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Fighting Off Your Fatigue

Many women these days find themselves making excuses to stay in or get to bed as soon as possible. This fatigue can often be attributed to the multi-tasking, superwoman lifestyle many women lead, but there might be other contributing factors to this unrelenting need to rest. CBS News Medical Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton gives the most common reasons why sleep is not always enough.

Ineffective Diet

Fatigue can be caused by many possible physical and psychological causes, but if you're getting a full night's sleep and do not suffer from a sleep-related disorder or depression, the first factor to look at is how much "fuel" are you putting into your body.

"Not getting enough fuel -- both food and liquids -- can cause you to be fatigued," explained Ashton, "Make sure you're drinking enough water; eat breakfast that's rich in protein and complex carbs. Maintaining a steady blood sugar can help prevent sluggishness."

According to Web MD, eating too little causes fatigue, but eating the wrong foods can also be a problem. A balanced diet helps keep your blood sugar in a normal range and prevents that sluggish feeling when your blood sugar drops.


Ashton explains that for women, anemia may be the hidden health culprit for their fatigue.

"Anemia is when your body doesn't have enough red blood cells -- which provides oxygen to the body tissues and organs. Women can be more likely to get iron-deficiency anemia during menstruation and/or pregnancy," said Ashton, "According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control), more than 10 percent of women ages 12 to 49 are iron deficient. Anemia can be a result of a poor diet -- a diet is consistently low in iron and vitamins, especially folate, put you at risk for anemia."

Underactive Thyroid

The thyroid is a small, butterfly shaped gland that sits at the base of your neck and controls your metabolism, the speed at which your body operates.

"Over the age of 60, approximately 17 percent of all women will have a thyroid disorder and most won't know it," said Ashton.

According to the American Thyroid Association (ATA), the most common cause is an auto-immune disorder known as Hashimoto's thyroiditis. This condition causes the body to destroy the cells responsible for producing thyroxin and other hormones secreted by the thyroid gland. The result is hypothyroidism, or a slow metabolism.

Undiagnosed Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

Most women associate a urinary tract infection with symptoms such as burning or urgency, although according to WebMD, fatigue may be your only clue because not every woman has obvious symptoms of a UTI.

Usually, a UTI is caused by bacteria in the urinary tract, often the result of improper bathroom hygiene or sexual intercourse.

Caffeine Overload

In the hustle and bustle of the daily grind, many of us grab a coffee or cola for a quick burst of energy, but for some women, caffeine can have the opposite effect.

WebMD reports show that while caffeine is a stimulant, if you take too much, it can have the opposite effect.

Many women think that more caffeine will help the effect kick in if they do not feel it immediately, but that can often harm your health.

The solution: Eliminate as much caffeine from your diet as possible. This means not only cutting out coffee, but also chocolate, tea, soda and even some medications that also contain caffeine and could be causing unexplained fatigue.

Hidden Food Intolerances

While food is supposed to give us energy, some doctors believe hidden food intolerances can do the opposite.

WebMD studies show that even a mild food intolerance can leave you feeling sleepy. Eat the offending food long enough and you could find yourself feeling continually exhausted.

Sleep Apnea

If you're not getting enough sleep, it's understandable that you'll be tired. But what if you don't realize that you aren't getting sufficient sleep? This is often the case with a condition called sleep apnea -- a sleep disorder that causes you to momentarily stop breathing, often many times during the night.

WebMD explains that each time you stop breathing, you wake up just long enough to disrupt your sleep cycle without being aware of it. The only clue you have later is your constant fatigue no matter how many hours of shut-eye you get.

If you have sleep apnea, your physician will recommend lifestyle changes, such as losing weight and quitting smoking.

Medical treatment includes devices that keep airway passages open while you sleep. In extreme cases, surgery may be necessary to ensure proper airway flow. Left untreated, sleep apnea can increase your risk of stroke or heart attack.

Undiagnosed Heart Disease

If you find yourself becoming exhausted after activity that used to be easy, it may be time to talk to your doctor about the possibility of heart disease.
Studies conducted by WebMD show that if overwhelming fatigue sets in after ordinary tasks -- such as vacuuming the house, doing yard work, or commuting from work each day -- your heart may be sending out an SOS that it needs medical attention.

So before you chug that next energy drink or put an extra shot of espresso in your morning coffee, think about the effects it can have on your body, and the real reasons why you may be so tired.

For more information and tips on fighting sleepiness, please visit, and search "fatigue."

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