Tips for Managing Fatigue

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: June 2020

Fatigue is one of the most common side effects of sleep apnea. Fatigue is an overwhelming feeling of being tired.

People with fatigue do not necessarily feel sleepy. They feel exhausted but they can stay awake.

Tips to manage fatigue

Fatigue is different from excessive daytime sleepiness, another common symptom of some sleep disorders. Daytime sleepiness is the same as drowsiness, which is that time right before sleep, or difficulty staying awake. This drowsiness can lead to an irresistible urge to fall asleep or stay alert during the day.

Fatigue may get better by treating your sleep apnea and making some lifestyle changes. Here are some tips to manage fatigue.

Eat healthy, more often

If you are living on junk food or eat one heavy meal a day, changing your eating habits may help you combat fatigue. Eating smaller, regular meals, plus healthy snacks every 3 to 4 hours, can give you an energy boost.1

Eating for weight loss can also improve your energy level. Carrying extra pounds puts extra strain on your heart and joints, which can make the fatigue of a sleep disorder worse. Losing weight can make you feel more energetic.

Change drinking habits

Many of the drinks we consume can make us more tired. For instance, you may need to cut down how much caffeine you consume. Caffeine is found in coffee, tea, soda, energy drinks, and some herbal remedies. Too much caffeine keeps your engines revved, which eventually makes you more tired, not less.

Alcohol is another beverage that can get in the way of a good night’s sleep. A drink before bedtime may make you more sleepy at first but will keep you from a deep sleep later in the night.

You may also need to drink more water. Even mild dehydration can make you feel tired. Remember, you may need to drink even more water after exercise, on a hot day, or when taking certain medicines.1

Exercise more

When you are feeling tired, exercise may come last on your list of things to do. However, exercise can give you a much-needed energy boost. Regular exercise makes you feel less tired by increasing your body temperature and getting the blood flowing.

If you have not been exercising at all, start small. Try one 15-minute walk each day. Slowly build up to 150 minutes of exercise a week, if this is what your doctor recommends. Walking, biking, or swimming are all good choices.1

Improve sleep habits

Practicing what doctors call good sleep hygiene can go a long way to improving fatigue. Modern living tends to undermine good sleep habits, so even simple changes can make a big difference in how well you sleep. Some common suggestions include:2,3

  • Set aside enough time to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night
  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time 7 days a week
  • Limit naps
  • Take time to relax without screens for the last hour or 2 before bed
  • Make the bedroom quiet, comfortable, and dark

Reduce stress

Stress eats your body’s energy, so any steps to reduce or manage stress can improve fatigue. Different people find different activities relax them or help them release negative energy, such as:

  • Working out
  • Relaxation or meditation
  • Listening to music
  • Reading a book
  • Participating in a hobby
  • Spending time with friends or family

You may also want to consider talking with a counselor or therapist if you feel like your fatigue is caused by stress, depression, or anxiety. Getting another perspective on your feelings can reduce the stress you feel, and eventually relieve the tiredness you feel.

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