Many chronic health conditions can leave you feeling fatigued. As you get older, your risk of developing chronic conditions may increase. Of adults 55 and older, 78% have one chronic health condition, 47% have two and 19% have three or more. Common health issues that cause fatigue include:
If you haven't been diagnosed with a chronic condition but have started to feel fatigued, visit your doctor to see if it's an early warning sign of a disease.
The treatments used to manage some diseases, illnesses and conditions can contribute to fatigue. Chemotherapy and radiation used to treat cancer often leave patients feeling exhausted. More common medications can also make you sleepy. These include blood pressure medications, antidepressants, antihistamines and some pain medications. Talk to your doctor about the side effects of any medication you take so you can anticipate the exhaustion you might feel.
Chronic pain hurts in the moment and can leave you feeling exhausted. Older adults might experience ongoing pain from conditions like arthritis and fibromyalgia. Pain can cause inflammation as your body tries to ease the discomfort. Your body's response to the pain can drain you of energy. Pain can also cause emotional distress, which could add to the exhaustion you feel.
The obvious sleep-related cause of fatigue is staying up too late or not getting enough sleep in general. However, seniors sometimes notice changes in their sleep patterns as they get older, which can interfere with the quality and amount of sleep they get. Insomnia can become an issue, especially if you have chronic conditions that cause pain. Some medications can affect your sleep quality. Sleep apnea can also leave you feeling exhausted during the day.
Emotional stress can make you feel physically exhausted. As an older adult, you might face unique situations that increase your emotional stress. This might include grief from losing loved ones, sadness over decreasing mobility or health conditions, loneliness or the strain of tight finances in retirement. You typically feel fatigued from your emotions if you're experiencing chronic stress, whether it's due to one ongoing situation or a series of difficult events.
Learning how to manage your fatigue often comes down to identifying the cause. Working to improve those underlying situations can give you more energy. Here are some tips to fight fatigue as an older adult.
Monitor your fatigue levels as you make these changes to your routine. If your symptoms don't improve or get worse, check in with your doctor. Writing down the times when you feel most fatigued may help your doctor learn more about the causes and come up with ways to help.