Is this why you're so tired all the time?

Here are a few common causes of fatigue – and what you can do about it.

Written by Sharon Curtain

Do you wake up feeling tired, struggle through the afternoon, or rely on caffeine to get through the day? Are your weekends usually more like “sleepends”?

If feeling exhausted is part of your normal life, tackling these common causes of fatigue can help bring your energy levels back up.

Poor sleep

One obvious but often overlooked reason you’re hitting snooze is that you need more sleep, or a better quality of sleep.

How much sleep are you getting? Everyone varies in the amount of sleep they need to feel fully refreshed, but the Sleep Health Foundation recommends adults get 7-9 hours of sleep a night. That means if you’re going to bed at 12am and getting up again at 6am, chances are you’re building up a sleep deficit.

For many people, the issue with sleep isn’t so much the number of hours, but the quality of sleep you’re getting. If your sleep is often disrupted, this could be the reason you’re not waking feeling restored. Common sleep disturbances include noises, children, pets, checking your phone before bed and through the night, late afternoon caffeine and undiagnosed sleep apnoea.

What you can do:

  • Check how much sleep you’re getting by using an activity tracker or sleep diary – this gives you a snapshot to work from.
  • Go to bed earlier, aiming for the same time every night. Setting a bedtime alarm can help.
  • Remove the temptation to check your phone by putting it on charge in another room.
  • Tips to sleep better include avoiding caffeine after lunchtime, relaxing before bed by reading a book, listening to music, journaling or meditation.
  • Check out the Sleep Health Foundation website for more tips on improving your sleep.


If you lack energy, struggle to concentrate, become dizzy or breathless easily (even when you're not exerting yourself), look pale, have thinning hair or always seem to be catching colds, these could be signs of anaemia.

Anaemia is a condition in which the body can’t make enough healthy blood cells to transport enough oxygen through the blood stream. As a result, you feel constantly exhausted.

Causes of anaemia include a dietary deficiency of iron, folate or vitamin B12, poor absorption, or an increased need for/loss of these nutrients in the body, for example, from blood loss or infection.

What you can do:

  • Talk to your GP. They may test your iron, folate and B12 levels, or do a full blood count to diagnose anaemia.
  • Boost iron intake by including red meat 3-4 times a week or choose an iron supplement with added vitamin C (smaller doses are less likely to cause constipation).
  • Increase folate-rich foods such as green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli), beans and legumes (peas, kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils), yeast and beef extracts, oranges and orange juice, wheat bran and other whole grain foods, fortified breakfast cereal, poultry, pork, shellfish and liver.

Underactive thyroid

Your thyroid is a gland in your neck that produces hormones important for many bodily processes. An underactive thyroid (a condition called hypothyroidism) can cause low energy levels, fatigue and trouble concentrating.

Because the thyroid plays a major role in regulating your metabolism, many people with hypothyroidism also experience unexplained weight gain. Hair loss, intolerance to cold temperatures, fatigued and aching muscles, slow heart rate, and depression are also common symptoms.

Hypothyroidism is more common in women than in men, and the risk increases with age. The most common cause is the autoimmune condition Hashimoto’s disease, but it can also be caused by other things such as iodine deficiency.

What you can do:

  • Speak to your GP, who might suggest a blood test (TSH, T4, T3 and Thyroid Antibodies) to check your thyroid function.
  • Iodine is low in our food supply, so an iodine supplement can be useful to support healthy thyroid function.

Stress and burnout

This year has been very challenging, and a modern lifestyle of high stress, long work hours, poor nutrition, inadequate exercise and lack of recharge time has many of us heading toward burnout, as chronically elevated cortisol levels have us ready to fight or run, all day long.

What you can do:

  • Start with one or two simple lifestyle changes each day to help manage stress. This will look different for each of us, however the key is to prioritise relaxation and self-care when you can. Listening to a podcast, reading a good book, a short meditation or yoga in the comfort of your own home, or a hot bath is a great place to start.
  • Get moving to help manage stress. Whether that’s running, riding, walking or dancing, exercise releases chemicals like endorphins and serotonin that improve your mood and sleep. The Australian guidelines recommend adults do at least 30 minutes of moderate to intensive physical activity on most or all days of the week.
  • Healthy food can make us feel brighter and more energised. Add a colourful serve of veggies and a piece of fresh fruit at meal times to boost your nutrient intake and support your immune system.
  • Swap a glass of wine for sparkling water with lemon at the end of a long day. Reducing your alcohol consumption can help to improve your mood, energy levels and sleep quality.
  • Take your time to look around and explore the many ways Medibank Better Minds can help support you or your loved ones’ mental health needs. You can also talk to your GP for other ways to support your body during times of prolonged stress.
Senior couple

Medibank Better Minds

Whether you’re unsure of what you’re feeling, looking out for a family member, or you simply need to hear another voice, we’re here to advise, guide and support you through your mental health journey.

Written by Sharon Curtain

Sharon Curtain is a dietitian with experience in hospital, community and industry settings and specialises in food industry process.

Previous article

Is there a mind-gut connection?

Next article

Is your dog bored?

Related articles

Subscribe to receive the best from Live Better every week. Healthy recipes, exercise tips and activities, offers and promotions – everything to help you eat, move and feel better.

By clicking sign up I understand and agree to Medibank's privacy policy

Thanks for subscribing. You’re on the road to a better, healthier version of you!