Published on May 1, 2023
Authored by Pfizer Medical Team
For many people, weekends are a much-needed break from the busy and demanding work week. However, it is not uncommon for weekends to turn into “sleep-ends” as we catch up on much-needed rest and sleep. Feeling tired and fatigued is a common experience that many people face from time to time. Extreme tiredness (or fatigue) refers to a persistent feeling of tiredness, weakness, or lack of energy that can impact your ability to function and perform daily activities. While catching up on sleep on the weekends can provide temporary relief, it is not a long-term solution. Here are a few common causes of feeling tired and fatigued – and tips on what you can do about it.
A lack of sleep can take a toll on your body, leaving you run-down and exhausted. The Sleep Health Foundation recommends adults get at least 7-9 hours of sleep a night.1 In addition, sleep quality is also important. Poor sleep quality and fatigue are strongly linked, as not enough or disrupted sleep can lead to feelings of lack of energy and feeling very tired. When people do not get enough sleep, it can disturb their natural sleeping rhythm (also known as circadian rhythm), resulting in difficulty falling or staying asleep.
To address poor sleep quality and fatigue, it is important to establish healthy sleep habits such as:
This involves going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, even on weekends or days off. By setting a consistent sleep schedule, the body’s internal clock becomes regulated, leading to improved sleep quantity and quality. Establishing a pre-sleep routine to signal the body that it’s time for sleep is also important. Some of these activities could include reading a book, taking a warm bath, or practicing relaxation techniques – meditation or deep breathing exercises.
Create a space that promotes calmness and relaxation, which can help the body prepare for sleep. The first step is to ensure the bedroom is dark, cool, and quiet. Some ideas include the use of curtains or blinds to block out light, setting a comfortable temperature of the room, and using earplugs or a white noise machine to reduce external noise.
Did you know that the blue light coming from your electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets, and TVs can interfere with the body’s natural rhythm, making it difficult to fall asleep. Why does this happen? The blue light stops the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates our sleep-wake cycles. In addition to the negative effects on sleep, using technology before bed can also increase stress levels, which can further disrupt sleep quality. The Sleep Foundation recommends to avoid using technology in the hours leading up to bedtime.2
Many of us enjoy a casual beverage of alcohol or caffeine, however too much during the day can also affect our sleep quality. While caffeine is a stimulant that can interfere with the body’s ability to fall asleep, alcohol may initially help individuals fall asleep, but it can lead to disrupted sleep patterns later in the night. This is because alcohol can interfere with the body’s natural sleep cycle, leading to lighter, more disruptive sleep. To promote healthy sleep habits, it is recommended to limit caffeine intake to the morning or early afternoon and avoid consuming alcohol before bed.3, 4 Instead, individuals can opt for soothing beverages such as herbal tea or warm milk, which can promote relaxation and restful sleep.
Talking to your doctor may also be necessary for people experiencing chronic fatigue or underlying sleep disorders.
When a person is under stress, their body releases cortisol, a hormone that can interfere with their natural sleep cycle. As a result, they may struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep throughout the night, leading to feelings of exhaustion and fatigue the next day. Moreover, burnout, which is a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion caused by excessive stress, can also disrupt sleep. Burnout can make it difficult for individuals to relax and unwind, leading to racing thoughts and heighted anxiety at night. Consequently, they may experience poor sleep quality, insomnia, and daytime sleepiness, which can further exacerbate the stress and burnout cycle. Therefore, managing stress and burnout is crucial to achieving restful sleep and maintaining overall well-being.
There are several techniques that individuals can use to manage their stress levels effectively:
Exercise is a great way to reduce stress as it releases endorphins, which are natural mood boosters
Practicing mindfulness and mediation and deep breathing exercises can help individuals manage their stress by focusing their attention on the present moment and relaxing their mind and body
Start or re-start hobbies that bring you joy and relaxation – reading a book or taking a bath, can also be effective stress-reducing techniques
Seeking support from friends, family, or a healthcare professional can help individuals manage stress and cope with challenging situations
Fatigue can also be associated with many health conditions. Some of these can include:
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS): This is a long-lasting and complex condition where people experience extreme fatigue that does not get better with bed rest. The exhaustion can be so overwhelming that indivudals may struggle with everyday activities—like getting dressed or taking a shower. Along with fatigue, people may also notice weakness, joint and muscle pain, restless sleep, and trouble concentrating. For more information about CFS, visit Emerge Australia.
Depression: Everyone feels unhappy and anxious sometimes, but usually those feelings go away on their own. Depression is different. It’s a serious mood condition—affecting around 2 million Australians in any given year—that can cause feelings of ongoing sadness and hopelessness.5 While the symptoms of depression are different for everyone, many people experience fatigue and changes in their sleep patterns. For more information about depression and mental health, visit Beyond Blue and Black Dog Institute.
Anaemia: Red blood cells in your blood have an important job: they help carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of your body. When you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells, your body can’t get enough of the oxygen-rich blood it needs. This condition is called anaemia, and some types of anaemia are common. It can leave people feeling constantly tired and weak. Indivduals may also feel dizzy and find it hard to catch their breath. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist to find out more information.
Sleep apnoea: When individuals have sleep apnoea, they breathe abnormally while they are sleeping. People may take pauses in breathing that can last a few seconds to a few minutes, or they may have periods of shallow breathing. Whenever their normal breathing gets interrupted, they move out of deep sleep and into light sleep. As a result, indivudals with this condition have poor quality of sleep, and may wake up feeling exhausted and tired throughout the day.
If you’ve been feeling fatigued for a few weeks, don’t ignore it. Don’t settle for always feeling run-down and having low-energy. Speak to your doctor or pharmacist. Together, you can try to figure out what may be causing your fatigue and discuss ways to improve your sleep quality and feelings of tiredness. If you are managing a health condition that causes fatigue, talk to your healthcare team about how to manage fatigue and catch optimal Zzz.
-Sleep – Sleep Foundation Australia
-Chronic Fatigue Syndrome - Emerge Australia
-Mental Health - Beyond Blue
-Mental Health - Black Dog Institute