Tired of PCOS: Why am I tired?

Let’s talk about feeling tired, sluggish and generally not-too hyped up – worry not, this is an all too common aspect of PCOS.  

Today I want to look at the reasons behind feeling tired all the time – it’s important to understand your body and why it behaves in the way it does, how else can you work to improve yourself and your situation?

Tired of PCOS

Why am I tired?

Fatigue, or perpetual feelings of tiredness are more and more common in today’s fast-paced world. For women with PCOS fatigue appears to be a common symptom. Although there has been no formal study confirming that fatigue is linked to PCOS in women, there is strong evidence to suggest it is in fact linked. PCOS and fatigue are, in essence, both linked to imbalances of the endocrine system and are characterised by an excess of male hormones (again!) Fatigue is also closely linked to the thyroid and adrenal glands. At the core of these is – surprise, surprise – insulin resistance!

So here are the top 10 reasons why you’re tired all the time…

  1. You’re dehydrated: when you don’t drink enough fluid (we’re talking water and juice here rather than cappuccinos and cocktails) your blood pressure begins to drop subsequently slowing down the delivery of oxygen to the brain leaving your energy levels flagging and flailing. To avoid this sleepy slump make sure you drink plenty throughout the day (more if you’re exercising) don’t forget the recommendation is between 6 and 8 glasses of water (or water-based drinks) a day… it’s harder than you think! Try tracking your intake with a handy app for your phone (such as iDrated for iOs devices).
  2. Hypothyroidism: AKA an underactive thyroid. The thyroid is a gland that produces the hormones that affect energy and hunger – when it’s underactive it can make you feel sluggish, tired and hungry! This is actually a common cause of over-sleeping without even realising it, and without speaking to a doctor it’s hard to confirm, but an appointment with your GP and a simple blood test can confirm if your thyroid is behind your fatigue.
  3. Blood sugar chaos: Fatigue (particularly those pesky mid-morning/afternoon slumps) is often caused by a dip in blood sugar. Insulin resistance can also play a part in this.
  4. Hormones: Something we ladies with PCOS know all too well, our bodies don’t like to play fair when it comes to hormone production. Unopposed oestrogen, caused by the lack of a menstrual cycle and the additional progesterone that is produced, can contribute to fatigue.
  5. Alcohol: According to recent statistics more than 50% of women reach for a glass of wine between 3 – 4 times a week to relax after a hectic day, and if you’re anything like me you’re probably already aware of the impact a few cheeky drinks can have on your ability to sleep – personally, I can never sleep well after a few cocktails. The reason? There are chemicals in alcohol that disrupt your natural sleep cycle which stops you from entering a good, deep sleep.
  6. Sleep Apnea: A sleep disorder that affects up to 7% of the population. This is a tricky one to pinpoint as you can’t catch yourself suffering as you’re asleep, but common symptoms include snoring, being overweight, and waking up with a headache (due to a lack of oxygen when asleep). Sufferers of sleep apnea wake up throughout the night as they stop breathing (anything from 5 -100s of times an hour). They end up sleeping for longer as sleep quality is understandably awful. If you think this sounds familiar make sure to speak to your doctor to get to the bottom of your personal situation.
  7. Taking some Zzzzzs in the day: Napping can be useful if you hit an afternoon slump and want to feel bright and breezy again. Napping itself isn’t a problem, instead it’s more about how long you nap for. Power napping for up to 30 minutes has been proven to be revitalising and helpful, however if you sleep longer than this you’ll get sucked into a natural REM sleep cycle which is tricky to break. If you wake mid-cycle it can leave you feeling groggy and worse (which is normally what I struggle with when napping). Try napping for 30 or 90 minutes or keep track of your sleep cycle with a handy app (like ‘sleep cycle’ for iOs devices).
  8. Low mood and depression: You feel consistently tired, sluggish and find it increasingly difficult to get up in the mornings and face the day… sound familiar? If this is something you’ve noticed recently talk to your doctor about it and see if you suffer from the all too common disease of depression.
  9. Stress-head: It seems as though everyone is stressed these days, but, rather frustratingly, it’s more common with women with PCOS. Cortisol, the hormone produced by the adrenal gland when we’re stressed, is over stimulated and ends up with excess levels of cortisol which can contribute to insulin resistance and further hormone imbalances.
  10. Missing minerals: This is even more important for us ladies with PCOS, making sure our bodies have enough vitamins and minerals will help energy levels and feelings of fatigue. Calcium, Melatonin, Magnesium and Iron are particularly useful for women with PCOS as it’s likely these are naturally lacking in the body. Magnesium, for example, helps maintain blood sugar levels, aids muscle health and boosts concentrations, so understandably if you’re lacking in this mineral it’ll contribute to a sluggish and tired you.

These are just some of the things that could be contributing to your feelings of fatigue and general lousiness. Fatigue can also be linked to anaemia, food intolerances, allergies and post-viral syndromes which can also impact upon your energy levels.

Don’t worry – for starters you aren’t alone in this, and secondly there are a number of things you can try to help yourself feel better with a bit of an energy boost.

In the next part of this post I’ll look at the top 10 things you can do to boost your energy levels and feel less tired.

Watch this space…

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