- Why Does Type 2 Diabetes Make You Feel So Tired?
- Causes of fatigue
- Diabetes and fatigue
- Recognising fatigue
- When to call your doctor
- Tired All the Time? It Could Be Your Diabetes
- Coping With Diabetes and Fatigue
- Living with diabetes fatigue
- Causes of diabetes fatigue
- Diabetes and Sleep: How High Blood Sugar Steals Sleep Time
- Diabetes and Sleep: A Vicious Cycle?
- How Diabetes and High Blood Sugar Affects Your Sleep
- Smart Sleep Solutions for Diabetics
- Fighting Diabetes Fatigue to Work Out Can Feel Impossible — Here’s How to Do It
- What’s diabetes fatigue?
- How to deal with diabetes fatigue
- 4 tips for sticking with an exercise program
- 4 exercise ideas to get you started at home or outside
- What is diabetes fatigue?
- Why does having diabetes cause fatigue?
- What are the causes of fatigue?
- What are the effects of fatigue on diabetes?
- Why is diabetes fatigue so common?
- How can I prevent from feeling tired all the time?
- Do blood sugar levels make a person with diabetes tired?
- How can I beat/reduce fatigue with diabetes and regain my energy?
- How is it beneficial for me as a person with diabetes to reduce/prevent fatigue?
- Can undiagnosed/uncontrolled diabetes cause fatigue?
- Could my fatigue be linked to my depression about diabetes?
- Can having gestational diabetes make you tired?
- When should I contact my doctor?
- Whenever I eat something sweet I feel sleepy even though I am not diabetic . What could be the reason?
Why Does Type 2 Diabetes Make You Feel So Tired?
When fatigue is a concern, Zonszein will also screen for anemia. Anemia is not caused by diabetes, but it frequently occurs in people with diabetes and is a common cause of fatigue.
He will also check the thyroid hormone level. People with diabetes are at increased risk for thyroid diseases, especially hypothyroidism. “A sluggish thyroid together with diabetes can be another cause,” says Zonszein.
Medications should also be reviewed, as fatigue can be a side effect in some, especially those used to control blood pressure like beta blockers.
Type 2 diabetes is a complex disease that is associated with numerous co-morbidities, including obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar. People with diabetes who neglect their health because of fatigue and other symptoms put themselves at greater risk of developing complications, according to a review of literature focused on diabetes-related fatigue that was published in the July 2010 issue of the Journal of Psychosomatic Research. Often neglected are psychological factors, such as depression or feeling overwhelmed by their diagnosis or complexity of medical care, that can contribute greatly to feeling “low energy.”
To reduce fatigue and your risk of other symptoms and complications, it’s important to work with your health care team to make sure you’re properly managing your diabetes and any co-morbid conditions — and that includes making healthy lifestyle choices.
“People who have a healthy lifestyle — who exercise every day, eat well, drink a lot of water, and take their medications properly — tend to feel well,” says Zonszein. “It is the ones who are a little bit sluggish with exercising, or they over-eat, or they don’t eat all day and then they eat too much at night, and they forget their medications, those are the ones who often start to get complications.” Fatigue and headaches are the most common complications of patients who are not well-treated, he says.
If you’re feeling abnormally tired in between your regular doctor visits and you don’t seem to be getting better, call your doctor and make an appointment to get examined sooner.
In the medical world, extreme tiredness and exhaustion that doesn’t disappear with rest or sleep is known as fatigue and this can be a telling symptom of diabetes.
Causes of fatigue
There are many things that can cause you to fell fatigued. The most common and obvious is a lack of sleep.
Most adults need between 6 and 8 hours of sleep a day , but this can vary quite a lot from person to person. It’s also important to remember that most people require less sleep as they get older.
Other common causes of fatigue include:
- Anaemia – a condition that occurs when you don’t have enough red blood cells
- Cancer – most types of cancer cause fatigue to a certain degree
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – a condition that causes unexplained exhaustion and fatigue
- Depression – constant tiredness is a major indicator of depression or emotional stress
- Diabetes – sudden and extreme tiredness is one of the main symptoms of diabetes mellitus
- Infections – fatigue can be brought on by various infections such as the flu (influenza)
- Coeliac Disease – an autoimmune condition in which inflammation in the lining of the small intestine affects the body’s ability to absorb nutrients properly.
Diabetes and fatigue
With diabetes, fatigue is caused by a number of factors, including:
- High blood sugar levels, either from a lack of the insulin horomone or from insulin resistance, can affect the body’s ability to get glucose from the blood into cells to meet our energy needs
- People on stronger diabetes medication such as insulin, may also experience fatigue as a symptom of low blood glucose levels
- Blood glucose testing can help to determine whether high or low sugar levels may be the cause of fatigue.
Symptoms of fatigue include:
- A lack of, or no energy
- Difficulty in carrying out simple everyday tasks
- Feeling down or depressed (mental fatigue)
Regular exercise combined with a healthy diet and a good night’s rest can often boost your energy levels.
In addition, mindfulness and other meditation-based techniques are ideal for combating stress and depression and improving mental health.
- Learn more about the benefits of mindfulness
When to call your doctor
If you are suffering from extreme tiredness that is not simply due to a lack of sleep and has gone on for three to four weeks, you should seek advice from your doctor and make an appointment for a check-up.
Fatigue is one of the most common and most disabling symptoms of diabetes. What causes all this exhaustion and how can we get our energy back?
Some studies have reported that as many as 85% of people with diabetes experience fatigue, defined as excessive tiredness that interferes with one or more life functions. As a Diabetes Self-Management reader named Donnah wrote, “Since being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, my housework suffers dramatically, I don’t do half of the things that I used to do with my child. When I do find the time and energy to do things, I am easily worn out and need to rest. I can’t even keep a job. I am on disability because of it and I hate this.”
Causes of fatigue
How does diabetes make you tired?
• High blood sugar makes blood sticky, so it can’t get through the capillaries as easily to bring oxygen to cells. You know how you get sleepy after a big meal? High blood sugar can mean having that feeling all the time.
• Insulin resistance keeps glucose out of body cells, so they don’t have fuel.
• High blood sugar also causes inflammation. Remember how exhausted you get with the flu? That is, in part, inflammation. The same thing happens with poorly controlled diabetes.
• Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, can cause fatigue.
• The mental stress of coping with diabetes can wear out your mind and spirit.
Many other conditions besides diabetes can cause fatigue. If your sugars are under control, but you still lack energy, consider being tested for:
• Sleep apnea, which causes exhaustion and is very common in diabetes. If you wake up tired, ask your doctor for a sleep test.
• Anemia, or a lack of red blood cells or hemoglobin (the protein responsible for transporting oxygen) in the blood.
• Low or high thyroid.
• Low sex hormones, especially testosterone.
• Chronic infections, such as oral, urinary tract, or vaginal infections, which are common in diabetes. Any of them can make you tired.
• Immune and other potentially related conditions, such as chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, or multiple sclerosis. All of these are more common in people with diabetes.
Then there are things you can’t be tested for, but perhaps can change.
• Deconditioning. If you don’t move, your body gets weaker.
• Stress. This keeps your heart rate and blood pressure up, which drains your energy.
• Bad diet. Sugars and refined grains leave you tired. Consider eating a lower-carbohydrate diet.
• Shift work. Changing hours of sleep and activity confuses your body, and it may be difficult to get the sleep you need.
• Overdoing things. Running yourself ragged will wear you out.
• Depression. If there’s no reason to get up, your body won’t want to.
How to get your energy back
• Sleep better. It should be obvious, but our society denies it. We need to sleep. Before electricity, 9–10 hours a night was normal. Now we’re lucky if we get 7, and many people with diabetes get far less. See a couple of articles on getting better sleep here and here. Ask your doctor to be checked for sleep apnea.
• Naps are also great. It’s totally normal to be sleepy around 1 PM and 3 PM. That’s why many cultures encourage a siesta (rest) in those hours. Most jobs frown on napping, but if you can find a way, embrace your nap.
• Control your glucose better. Do what you can to bring your sugar down, whether it’s diet, exercise, supplements, or medicines.
• Get tested for anemia, thyroid, and other possible causes of your fatigue.
• Ask a pharmacist if your medications could be causing fatigue.
• Try juicing. A reader named Kat commented that since she started “juicing green leafy vegetables in the morning, with some wheatgrass…and eating a higher-protein and -fat, lower-carbohydrate diet, I have shaken off…the extreme fatigue that I used to have every day.”
• Supplements. Ginseng, vitamin B12, magnesium, alpha-lipoic acid, acetyl-L-carnitine, and coenzyme Q-10 are recommended by several authorities.
• Drink water. Dehydration often causes fatigue.
• Get outside more. Sunshine tells your body to wake up. If you can’t get sunshine, maybe buy a full-spectrum light that mimics the sun’s effects. Compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) marked “cool white” or “daylight” are also better than standard incandescent bulbs.
• Breathe. Try to stop what you’re doing every couple of minutes and focus on your breathing for a minute.
• Do some kind of gentle movement like walking or tai chi. Stretch your arms and legs. Sitting or standing still is tiring.
• Do some relaxation. Take breaks. Rest. Meditate or pray.
• Consider counseling for anxiety, depression, or high stress.
• If possible, spend time with people or animals who make you feel alive, not the ones who wear you out. Can you think of one person or creature who makes you feel better?
• Find something you love and apply yourself to it. You might even find something to do on the Internet. My blog The Inn by the Healing Path is full of stories of people healing by committing to what they love.
• Resist the madness. Our society is all about more, more, more. Faster, faster. This approach would fatigue anyone. Let’s focus on quality of life over quantity of stuff done or acquired. Find your personal balance between work, play, improvement, service, and rest.
Want to learn how to reduce diabetes fatigue? Read “What Causes Diabetes Fatigue” and “Recovering From Diabetes Fatigue” by nurse David Spero.
Tired All the Time? It Could Be Your Diabetes
If you’re coping with diabetes and feel wiped out all the time — the kind of fatigue that isn’t helped by eating or getting a little extra sleep — your doctor might tell you that your blood sugar levels are to blame. But research suggests that the fatigue associated with diabetes could have other causes. In a study published in June 2012 in The Diabetes Educator, researchers Cynthia Fritschi, PhD, RN and Laurie Quinn, PhD, RN, found that stress, depression, body mass index (BMI), and lack of physical activity can all be significant contributors to fatigue in people with diabetes.
In the study, 83 women ages 40 to 65 with type 2 diabetes completed questionnaires about their health, fatigue levels, diabetes symptoms, depression, emotional distress, physical activity, and how they were managing and coping with diabetes. Some of the women wore a continuous glucose monitor for three days to assess the changes in their glucose (blood sugar) levels.
The researchers found no relationship between the women’s fatigue level and their blood sugar control. Fasting blood sugar, glucose fluctuations over the study period, and results from the A1C test, which measures average blood sugar level over the previous two to three months, did not predict how tired the women reported feeling. “It appears that other factors — such as being overweight, getting little physical activity, and having higher levels of distress — could be causing their fatigue,” Fritschi says.
A statement published by the American Diabetes Association (ADA) in November 2016 in its journal Diabetes Care recommends that physical activity be prescribed to all people living with diabetes in order to manage glycemic control and overall health. In particular, the ADA urges people living with diabetes to interrupt long periods of sitting with light activity by doing 3 minutes of light exercise (like stretches or walking) every 30 minutes.
But diabetes and fatigue can set up a catch-22, Fritschi says. “One of the key strategies for taking care of diabetes is exercise, yet people with diabetes can be too tired to exercise,” she says. If you’re also depressed, you’re even less likely to have the energy to take other steps needed to manage the condition, such as preparing healthy meals and monitoring your blood sugar.
Coping With Diabetes and Fatigue
Take a proactive approach to dealing with fatigue by addressing your symptoms and concerns with your health care providers and support team. Following these steps can help:
- Give specifics. When talking to your doctor about how you feel, don’t just say, “I’m tired all the time.” Tell your doctor, ‘I’m too tired to go for a walk or go grocery shopping,’” Fritschi says. Let your doctor know that exhaustion is preventing you from doing activities that are important to keeping you healthy.
- Keep a journal. How many times do you get up at night to go to the bathroom? Are you skipping meals because you’re too tired to stand and prepare them? Take detailed notes on your daily habits and use your journal to talk to your doctor or diabetes educator about concerns that make living with diabetes harder for you.
- Work with a therapist. Managing diabetes is a 24/7 commitment. That alone can cause you to feel anxious, stressed, and depressed. And, in turn, depression can lead to fatigue and a lack of energy, Fritschi says. If you feel burdened and depressed by your diabetes, consider getting professional help. A therapist who is trained in treating depression can help you improve your mental health. Ask your doctor or diabetes educator for a recommendation.
- Join a support community. Talking with others affected by diabetes can provide some relief. Discussing day-to-day challenges, worries, and emotions with peers who have experienced similar situations can help you manage stress and brainstorm coping strategies. Ask your diabetes educator about local support groups, or become a member of an online community for virtual conversation.
- Aim for quality sleep. As many as half of all people with diabetes may have trouble sleeping, Fritschi says. If you’re not sleeping well at night, you’re going to be tired during the day. Modifying your evening routine and sleep environment can help you get more rest. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends; keep your bedroom cool and dark; and turn off electronics (the computer and the TV) at least an hour before going to bed. If you are concerned you may have a sleep disorder, speak with your doctor about getting tested.
For more on reducing diabetes-related fatigue, check out Diabetes Daily’s article “Sleeping Better With Type 2 Diabetes”!
Diabetes fatigue is one of the most common disabling symptoms of the disease. It can disrupt and interfere with all aspects of daily living.
What causes diabetes fatigue, and why is it so common?
Living with diabetes fatigue
We’ve written about fatigue before and received tons of great comments on those posts. But this time let’s go deeper and find the whole range of causes and solutions, even if it takes a few weeks. Hopefully, everyone will find something that might help them, because this is a serious problem.
For example, Melanie wrote, “ really takes a toll on my family and things we can do. I just want to have the energy to play with my son and to do things around the house or with friends…I can’t drive more than 30 minutes because my husband is afraid I will fall asleep…and wreck . (I have dozed while driving before.)”
Maria commented, “Fatigue is a constant and I have had to learn to do only what I can. I don’t push myself anymore as I pay for it dearly. I get tired of explaining why I don’t feel good, don’t want to do anything. Some understand and some don’t.” And Jan wrote, “I sleep from midnight to noon each day. Then I get depressed because I wasted half a day.”
Because of my multiple sclerosis (MS), I live with fatigue sometimes, and I know how limiting it is. I know how difficult it can be to manage. There are more than 15 known causes for fatigue. It helps to figure out what is causing yours, so you can address it. Here are some possibilities.
Causes of diabetes fatigue
First, diabetes can directly cause fatigue with high or low blood sugar levels.
• High blood glucose makes your blood “sludgy,” slowing circulation so cells can’t get the oxygen and nutrients they need. Margaret commented, “I can tell if my sugars are high in the morning, because ‘groggy’ doesn’t begin to describe it. ‘Drugged’ is how it feels.”
• Low sugars levels also cause diabetes fatigue, because when blood sugar is low, there is not enough fuel for the cells to work well.
• In addition, high blood glucose can cause diabetes fatigue through inflammation. Blood vessels get inflamed by the sugar. When this happens, according to research, immune cells called monocytes come into the brain, causing fatigue.
Other medical conditions that can cause fatigue
But your diabetes fatigue may not be caused by diabetes at all. Other medical conditions that can cause fatigue include:
• Anemia, or low red blood cell counts. It’s easy to be tested for anemia. If you’ve got it, it’s usually due to deficiency of iron, folic acid, or vitamin B-12, or to heavy menstrual bleeding in women (which results in iron deficiency).
• Low thyroid (“hypothyroidism”) — people with diabetes are more likely than others to have thyroid problems. If your thyroid level is low, you are likely to feel tired, sleepy, and depressed.
• Low testosterone levels, especially in men. Men with diabetes are much more likely to have low testosterone.
• Infections: People with diabetes often have infections they don’t know about. Infections take energy to fight, which can cause fatigue and raise blood sugar levels. A common source is urinary tract or “bladder” infections. They often hurt, but sometimes have no symptoms, except for the fatigue. Silent dental infections and vaginal infections are also common and fatiguing.
• Undiagnosed heart disease: If you get tired after tasks that you used to sail through, it could be time to for a heart check-up.
• Conditions like chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia. These are much more common in women, but men get them too. Fatigue is the main symptom. Many other diseases cause fatigue — you can see the government’s list here.
• Medication side effects: Many drugs for diabetes, blood pressure, depression, pain, and other issues can cause fatigue. Read labels, ask your doctor or pharmacist.
Additional causes of fatigue
Then there are causes that aren’t entirely medical:
• Lack of sleep or poor sleep — Some people are too wound up or too busy to sleep. Or they’re up to use the bathroom all night, or they have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which can wake them up many times an hour. If that is happening to you, you are likely to be fatigued during the day.
• Shift work — rotating shifts or working nights — can cause fatigue directly by messing with your body clock or indirectly by disrupting sleep.
• Depression is very common with diabetes. Most depressed people feel fatigued, even if they don’t feel sad. Even at low levels, depression can sap your motivation. Why get up? You can take a free test to see if you are depressed here.
• Doing too much: If you’re ripping and running all day, not taking breaks or even stopping to breathe much, you are courting fatigue. Patti wrote, “I think that forcing myself to do everything is just causing the fatigue to worsen.” She’s probably right.
• Stress: In small doses, psychological or physical stress can give you energy, but if it goes on too long, it will wear you out.
• Diet: Too much carbohydrate — especially refined carbs — can make anyone tired, especially with diabetes. Kat wrote, “now that I am eating a higher protein/fat, lower-carbohydrate diet, I have shaken off that really sleepy/extreme fatigue that I used to have every day.”
• According to WebMD, too much caffeine can cause diabetes fatigue through a rebound effect. They also say that dehydration, or not drinking enough liquid, is a major cause of fatigue.
• Being out of shape or having weak muscles: Not moving our bodies contributes to fatigue. Of course, it’s hard to exercise when you’re fatigued.
• Aging: It is normal to have less energy as we age, but this slowing down should not be dramatic. If loss of energy is rapid or severe, there is something else going on.
This list is getting ridiculously long, and it’s not complete. If you’re dealing with fatigue, perhaps start by evaluating yourself for these possibilities. Then read my piece “Stress and Fatigue” for solutions professionals and our readers have found.
Want to learn how to reduce diabetes fatigue? Read “Recovering From Diabetes Fatigue” and “Diabetes Fatigue — Get Your Energy Back,” by nurse David Spero.
Diabetes and Sleep: How High Blood Sugar Steals Sleep Time
It’s probably far from obvious, but your diabetes could be the reason that you’re having trouble sleeping.
Type 2 diabetes affects nearly 30 million Americans—and the numbers are growing. Though most of us are aware that the disease has a serious impact on a person’s diet and blood sugar, fewer are familiar with the many related health woes that diabetes can cause—and how they can negatively impact sleep.
Take a closer look at the surprisingly intricate relationship between diabetes and sleep—plus how people with the condition can get a better night’s rest.
Diabetes and Sleep: A Vicious Cycle?
Photo by Flickr user -aismist
The relationship between diabetes and sleep is complicated, and experts still have a lot to learn about how the whole thing works. What they do know? How much sleep you get could play a role in whether you develop type 2 diabetes in the first place.
First, there’s the growing connection between sleep and obesity. Being overweight is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes. (Believe it or not, up to 90% of people who are diagnosed with the disease are also obese.) What’s more, evidence shows that there are several ways that skimping on sleep could lead to weight gain:
- When you’re zonked, you don’t have the energy to exercise. Research suggests that people who stay up late spend more time sitting than people who wake up early.
- Feeling tired means you’re less likely to make healthy food choices, too. When you’re exhausted, pizza or takeout just feel easier (and more tempting) than a big kale salad.
- Staying up late means more time to eat. People who stay up into the wee hours at night have been found to eat 550 more calories than those who go to bed early.
- Lack of sleep messes with your hormones. Sleep deprivation causes your body to pump out more of the stress hormone cortisol, which is linked to weight gain. You’re also flooded with more of the appetite-stimulating hormone ghrelin.
But there’s more to the picture than just gaining weight. As you start to build up a sleep debt, your blood sugar starts to increase. What’s more, too-high levels or cortisol—the stress hormone that creeps up when you’re tired—seems to be linked to insulin resistance. Insulin is the hormone that helps your body regulate blood sugar—but when you’re resistant, your body isn’t able to transport sugar into your cells for energy.
And though experts have known about the relationship between sleep deprivation and blood sugar for years, they’re only now beginning to understand exactly how it works. New research suggests that not getting enough sleep can increase levels of free fatty acids in your blood. Those high fatty acid levels seem to reduce insulin sensitivity, as well as hamper your body’s ability to metabolize fat.
What’s more, it doesn’t take long for these effects to take hold: Just one night of shortened sleep was shown to increase those harmful fatty acids by a whopping 30%, and decrease study participants’ ability to regulate blood sugar by nearly a quarter. In other words, even burning the midnight oil just once in a while could be doing more to raise your diabetes risk than you probably think.
How Diabetes and High Blood Sugar Affects Your Sleep
To make matters worse? Having diabetes usually makes quality sleep even more elusive. Here’s how:
- Sleep Apnea: Many people who have type 2 diabetes also suffer from sleep apnea. When untreated, pauses in breathing can cause people to wake up hundreds of times throughout the night.
- Peripheral Neuropathy: Nerve damage in the legs or feet is common among people with diabetes, and can lead to tingling, numbness, burning, or pain that can make it tougher to doze off.
- Restless Leg Syndrome: Another condition common among those with diabetes, RLS can cause feelings of needing to move your legs while sitting or lying down, which can make it harder to fall or stay asleep.
- High or Low Blood Sugar: Both can make it difficult to achieve restful sleep. Too-high blood sugar can leave you feeling hot, irritable, or unsettled. Blood sugar that’s too low could result in nightmares, or cause you to wake up feeling sweaty or clammy.
- Nocturia: Nocturia, or nighttime urination, is a common problem among diabetics that’s usually the result of uncontrolled blood sugar. Having higher amounts of sugar in your urine may cause you to wake up and have to go more frequently during the night.
Smart Sleep Solutions for Diabetics
Photo by Flickr user akbuthod
The bad news is that having type 2 diabetes can lead to several complications that can make adequate sleep harder to come by. The good news? Since doctors know so much about the things that can cause sleep problems for diabetics, there are plenty of solutions that may help you snooze better.
If you have sleep apnea, finding a treatment option that works for you can lead to more restful sleep. For many people, that means getting fitted for a CPAP machine that helps keep your airway open, eliminating snoring or disruptive pauses in breathing. If you’re overweight, losing weight may help ease sleep-stealing snoring, too.
Conditions like peripheral neuropathy and restless leg syndrome can often be managed with medication. If you experience pain in your legs or feet, your doctor can help you find a pain reliever to eradicate the discomfort or make it more tolerable.
Muscle relaxers or medications that boost dopamine levels in the brain can help with restless leg syndrome, too. However, since RLS is often associated with too-high blood sugar, managing your blood sugar may be another way to ease symptoms.
Keeping your blood sugar under control can also help stave off other glucose-related sleep issues, too, such as frequent nighttime urination or nighttime discomfort. It’s important to work with your healthcare team to learn how to best manage your blood glucose levels. But in general, good blood glucose management usually includes:
- Eating the right foods. Learn how many carbohydrates are right for you, and stick to healthy sources like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. (Some of which might even improve your sleep.)
- Planning balanced meals. Eating the right amount of carbs coupled with protein and fat can help keep your blood sugar levels from spiking or dipping.
- Taking your medications at the right time. Talk with your doctor to determine the best times to take your insulin.
- Being physically active can help keep blood sugar levels in check. Plus, regular workouts can help you sleep better, too.
- Monitoring your blood sugar levels. Keeping tabs on your blood sugar means you can take steps to manage highs or lows before they become serious.
Finally, consider upgrading to the best mattress or using smart textiles to improve your sleep. Though it might sound like the stuff from a cool science fiction movie, Celliant® is a new responsive fabric that helps increase blood flow and local circulation in tissue.
Originally developed to help speed wound healing in athletes, the textile may also help with diabetes-related sleep issues that stem from poor circulation, like peripheral neuropathy. Celliant®-containing apparel is one option, but for the best sleep, a mattress cover made with Celliant® fabrics might be even better.
Perhaps most important of all? If you have diabetes and are experiencing sleep problems, talk with your doctor. Together, the two of you can develop a strategy to help you better manage your condition—while achieving the rest that you need.
Marygrace Taylor is a health and wellness writer based in Philadelphia. She’s covered healthy sleep and sleep hygiene for Amerisleep and other outlets since 2014. She also writes about diet and nutrition, women’s health, and fitness for outlets like Healthline, Men’s Health, and Prevention.
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Fighting Diabetes Fatigue to Work Out Can Feel Impossible — Here’s How to Do It
Exercise has never been a way of life for Denise Baron. But after being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes two years ago, Baron now finds a way to make fitness a part of her day.
“For me, exercising is never on my top three things to do in life, but nowadays it’s a requirement,” the 49-year old tells Healthline.
Like millions of other people who live with type 2 diabetes, Baron now understands the role exercise plays in managing her symptoms. That said, she’s also familiar with “diabetes fatigue,” a common effect of the condition that can make it challenging to stick with a consistent workout program.
What’s diabetes fatigue?
Dealing with type 2 diabetes can feel taxing. And when you’re tired all the time, just getting through the day is often all you can manage. Unfortunately, getting more sleep isn’t necessarily the right answer.
Studies show that people with type 2 diabetes experience extreme tiredness and fatigue that can disrupt their life and makes it difficult to function. The impact is so significant that experts now refer to this as “diabetes fatigue.”
“Excessive feelings of tiredness or fatigue are commonly associated with diabetes, but the causes may be multifactorial,” explains Sheri Colberg, PhD, FACSM, and Professor Emerita of Exercise Science.
“The most common cause is the rise in blood glucose levels, which can make you feel sluggish and lethargic,” she explains. And she should know. In addition to helping others, Colberg also lives with diabetes.
Colberg also points out that people may experience fatigue as the result of some diabetes-related complications, such as kidney disease, or as a side-effect of some medications.
How to deal with diabetes fatigue
It’s no secret that regular exercise is key in managing and preventing several health-related conditions including type 2 diabetes. In fact, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends physical activity to all people living with diabetes to manage glycemic control and overall health.
In particular, the ADA urges people living with diabetes to interrupt long periods of sitting with light activity by doing 3 minutes of light exercise (like stretches or walking) every 30 minutes.
While this recommendation tops the list of ways to manage and treat diabetes, exercising when you’re experiencing diabetes fatigue is often easier said than done.
“Fatigue is common among people with diabetes, which can make it difficult to work up the motivation and energy to stay physically active,” explains Dr. Emily Schroeder, an endocrinologist with Kaiser Permanente in Denver.
However, exercise is a crucial part of diabetes management. Schroeder says it’s vital that patients come up with ways to integrate exercise into their daily routines.
Once you establish a routine, you can gradually increase that activity up to 30 minutes a day — or more — as your body becomes accustomed to it.
4 tips for sticking with an exercise program
The first thing to keep in mind, says Colberg, is that doing any physical activity is likely to help you feel better and less tired, even if it’s just taking more daily steps. “Physical movement doesn’t have to be structured exercise sessions to lower your blood glucose or make you feel better in the short run,” she explains.
Colberg recommends you start by standing up more, breaking up your sedentary time frequently (by standing, walking around, stretching, or doing any activity for a few minutes every 30 minutes or so), and just moving more all day long.
Once the diabetes fatigue starts to lift from doing these activities, you may feel more like engaging in exercises like walking, resistance training, or dancing.
As an endocrinologist, Schroeder has extensive experience working with type 2 diabetes and diabetes fatigue. When talking with patients about exercise, she gives them the following advice:
- Set smaller goals and build up from there. “If you start out thinking you need to hit the gym for hours every day to stay fit, you’re more likely to give up before you’ve even begun,” she says. Instead, challenge yourself to work out in small increments. For example, you can walk for 10 minutes, three times a day, to get the recommended 30 minutes of moderate daily exercise.
- Don’t go it alone. Join a class or make plans to exercise with a friend. “It’s much harder to let fatigue talk you out of a workout when you have a fitness buddy waiting for you or you’ve already committed to participating in a class,” says Schroeder.
- Try activities that do double duty. Activities like gardening can be great exercise — not to mention a good way to get some fresh air. Schroeder also says to consider chores such as vacuuming the house for 15 minutes (which can burn up to 90 calories). “Embracing exercise that also checks items off your to-do list can provide twice the motivation to get active,” she says.
- Monitor your blood sugar. Some individuals may need to monitor their blood sugar before, during, and after exercise. Schroeder says exercise will be easier if your blood sugar is in the normal range. In addition, exercise can cause low blood sugars. That’s why you need to talk with your physician about ways to keep your blood sugar in the normal range during and after exercise.
- Start slow, but aim to build up to the recommended 30 minutes of moderate daily exercise.
4 exercise ideas to get you started at home or outside
Dr. Pamela Merino, a TopLine MD internist certified in obesity and lifestyle medicine, says some forms of exercise may be better than others if you’re dealing with diabetes fatigue. She recommends starting small and slow with physical activity.
Even committing to five minutes can make a difference. She recommends tai chi (since it incorporates healthy breathing, balance, and strengthening), water exercises, yoga, walking, and seated exercises.
And if you’re not ready for fitness activities outside of your home, Schroeder says there are still exercises you can do at home to help increase your physical activity. Here are some movements she recommends to her patients:
- Keep some hand weights under the couch to fit in a few bicep curls while you binge the latest “House Hunters” marathon. It’s so easy and beneficial.
- Stand up and march in place during commercial breaks. In the average hour of television, that’s 15 minutes of movement.
- Do leg lifts in bed. Before you get up in the morning, spend a few minutes lying flat on your back, slowing raising and lowering one leg at a time. Try two sets of 10 repetitions per leg to get your blood flowing and start the day with more energy.
- Try abdominal crunches. These are also easy to do in bed, and there are many variations to try that can keep them interesting and challenge different muscle groups.
Depending on your starting fitness level and medical conditions, it’s important to work with a doctor or trainer in developing a plan that’s right for you.
When it comes to working with a professional, Baron agrees it’s helpful to seek information from experts in the fitness field.
She now lives an Ayurvedic lifestyle, which she says changed her life for the better. Her physical activity consists of daily walks and bicycle rides every morning for 20 to 40 minutes, stretching every day, and occasionally some gentle yoga.
”My suggestion to those with type 2 diabetes is to find something you love to do and do it often,” says Baron.
Make sure to speak with your doctor before starting an exercise program. They can help you determine the most effective way to manage diabetes fatigue so you can incorporate physical activity into your day.
Sara Lindberg, BS, M.Ed, is a freelance health and fitness writer. She holds a bachelor’s in exercise science and a master’s degree in counseling. She’s spent her life educating people on the importance of health, wellness, mindset, and mental health. She specializes in the mind-body connection, with a focus on how our mental and emotional well-being impact our physical fitness and health.
What exactly is fatigue? Is it just being tired after working a long week or not getting enough sleep?
The answer is no.
Fatigue is excessive tiredness that makes carrying out simple tasks difficult and interferes with one or more life functions. Sounds terrible, doesn’t it? Well imagine having a chronic illness along with the fatigue. Diabetes and fatigue have a strong relationship, and it can make a person’s life very difficult. The following article will discuss the relationship, along with ways to beat and reduce the risk of living with diabetes and fatigue.
What is diabetes fatigue?
As it was mentioned above, diabetes fatigue is an extreme tiredness that individuals with diabetes can experience. It is a tiredness that disrupts a person’s life and makes it difficult to function. It is very common, and studies have shown that 85% of those with diabetes experience fatigue.
Some signs of fatigue include:
- Inability to concentrate
- Problems remembering things
- https://www.thediabetescouncil.com/blurred-vision-an-important-sign-of-diabetes/Blurry vision
- Slowed reflexes and muscle weakness
- Low motivation (learn how to stay motivated with diabetes)
Is feeling fatigue a sign/symptom of diabetes?
Feeling fatigued is definitely a symptom of diabetes. However, fatigue can also be a sign or symptom of many other diseases, so it is important that you talk to your doctor about any problems that you are having.
Reactive hypoglycemia, a term used to define the crash that a person gets after eating a lot of sugar and carbs, can be an early sign of diabetes. In order for the body to use the sugars and carbs that are consumed for fuel, each molecule must be paired with insulin to get into the cell. If there isn’t enough insulin available, then the sugar molecules stay in the bloodstream and cause high blood sugar.
What happens is that over time, eating a lot of sugar and carbs causes your body to have to produce a lot of insulin. Eventually, you develop insulin resistance and the insulin stops working as well which causes your body to make even more to keep the blood sugar under control. So after eating a large meal of sugar and carbs, the body starts producing a lot of insulin to try to use the food for energy. The problem is that after the food is digested, there is still insulin floating around and it causes the sugar to drop.
Signs of reactive hypoglycemia are:
- Difficulty concentration
If you develop these symptoms after eating, you should schedule an appointment with your physician to check for possible diabetes or pre-diabetes.
Another reason that fatigue is a sign of diabetes is because of high blood sugar. This will be discussed in more depth later in this article, but there is a link between fatigue and hyperglycemia (high blood sugar levels). 61% of newly diagnosed people with Type 2 diabetes experience fatigue. Once again, if fatigue is a problem, scheduling an appointment with your doctor is the best thing for you to do.
Why does having diabetes cause fatigue?
Having diabetes changes your blood. Imagine someone without diabetes having blood that flows like water. Now imagine someone with diabetes having blood that flows like maple syrup. When the blood flows much thicker and slower, like syrup, it is harder for cells to flow through the bloodstream to provide energy and oxygen to parts of the body, including the brain.
Diabetes also causes inflammation, which sends messages to the brain that the body needs to take a rest in order to heal. When this happens, fatigue is going to be a problem.
One of the biggest reasons that diabetes causes fatigue is because of its complications. Organs such as the kidneys, eyes, heart, and the nerves can all be damaged because of diabetes. End stage renal disease, which is when the kidneys fail, can lead to low red blood cells. Low red blood cells, which is also known as anemia, can lead to fatigue. Studies have shown that people with diabetic complications such as nerve damage, heart disease, and kidney problems have increased levels of fatigue. The next section of this article discussed more things that can cause fatigue.
What are the causes of fatigue?
Fatigue can be caused by many things. As mentioned earlier, anyone experiencing fatigue should schedule appointment with their physician to make sure that there is not something causing the fatigue that needs treatment. Some of these diseases are anemia, cancer, fibromyalgia, and celiac disease.
In regards to diabetes, fatigue can be caused by many things related to the disease. These include:
- Being overweight
- Sleep apnea
- Decreased level of testosterone
- Low blood sugar levels
- Restless leg syndrome
- Neuropathy (nerve damage)
What are the effects of fatigue on diabetes?
When someone becomes fatigued, it can lead to a never ending cycle. First, because of the fatigue, they become tired and don’t want to do anything. That leads to lack of exercise and poor dietary choices. These choices make them depressed, which in turn makes the fatigue even worse. This cycle continues and eventually the person begins to have complications from diabetes because their blood sugars are not under control.
Fatigue can cause someone to lose motivation to take care of themselves. They stop checking their blood sugar like they should or do things for themselves that they know they should because they are just too tired. Insulin dosages are skipped or not given accurately because of the time and energy that it takes to do it correctly. It is very important for all individuals with fatigue to find a solution, but it is even more important for those people with diabetes because of the risk of complications due to non-compliance.
Why is diabetes fatigue so common?
Fatigue can be caused by something physical, emotional distress, or because of lifestyle choices. Previously in this article, a number of things related to diabetes that cause fatigue was listed. If you read over that list, you can find physical, emotional, and lifestyle choices in there. This means that individuals with diabetes are at a risk from developing fatigue because of many different reasons.
An example is someone with diabetes that eats a very healthy diet and exercises daily. If they are too stressed because of the struggle to control their blood sugar, they could develop fatigue. Another example is someone that is very calm and follows their insulin and diet plan perfectly, but they have restless leg syndrome because of the nerve damage caused by diabetes.
Having physical, emotional, and lifestyle risk factors makes it very difficult for people with diabetes to avoid fatigue. Many people experience multiple problems that cause fatigue, such as sleep apnea and anxiety. Dealing with both of these makes it even harder to overcome the fatigue. This is why it is the most common symptom of diabetes.
The image below shows how all three variables play into fatigue. It also shows that not only do they cause fatigue, but fatigue causes them as well.
How can I prevent from feeling tired all the time?
Preventing fatigue with diabetes is a pretty challenging thing to do. The first thing that needs to be done is a visit to see your physician to make sure that the causes of fatigue is not due to another issue. Other things that can be done are:
- Keep blood sugar levels in a normal range
- Make sure that you are getting enough sleep
- Take a power nap during the day if you are able
- Try to limit the stressors in your life
- Ask for help from others when it’s possible
Later in this article there is more information about how to reduce fatigue and regain energy. The main goal is to try to minimize complications from diabetes such as kidney disease and nerve damage because of the increase in the risk of fatigue that they bring.
The main goal is to regain a level of energy that allows you to function and manage your disease and your life. All people want a quality of life, and fatigue doesn’t allow that to happen.
Do blood sugar levels make a person with diabetes tired?
Blood sugar levels can definitely make someone tired. If blood sugar levels are too high or too low, the body is not able to operate 100% like it should and it can wear the body down. Also, having to chase blood sugar with insulin and battle to keep it under control is very tiring. One study found that 29% of people with diabetes said fatigue was caused by adjusting insulin dosages and 23% percent said that it was caused by stress from managing their disease.
Hypoglycemia, which is low blood sugar, can cause fatigue because it deprives the brain and other organs of fuel and oxygen to work properly. If blood sugar gets too low, then it can cause major problems such as confusion or even seizures.
Hyperglycemia, which is blood sugar that is too high, can cause fatigue because the blood carrying the fuel to the organs is like maple syrup instead of water. (Remember that analogy from earlier in the article?) When it takes longer for the cells to reach their destination, the body is tired and worn out.
Think of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. She didn’t like the porridge too cold or too hot, it had to be just right in the middle. Blood sugar is the same way. The body operates best when it stays in the target range.
How can I beat/reduce fatigue with diabetes and regain my energy?
There are many ways to reduce fatigue with diabetes and regain energy. The most important thing that you can do is to control your blood sugar. This limits complications and also provides your body with the fuel that it needs to operate. You can also eat smart and exercise. Exercise actually decreases fatigue up to 65%. By taking care of yourself, you can decrease fatigue and increase quality of life.
You shouldn’t make any changes to your diet, insulin, or exercise regimen without talking to your doctor. First off, your doctor needs to be consulted and you need to talk with him about the following things:
- Can my fatigue be caused by another disease? This rules out all other reasons for your fatigue so you can focus on the main cause.
- Are any of the side effects from my medications causing the fatigue?
- Is it a good idea for me to start taking supplements such as Vitamin D, Vitamin B, Calcium, Chromium, Ginseng, Coenzymes, or Magnesium?
- Is my thyroid okay?
- What kind of exercises would be best for me?
- How can I better control my blood sugar to decrease fatigue?
- What is a healthy weight for me to be?
Eating too many carbohydrates can cause you to feel drowsy. You should also schedule an appointment to talk with your dietitian or nutritionist to discuss the following things:
- Would juicing be okay for me?
- Am I eating too many carbs?
- How can I improve my diet to decrease my fatigue?
Other things that you can do to decrease fatigue include:
- Get out in the sunshine because Vitamin D is good for you
- Reach out for help from others when you feel overwhelmed
- Join a support group on an online forum for diabetes (this will help you gather what others in your situation do to beat fatigue)
- Go for a walk after your heaviest meal
- Take time to see friends and engage in activities that may require more physical work
- Find a hobby or passion and spend time doing it
- Keep a sense of humor
- Listen to music that makes you happy (dance!)
- Take naps
- Do things around the house to get moving such as laundry
- Get a pet (but remember that they do come with a lot of responsibility!)
- Sleep 6 to 8 hours a night
- Try to relax and deep breathe
- Take up yoga or another form of gentle exercise/meditation
- Block out negative thoughts and change them to positive ones
- Start fresh with diabetes and pretend like you were just diagnosed
Just remember that all hope is not lost just because you have diabetes. There is a story about a woman named Cheryl that was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes at age 60. After her diagnosis, she suffered with depression which led to extreme fatigue. Finally, one day her daughter was able to talk her into going to an art class. She developed a love for painting at the age of 62 and sold her first art piece at the age of 70. Managing life with diabetes is very possible; it just requires work and dedication from your end.
How is it beneficial for me as a person with diabetes to reduce/prevent fatigue?
It is beneficial for someone with diabetes to reduce and prevent fatigue because it can lead to a happier and healthier life and less diabetes complications in the future. Fatigue can cause lack of motivation which can lead to a person not taking care of themselves. For an individual with diabetes, not taking care of their body can lead to complications that aren’t reversible. These include:
- Kidney damage
- Nerve damage
- Eye problems
- Heart issues
- Poor circulation
These complications are big problems and can lead to a very difficult life. It is much easier to keep fatigue to a minimum or eliminate it all together.
Can undiagnosed/uncontrolled diabetes cause fatigue?
Undiagnosed and uncontrolled diabetes can cause fatigue. Earlier in this article, reactive hypoglycemia was mentioned, which is when your body tries to make too much insulin to keep up with the sugar intake and causes a sugar crash. There are approximately 7 million people with undiagnosed diabetes in the world. Fatigue is the most common symptom of diabetes and hopefully leads to people seeing their doctors and being diagnosed to get control of their blood sugar.
Uncontrolled diabetes causes fatigue for many reasons that were also mentioned previously in this article. First of all, blood sugars that are either too high or too low do not deliver fuel to the cells for the body to operate. Secondly, complications that are caused by uncontrolled diabetes such as kidney disease and nerve damage also cause fatigue. The most important thing to do is to control blood sugar.
Diabetes is a very stressful disease. It takes a lot of time and energy to plan meals and insulin dosages. Having all of the stress can lead to depression. People with diabetes are twice as likely to have depression as those without diabetes.
Depression is a major cause of fatigue, and can make it even harder to manage diabetes because of lack of motivation. It is important that individuals with depression seek help from their doctor/therapist to make sure that they are able to care for themselves. Learning coping mechanisms to deal with your depression which is linked to your diabetes will be effective in the long term.
Can having gestational diabetes make you tired?
Gestational diabetes is a condition that approximately 4% of women experience during pregnancy. Due to the hormones, insulin resistance occurs, and causes higher blood sugar levels. This can be a problem because it causes babies to be born larger and have difficult births. It can also cause birth defects and it makes the first few days difficult for the newborn to maintain their blood sugar. It usually can be controlled with a change in diet, but sometimes insulin may be required.
Some women show no signs of gestational diabetes, while other have extreme fatigue, elevated thirst, and an increase in urinating. The problem is that most pregnant women experience all of these symptoms anyway. For this reason, all women are tested for gestational around 24 weeks of pregnancy. Women at a higher risk may be tested earlier.
If fatigue does become worse during pregnancy, the expectant mother should seek help from their physician to rule out gestational diabetes or other complications such as low blood pressure or anemia (low red blood cells).
When should I contact my doctor?
Your doctor should be contacted any time there is a change in the level of fatigue that you are experiencing. When you meet with your doctor, you should be honest about the blood sugar levels that you have been experiencing, as well as any other problems that you are having. Also, if you become very depressed or think about killing yourself, you should seek help from your doctor right away.
If you have experienced fatigue with diabetes, please share your story below. Others can benefit from hearing how you were able to reclaim your life.
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Last Updated: Thursday, July 12, 2018 Last Reviewed: Thursday, July 12, 2018
Whenever I eat something sweet I feel sleepy even though I am not diabetic . What could be the reason?
I am not an expert in this but after googling for a while, I found out something useful that I would like to share.
I am assuming that feeling sleepy is same as feeling exhausted. Here’s what I found. The thing that is causing you to feel sleepy after eating something sweet is commonly known as SUGAR CRASH.
A sugar crash or glucose crash is the fatigue after consuming a large quantity of carbohydrates, also known as reactive hypoglycemia. It is described as a sense of tiredness, lethargy, irritation, or hangover.
Reactive hypoglycemia, is a medical term describing recurrent episodes of symptomatic hypoglycemia occurring within 4 hours after a high carbohydrate meal in people who do not have diabetes. It is thought to represent a consequence of excessive insulin release triggered by the carbohydrate meal but continuing past the digestion and disposal of the glucose derived from the meal.
The alleged mechanism for the feeling of a crash is correlated with an abnormally rapid rise in blood glucose after eating. This normally leads to insulin secretion, which in turn initiates rapid glucose uptake by tissues either accumulating it as glycogen or utilizing it for energy production. The consequent fall in blood glucose is indicated as the reason for the “sugar crash”.
Here’s the Wikipedia link for the same. Sugar crash – Wikipedia
However if it’s the case then there’s no need for medical intervention if it’s sugar crash.
Quoting from the Health Guidance – Free Health Articles
“When you consume sugar or product containing a high amount of sugar, then it causes an increase in the blood sugar levels. The increase in the blood sugar level results the release of insulin from the pancreas, which would result in sudden decrease of the blood sugar levels. This sudden diminishing of the levels makes you feel sleepy and tired. “
It pretty much sums up the reason and answers your question. However there’s a very slight possibility of you being diabetic or prone to develop one.
Sleepy After Eating Sweets
Feeling Tired After Eating Sugar
I’m providing the links which I found helpful. Go through ’em once, since you know the most about yourself. 🙂
Hope it helps. Wishes you best for your health. Take Good Care. 🙂