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Common Causes of Fatigue and Ways to Improve Your Energy Levels

Updated on July 26, 2014

Unfortunately, fatigue is something many people experience every day. Everyone wants to feel as energetic as they did as a child, avoid that afternoon slump, or be able to wake up easily in the morning. For most, fatigue can be greatly improved or even eliminated by targeting some of these causes and changing your habits. Here are a few causes of fatigue and things you can do to feel more energetic.

Chronic Dehydration

An estimated 75 percent of Americans are chronically dehydrated and do not even know it. Our heavy consumption of coffee, tea, soda and other caffeinated beverages causes us to be even more dehydrated even though we are drinking fluids. Caffeine has diuretic effects on the body, which means it pulls water out of your circulation and into your bladder. This is why consuming lots of coffee can cause frequent trips to the restroom! Most people immediately go for a cup of coffee in the morning, and that means they start the day dehydrated.

How to fix it: Try drinking at least 16 ounces (2 full cups) of water when you wake up in the morning. As a reminder, keep a bottle of water next to your bed or alarm clock, and start hydrating yourself before you even get out of bed! It’s also just as important to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Invest in a good water bottle, take it with you everywhere, and fill it up several times during the day. Stainless steel water bottles are beneficial because they are durable, rust free, and contain no harmful chemicals that you might find in plastic bottles. When you’re drinking enough water, your urine should be a very pale clear yellow color.

Stainless Steel Water Bottles

Stainless steel water bottles are a good reusable option for keeping water with you. They are resistant to toxins and bacteria and are long-lasting.

Nutritional Deficiencies

Anemia is a major cause of chronic fatigue. There are three types: iron deficiency anemia, pernicious anemia (vitamin B12 deficiency), and folic acid deficiency. The most common is iron deficiency anemia, which usually occurs in women of childbearing age or the elderly. Iron helps to form the protein on your red blood cells that carries oxygen (hemoglobin). When either of these nutrients is deficient in the body, it affects the oxygen-carrying abilities of your red blood cells. This can cause fatigue because your blood is unable to efficiently transport oxygen throughout your body.

Iron Supplement Tip

If you take an iron supplement, take it with a glass of orange or other citrus juice. The vitamin C will help the iron absorb more easily in your body. Avoid taking your supplement with dairy or other high calcium foods since calcium competes with iron absorption.

How to fix it: Besides fatigue, other symptoms of anemia include pale skin, shortness of breath during exercise, and dizziness. The only way to know if anemia is the cause of your fatigue is to see your doctor for a simple blood test. If your doctor finds that your hemoglobin is low, he may recommend increasing intake of iron-rich foods or an iron supplement. Foods high in iron include red meat and green leafy vegetables such as spinach and broccoli. When trying to maximize iron absorption in the body, remember that foods high in calcium will prevent iron absorption, and foods high in vitamin C will promote iron absorption. Take your iron supplement or iron-rich foods with a glass of orange juice, and avoid high-calcium foods for an hour before and after taking iron. Always talk to your doctor before beginning any medication or supplement.

Irregular Sleep Habits

Since our bodies have an internal biological clock, we do very well with routines, including sleep. Unfortunately it can be hard to develop a regular sleep pattern of sleeping and waking at the same time each day in our rushed and highly-stimulated society. Most people have bad habits like “catching up” on sleep over the weekend, staying up late, or taking long naps during the day. Our bodies are very adaptable, but without a regular sleep pattern, we will not function optimally during the day.

Sleep Hygiene

How to fix it: The best way to develop a regular sleeping pattern is to begin going to sleep at the same time each night and waking up at the same time each morning (without hitting the snooze button!). This can be difficult at first if you are not accustomed to waking at that certain time, but it is important to get up and stay awake during the day so you will be able to sleep at your set time that night. After making this transition, your body and mind will thank you!

If you have problems going to sleep at night, you may need to modify your evening habits. Turn off televisions, computers, and bright lights at least an hour before you go to bed. The light from these things will keep your body from producing melatonin, the hormone your body produces at night to make you sleep. Avoiding these types of light will increase your hours of sleep as well as the quality of your sleep, and that will increase your energy during the day!

Stress, Depression, or Anxiety

There is a huge link between psychological health and physical health. Problems such as stress, depression, and anxiety can take a huge toll on all aspects of your health – physical, psychological, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Anything that drains all these aspects of your health will leave you feeling chronically tired.

How to fix it: The most important thing you can do if this is one of your problems is ask for help. Psychology is hugely involved in your health, but these are issues that no doctor can pinpoint or test for unless you talk about it! Stress, depression, and anxiety can all be greatly improved with psychotherapy (talking with a counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist). There is no need to feel the pressure to search for a therapist; you can call your doctor to get a referral to someone who is specialized in these areas. Take time to do things you enjoy. Engage in stress-reducing activities. Spend time with those you love. Nothing is more important than your quality of life!

Exercise and Endorphins

The dolphin yoga pose shown in the video to the right is said to relieve depression and fatigue. Any type of exercise is extremely important to aid with these problems. Endorphins released during exercise help alleviate depression, fatigue, pain and stress.

How many hours of sleep do you get regularly?

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    • Cynthia Hoover profile image

      Cynthia Hoover 

      6 years ago from Newton, West Virginia

      Voted up! I am guilty of the coffee first thing! Although it is going on 3 years of little sleep for me. I wake up every few hours, I do drink water all day- nothing else, but after my coffee. I have really been trying to cut back on my coffee without much luck- such a part of my routine I guess.

    • AnniesHealthTalk profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from United States

      @momster - Thanks for reading and voting!

    • momster profile image


      9 years ago

      Very helpful hub. I have issues with always being tired. Must be the coffee. Voted up.

    • AnniesHealthTalk profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from United States

      @Richawriter - Thanks for reading and commenting! Dehydration is my main problem too. That's awesome that you drink plenty during the day!

    • Richawriter profile image

      Richard J ONeill 

      9 years ago from Bangkok, Thailand

      Hey Annie!

      Again I'm sorry for taking so long to get back to you. I needed a recharge but now I'm fully revitalized and ready for action!

      I can especially realate to the first in the list, dehydration because that was always a huge problem of mine and caused me huge problems with concentration and memory.

      Once I realised I wasn't drinking enough water and it was having a negative impact on my daily life, including sleeping, I started drinking 2 bottles in the morning, and between 4-6 the rest of the day. I live in Thailand so it is strictly bottled here. Tap water is unsafe for drinking.

      Well, keep up the good work with useful info like this.

      I'll be back.

      Peace. :)

    • AnniesHealthTalk profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from United States

      No problem, thanks for stopping by!

    • jbrock2041 profile image


      9 years ago from Park City, UT

      People often don't think about water affecting their energy levels. I love the layout of this article! Great information and appreciate you sharing it with us.

    • AnniesHealthTalk profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from United States

      Thanks for the comments! It's hard for me to reach for water before coffee in the morning, but keeping a water bottle next to my clock has helped a lot.

    • Victoria Lynn profile image

      Victoria Lynn 

      9 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Great info! I've actually been wondering why I'm so tired lately. I was thinking it's probably my erratic sleep pattern. I normally get up about 8 or 9 but yesterday it was before 7 and I needed a nap by 9:30! (I'm not an early bird.) Today I didn't get up until 10. Yes,I definitely need to pick a time. And drink more water! I just forget. Thanks for this hub. These are great reminders! Voted up and others!

    • Rfordin profile image


      9 years ago from Florida

      Guilty of the coffee. guilty of not drinking enough water too. I never thought that my fatigue could be due to dehydration. Good to know although I'm suh a creature of habit but I will TRY to drink more water as recently I've read how many benefits it has.

      Interesting read!


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