensation in your legs along with the powerful urge to move them,” Hall explains. “You may also feel a general sense of uncomfortableness in your legs when they are still.”

Your doctor may prescribe medications such as dopamine agonists or muscle relaxants to treat your RLS. Additionally, Hall notes, avoiding stimulants before bed and learning to manage stress can help alleviate your symptoms.

Think you may have a sleep disorder? Start your journey to more restful sleep TODAY.

Untreated sleep disorders can negatively affect your physical and emotional health. Sleep testing can help you get the answers you need to receive the treatment you deserve. WebMD Connect to Care Advisors are standing by to help.