Southwest Ob/Gyn

Exhaustion: Post-Holiday Let-Down or Something Else?

It’s January and many of us find ourselves struggling to get back on track after the holidays. Sometimes, it’s simply a matter of making a return to a less-stressful routine of healthier eating, exercise and sleep habits. But there are several health issues that can make women, in particular, feel exhausted all the time. Here are a few of the most common ones.

Insomnia

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), getting enough quality sleep every night can decrease the risk of sickness and weight gain. It helps you think more clearly, decreases stress and leaves you more energetic and productive. In contrast, lack of good sleep can affect you adversely. Fatigue increases your likelihood of making mistakes on the job, while driving, in decision-making and in performing daily routine tasks.

If you feel tired even after sleeping a solid eight hours, an undiagnosed sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea, may be to blame. In sleep apnea, the soft tissue in the back of the throat collapses during sleep, blocking the airway. Sufferers wake up for a few seconds every time they stop breathing, sometimes hundreds of times a night. Visit www.sleepapnea.org to find out your “Snore Score,” or the likelihood that you have sleep apnea. The disorder can be treated, so it’s important to speak to a doctor if you experience excessive daytime fatigue.

If you think you’re simply having trouble going to sleep (or staying asleep), try these tips from the American Sleep Apnea Association:

  1. Set a sleep schedule and stick to it.
  2. Don’t nap for more than 45 minutes a day.
  3. Avoid excessive alcohol intake within four hours of bedtime. Do not smoke.
  4. Avoid caffeine six hours before bedtime.
  5. Avoid spicy food six hours before bedtime.
  6. Exercise regularly, but not right before bed.
  7. Keep your room at a comfortable temperature and block out noise and light.
  8. Do not use the bed as an office, workroom or recreation room.

Menopause and Perimenopause

Menopause — the time when your menstrual periods stop permanently and you can no longer get pregnant — and perimenopause — the time when a woman’s body is transitioning toward menopause — cause changes in hormonal levels that can affect sleep and cause fatigue. According to the National Sleep Foundation, this type of sleep disruption is due to hot flashes that occur during the night, interrupting sleep and causing frequent awakening. Even after menopause, about 61 percent of post-menopausal women report experiencing insomnia symptoms.

Your physician can help determine whether your symptoms are the result of a sleep disorder (see section above on insomnia) or by menopause/perimenopause, in which case hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may be recommended.

Hypothyroidism

The Journal of Medical Sciences estimates at least 300 million people worldwide have a thyroid dysfunction, yet nearly half are presumed unaware of their condition.

Hypothyroidism occurs when the body lacks sufficient thyroid hormone, and the symptoms of hypothyroidism usually appear slowly over months or years. Common symptoms of hypothyroidism include fatigue, weakness, weight gain or increased difficulty losing weight, hair loss, cold intolerance, muscle cramps, constipation and depression. Because early symptoms can be mild or mistakenly associated with other conditions (such as depression, especially during and after pregnancy, stress, and aging) it is possible that a hypothyroidism diagnosis can be missed or delayed.

Some people are more likely than others to develop thyroid problems (it occurs more often in women and people over age 60, and tends to run in families). Although you can’t prevent thyroid disease, it’s important to detect it early. Untreated hypothyroidism can cause severe complications, so people who have a family history of thyroid disease or other risk factors should talk with their doctor about regular screenings to ensure a prompt diagnosis.

The American Thyroid Association has a wealth of information on its website about all forms of thyroid disease.

If it’s well past the busy holiday season and you are still experiencing exhaustion, it may be time for a check-up. Make a list of your symptoms and call for an appointment with your physician today.

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