Commonly-Missed Causes Of Fatigue (And What To Do About Them!)

This week on the GGUC blog we’re exploring four commonly-missed causes of fatigue, and what patients can do to address them! 

Social Media

Research has shown that the more time people spend on social media, the more unhappy they become.  People who spend lots of time on social media also report higher levels of emotional and physical fatigue, because they spend extra time and energy keeping up with the events in other people’s lives.  In addition to causing fatigue, social media can lead to feelings of depression, jealousy and self-doubt because we naturally compare ourselves to the highlights of others’ lives.

To combat social media fatigue, consider deleting apps off your phone, or only checking your account once a day.  Also, be intentional about creating time and space to connect with friends and family in person.

Sleep Apnea

The National Sleep Foundation estimates that 18 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea.  Obesity, smoking, drinking alcohol, and having a small airway are common risk factors for this disorder.  Sleep apnea causes chronic snoring, as well as fatigue, irritability, difficulty concentrating, memory loss and sexual dysfunction.  

If you snore, or if you suffer from any of the other symptoms, consult a sleep specialist.  A special test called a sleep study can identify this disorder, and appropriate treatment can lead to improved rest and decreased fatigue.

Vitamin D Deficiency

Vitamin D is actually a hormone that your body synthesizes from cholesterol when your skin is exposed to sunlight. People who are deficient in Vitamin D often experience fatigue, as well as joint pain, delayed wound healing, depression and thinning hair.

People who live in cool climates, wear sunscreen all the time, or spend the majority of their time indoors are much more likely to be Vitamin D deficient.  While Vitamin D is found in some food products (especially dairy products and fish), the best way to get the recommended amount of Vitamin D is to spend 10-15 minutes a day (or 60-75 minutes a week) in direct sunlight.

Vitamin D deficiency is easily diagnosed with a blood test.  If you do have a Vitamin D deficiency, you can take a prescription-strength supplement to replete your Vitamin D levels and resolve your fatigue.

Sedentary Lifestyle

Counterintuitive as it might seem, sometimes you have to spend energy to get more of it!  In a study of nearly 7,000 of people, 90% of those who participated in a regular exercise program reported a significant decrease in the level of fatigue they felt.

Exercise combats fatigue by improving your circulation, boosting natural mood enhancers, and supplying your brain with the oxygen it needs to keep you alert.  So the next time you’re tempted to reach for an energy drink or take a power nap, consider lacing up your sneakers and going for a brisk walk or a jog instead.

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At Golden Gate Urgent Care, we want our patients to be as healthy and happy as possible!  If you’re experiencing fatigue or any other concerning symptoms, schedule an appointment at any of our six Bay Area locations or simply walk in to get the care you need.

Author
Sarah Thebarge MMSc, PA-C Sarah Thebarge earned her physician assistant degree at Yale School of Medicine, and then studied journalism at Columbia School of Journalism. She has been a physician assistant and a freelance journalist since 2004. In addition to caring for patients at Golden Gate Urgent Care, Sarah frequently volunteers her medical skills in the developing world. Her writing has appeared in Huffington Post, USA Today and National Geographic, and her blog was featured on MSNBC.com. She is the author of the memoir The Invisible Girls and the upcoming book WELL: Healing our Beautiful, Broken World from a Hospital in West Africa. She currently lives in the Mission District of San Francisco.

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