By Dr. Nora DeVoe, Ph.D.
Geriatric Care Manager


T.A.T.T. (Tired All The Time) Syndrome

Do you feel pooped all day? If there is one thing many of us have in common, it is that we are tired. Doctors even have a name for it: tired all the time or TATT for short. The solution is not as simple as getting more sleep; nearly a quarter of people who get seven or more hours of rest a night report that they still wake up feeling tired most days.

Doing something active when you are feeling sluggish will actually increase energy, not consume the little you have. In fact, researchers found that just ten minutes of low or moderate intensity exercise gave study participants a noticeable energy boost. In another study, people who committed to working out for 20 minutes three times a week increased their energy levels by 20 percent in about six weeks. When we do not work out regularly, our muscles can become weakened, so when we do use them in everyday activity, we are more tired.

Exercise works its magic at the cellular level: the mitochondria (the parts of cells that provide energy to muscles), grow more powerful and numerous after aerobic exercise, providing a continuous source of increased energy. Getting more exercise is not the only defense against TATT syndrome. There are several other strategies to explore.

When it comes to optimizing energy over the long haul, it is about getting into a rhythm of periods of exertion and rest. To stay energized over the day, you need a 15-20 minute break every 90 minutes. If you have been working on a computer, talk a walk outside. If you have been spring cleaning, sit down and call a friend. It is not enough to say, Ok, I am taking a break every once in a while; you want to do it intentionally and spend that time on something that is actually going to give you energy.

When there are not enough red blood cells, less oxygen gets carried to the cells to allow them to generate energy, which causes fatigue. Fatigue is often connected to not having enough of two key nutrients: iron and Vitamin B-12. When you do not get enough iron, you can develop iron deficiency anemia, which means your body does not produce enough healthy red blood cells. Vitamin B-12 is also key to creating red blood cells. Bloodwork can determine if you are deficient in these vitamins.

Some people are genetically predisposed to depression, and others develop it as a result of difficult circumstances; rates of depression in the U.S., for example, tripled during the pandemic, rising from 8 percent to almost 28 percent. If you are dragging yourself through the normal tasks of daily living or are unable to complete them because of excessive fatigue, it could be a sign that you are depressed. Other symptoms oftentimes include loss of appetite and irritability. Ask your doctor for a mental health screening.

Also, be careful with those simple carbs. When your body digests food, it turns it into glucose, which is then sent by your blood to all of your muscles and organs, including your brain. Your blood sugar naturally fluctuates during this process, and when it is low, you can feel sluggish. A simple way to keep your blood sugar consistent is to eat a small meal or snack every two or three hours.

What you eat can also affect your energy levels. Consuming too many simple carbohydrates, for instance, juice, candy bars, and white bread, can lead to an increase in blood sugar, prompting your body to produce insulin, which then makes your blood sugar drop. Instead reach for complex carbs, such as whole grains and non-starchy vegetables, which are digested more slowly and give you a steady stream of energy.

TATT could also be due to a health condition. If you have been unusually tired for more than a month, ask your doctor whether an underlying problem could be behind it. One common condition is sleep apnea, which causes breathing to start and stop throughout the night, often rousing sufferers from deep sleep multiple times a night. The condition can also lead to other issues, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes. It can be treated with a machine that pushes pressurized air into the nose or mouth during the night to make sure airways stay open.

Another condition to watch for is hypothyroidism. The condition almost always includes tiredness as a condition, and is caused when the thyroid gland located in the neck, produces too few hormones. Thyroid hormones control your metabolism, which is like the engine in your car. Hypothyroidism may also result in weight gain, slow movement and speech, and sensitivity to cold.

The last two years have been weary for all of us through this pandemic. All the extra responsibility and mental strain has definitely put us all in the TATT moment.

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Nora DeVoe is a Gerontologist specializing in Eldercare and Caregiver issues. She may be reached at (716) 667-7299.  

Dr. Nora is a ....