Daytime fatigue: common causes & tips to help beat it


Burning the candle at both ends can leave many of us feeling tired, but if you still feel drowsy after recharging, you shouldn't take it lightly. Drowsiness and fatigue can have serious consequences, especially if you operate heavy machinery or if you're driving, so if you regularly feel tired in the daytime, you really shouldn't ignore it.

There are a number of potential reasons for fatigue, so the first step is to understand the root cause of your own drowsiness. The most common of these is poor sleep.

Adults generally need between six and eight hours sleep a night to function at the peak of their abilities the next day, but many of us get closer to five hours a night. The amount of sleep we need varies from person to person, and often gets less as we get older. If you feel absolutely well on less, it's not a problem.

Not only is the amount of sleep you get important however, the quality of your sleep is also key to ensuring you wake up feeling refreshed and ready for your day. Using electronic devices before you go to sleep can stimulate your mind both through mental activity and the type of light emitted by the screens, so cutting back on phones, tablets, laptops and TV during the hour before going to sleep can be a great first step.

Avoiding alcohol before bed can also help improve the quality of your sleep. You may feel that alcohol can help you sleep deeply but the opposite is true - drinking alcohol before you go to bed can actually reduce the quality of your sleep and leave you feeling tired the next day as a result. Caffeine too affects your ability to get to sleep and to then sleep deeply so if you're partial to a tea or coffee in the evening you may want to try an alternative to see if this helps.

Stress can also have a negative impact on your sleep pattern. While avoiding stress altogether is impossible, managing your stress levels effectively can help you drift off when your head hits the pillow. A healthy diet, regular exercise and unwinding properly before bed will all help to maximise the quality of your sleep.

Poor sleep isn't the only cause of fatigue, however. If you currently get a good night's shut-eye and still feel tired in the morning, there are some other issues to consider.

Some medications contain stimulants which can contribute towards keeping you awake at night, while others can cause drowsiness as a side effect.

Sleep apnoea is another common cause of daytime fatigue. As you fall asleep, the muscles in your throat naturally relax but in some cases this can cause the airway to temporarily block for around 10-20 seconds. The resulting drop in blood oxygen levels is picked up by your brain which then wakes you sufficiently for the muscles to firm up and allow you to breathe normally before you fall back to sleep again.

This cycle can however repeat itself throughout the night - as frequently as once every two minutes - so although you may not wake enough to remember the experience, the ongoing disruption to your sleep can leave you feeling drained the next day without realising why.

Common causes of sleep apnoea include being overweight, drinking alcohol in the evening, smoking and sleeping on your back.

Some tips for reducing daytime fatigue

• Get to bed in good time to allow yourself to wind down and then get the amount of sleep that's normal for you

• Avoid electronic devices during your wind-down period

• Minimise caffeine and alcohol in the evening

Identify any obvious light and sound disturbances at night and take steps to reduce these

• Keep your bedroom at a comfortable temperature - not too warm or cold

Take regular exercise

• If all else fails - or you think that sleep apnoea may be a possibility, then consider discussing your fatigue with your doctor.