Why am I so tired???


All I want for Christmas is sleeeeep!!!

I know I am not the only one who is persistently sleep-deprived and at times the lack of sleep leads to a low mood, a low appetite, low energy levels and all in all, a low mummycleverdoc. It is a vicious cycle and some can cope with little sleep better then others.

During my medical night shifts, as tiring as they were, I would always have the opportunity to catch up on my sleep once I ‘clocked-out’. I would come home and sleep 6-7 hours in the daytime before waking up again for work! Yes the daytime routine was a little different to others but at least I felt I could catch up on some zzzz’s!

Before becoming mummycleverdoc, as misscleverdoc, I would ask fellow mummy medical colleagues how much sleep they got when they returned home from their night shifts. The majority of mothers would go home to energetic kids who wanted to play with mummy as soon as they saw them! I always admired that with no more than 3-4 hours sleep after working 24 hours continuously on their feet attending emergencies, surgery and busy emergency departments, how they were able to concentrate and focus on work and being a family person. It was apparent that they had no other option then to cope with these circumstances if they wanted to spend time with their children. Juggling the two was difficult I concluded back then and can definitely concur with now!

Now, being a mum of 2, I feel like I am on a continuous night shift where there is no ‘down-time’. My house resembles a busy emergency department with all of the obstacles my girls call toys. The sounds of Peppa Pig grunting while Alyvia imitates her, Sophia screaming for attention from underneath the table where she is stuck and CD talking at me usually makes up for the noisy alarms, machines and people in casualty. Do I get to sleep it off the following day??? Of course not!

The very thought of sleep training Sophia makes me yawn even more!!! I know we will all benefit in the end but am I ready to put myself through the struggle in the interim?

Since having my daughters, I have an even greater respect for parents and I feel we all should encourage each other through this long and painful ‘graveyard-shift’.

Other then being tired due to lack of sleep and poor quality sleep there are other things which may contribute and when consulting patients at work, I always like to rule out other medical causes before I put it down to just sleep-deprivation. Here are other potential causes of tiredness that may also need to be considered:-

Anaemia

A low haemoblogin, the protein in your body carried in the blood which transports oxygen to all of your cells can lead to anaemia. This results in less transported oxygen around the body causing tiredness and fatigue.

During the latter stages of pregnancy, expectant mothers tend to become anaemic as the baby’s iron requirement rises and stores from the mother’s body are removed. This is often why mothers-to-be feel a sudden overwhelming amount of fatigue towards the end of their pregnancies. Treatment for this is usually to increase the iron content in your diet or sometimes to take iron supplements. If however, the levels of haemoglobin are very low (less than 10g/dL), a blood transfusion may be required to replenish the levels.

Other then getting your blood levels checked to definitively diagnose this, symptoms you may feel are extreme fatigue and low energy levels. Mouth ulcers and a paler complexion may also accompany these symptoms. In the UK, pregnant women usually have their haemoglobin levels checked later on in their pregnancy to ensure that they have not become anaemic.

Giving birth is not always a great experience for everyone and can sometimes lead to a lot of blood loss during the delivery. There may also be a lot of blood loss accompanying a caesarean section too resulting in anaemia. Again, treatment will depend on how much blood loss there is and how low haemoglobin levels have subsequently become.

Anaemia can occur at any time and it is worthwhile visiting your GP to have your levels checked if you are feeling very tired. Anaemia is not only caused by blood loss but can be caused by low dietary iron, low vitamin B12 levels and other medical illnesses such as inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, kidney disease and cancer. Some also find that their anaemia is due to an inherited blood condition called Thalassaemia.

Thyroid Deficiency

The thyroid hormone is secreted by your thyroid gland in your neck and is responsible for a number of functions in the body including breathing, heart rate, muscle strength, body weight and many more!

Low mood, hair loss, feeling cold, tiredness and lethargy are also symptoms of an underactive thyroid. You may also have difficulty in losing weight, dry, rough skin and possible muscle ache.

An underactive thyroid is more common than you think so it is worth getting your thyroid hormone levels checked by means of a simple blood test at your local surgery.

The treatment for this is thyroid replacement with medication.

Poor nutrition and hydration

Eating irregularly without a balanced diet is a leading cause of fatigue. This is something I and am sure many other parents are guilty of. ‘Where do we have time to eat?’ I hear you say. I am on the same page but unfortunately this can contribute to fatigue and lethargy. Junk foods and foods high in sugar cause temporary ‘high’s’ followed by ‘lows’ and therefore a balanced diet with plenty of water is essential when trying to combat fatigue.

Lack of exercise

Again, I know I know where would you find time to exercise…

This is also a cause of fatigue and tiredness as your muscles begin to become loose and you feel less energetic. Try to exercise whenever you can, and when you do, make it count! Do some aerobic exercise to get your heart rate going. If you do this regularly, you will start to feel less tired.

Other general causes of tiredness are diabetes, sleep apneoa, bowel conditions and chronic fatigue syndrome.

So while I prepare myself mentally to sleep train Sophia, I send you all a virtual hug and hope you get a good night’s sleep tonight!

Speak soon

MCD

xxx

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