Exhaustion knows no age

Exhaustion can hit anyone at any time - the causes might just be very different. And so are the remedies.

If you have a typical modern lifestyle your fatigue may be caused by the pace of your life. Unhealthy eating habits, work stress, relationship stress, insufficient sleep, too many responsibilities or other forms of pressure play a significant role. Do you recognise yourself in one of these people?

Teens: clapped out from partying


  • Partying all night.

  • A starvation diet, especially one that is low in kilojoules.

  • Attempts to build muscle tone through protein drinks while avoiding meat and carbohydrates.

  • Iron deficiency, especially in teenage girls.

  • Drunken parties, many cups of coffee, rave drugs.

  • The after-effects of glandular fever.


  • You need nine hours’ sleep a night. Get it.

  • Eat enough carbohydrates. A girl of 60 kg who doesn’t exercise needs the equivalent of at least 21 slices of wholewheat bread a day. A boy of 70 kg who doesn’t exercise requires the equivalent of 27 slices of wholewheat bread a day. Get carbohydrates from cereal, bread, rice and pasta.

  • Go slow on protein supplements. A boy of 70 kg requires only 100 g protein a day. Some boys take more than 800 g creatin and other protein supplements daily, then eat eggs and meat too.

  • Don’t abuse alcohol or take rave drugs.

  • If your menstrual flow is heavy take an iron supplement (talk to your doctor about the right one for you).

  • See your doctor if the tiredness continues.

Moms: the mother of all fatigue


  • The extra progesterone at the start of your pregnancy and the discomfort later.

  • A baby that keeps you up at night or toddlers that demand your attention all day.

  • Over-tiredness that makes you sleep badly and worry about the baby and your budget.

  • Too many daily demands. If you have to look after children as well as cope with a career it’s no wonder you’re always tired.


  • Don’t always put your own needs last.

  • Get a special concentrated drink for moms who breastfeed.

  • Sleep when your baby sleeps. Take the phone off the hook.

  • If you’re at the office look for a place where you can snooze during your lunch hour. Ask your husband to take turns getting up at night if he’s not already doing so.

  • Exercise boosts energy. Try lifting weights for 10 minutes or do quick stretches following an exercise video.

  • Go for a stroll with your baby. Sunlight, in the morning especially, makes you sleep better and wake up refreshed. Use a skipping rope, climb stairs or dance with your baby in your arms.

  • Ask your husband to massage your body – it feels great and helps you relax.

  • If your baby is still breastfeeding let her sleep in bed with you.

Workers: biting off more than you can chew


  • Long work hours and work pressure.

  • Too little or fitful sleep. Shift workers may have trouble sleeping during the day when it’s noisy.

  • Ongoing tension as a result of relationship problems, concerns about money and work pressure.

  • Coffee. Yes, it can upset your sleep.

  • Bad eating habits and being overweight.


  • Sleep eight hours a night and get a good, uninterrupted night’s sleep.

  • Learn good time management and make time for exercise and relaxation.

  • Use electronic aids such as the internet for banking and shopping.

  • Do something to escape the tension spiral: change your job, get marriage counselling, learn relaxation techniques.

  • Stop smoking. Cigarette smoke reduces the oxygen available to the lungs.

  • Don’t drink too much coffee or alcohol.

  • If you’re overweight make a plan to lose weight.

  • If you’ve been very tired for more than three weeks it may be a sign of depression, heart disease or another medical problem.

The elderly: run out of steam?


  • Insomnia as a result of worries, financial or otherwise.

  • Sleep apnoea (characterised by snoring and pauses in breathing), pain, depression, cardiac disease and other medical problems.

  • Many herbal potions have an adverse effect on sleep. Ginseng, passion flower, verbena and ginkgo biloba are used for energy and to combat tension. Tell your doctor if you’re taking any natural remedies because many of them have side effects.


  • Stick to a healthy sleep routine.

  • Don’t drink herbal stimulants after 4 pm.

  • Discuss your concerns with your loved ones and find solutions.

  • Visit your doctor if you’ve been feeling overly tired for too long.

  • Try to walk a little every day.

Do you have a disease that makes you tired?

(Loaded onto Health24 in February 2009)

The story, of which an extract appears above, originally appeared in the first edition of YOU Pulse magazine. Buy the latest copy, on newsstand now, for more fascinating stories from the world of health and wellness.

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