Normal Aging and Fatigue – What Older Adults Must Know

normal aging and fatigue | princeton nutrients

Normal aging and fatigue seem to go hand-in-hand. Our energy levels just aren’t what they used to be.

You can try to do the right things, such as getting a good night’s sleep, partake in physical activity, and eat a well-balanced diet, but sometimes it just doesn’t help.

If you’re getting older and feeling tired often, there might be something else going on. It might not just be a part of the aging process. For example, your lifestyle might be contributing to your fatigue. Identifying the type of sleep issues you are experiencing may help you and your doctor figure out what’s going on.

Why Am I Tired All the Time?

No matter what your age may be, you’re going to feel tired once in a while. Sometimes your lifestyle can contribute to your fatigue. You might not be getting enough sleep.

It could be that you’re simply staying up too late at night. Caffeine could also play a role. If you like to drink sodas or tea at night, that could keep you from getting a good night’s sleep. Eating candy and other types of junk food at night could also cause sleep problems.

normal aging and fatigue | princeton nutrients

Exercise can also play a role. Too much exercise can lead to fatigue and shortness of breath as well as muscle damage.1

Is Adrenal Fatigue a Real Thing?

Are you worried about money? Is a loved one going through a crisis? Are you worried about your health in the future? High-levels of stress can also lead to feelings of fatigue and low energy.

Some people consider stress-related fatigue to be a symptom of what is known as adrenal fatigue.

Adrenal fatigue may occur when stress causes the adrenal glands to become exhausted and unable to produce an adequate level of hormones.

Adrenal fatigue can be a result of people dealing with continual physical, emotional or mental stress.

Possible symptoms include difficulty sleeping, craving salt and sugar, and constant tiredness.

normal aging and fatigue | princeton nutrientsThere is no proof that adrenal fatigue can be considered a true medical condition, but the symptoms associated with it may be cause for concern.2

Be sure to consult with your doctor if you have reason to believe you are experiencing unusual levels of exhaustion, low energy, or fatigue.

Health Problems and Fatigue

Fatigue is one of the common symptoms associated with a number of health problems. Let’s take a look at a few of these issues.

If you suspect you’re struggling with any of these issues, please see a doctor to come up with a plan of action targeted to your unique needs.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Chronic fatigue syndrome causes severe tiredness, and low moods. Chronic fatigue syndrome isn’t associated with any specific type of health issue.

Symptoms can last for six months or even longer. It can make even the easiest activity seem almost impossible to complete. In some cases, it can make it hard to just get out of bed.

You can get chronic fatigue syndrome at any age, but it usually hits between the ages of 40 and 60.

It’s one of the most common women’s health issues, but men can get it as well.

Symptoms sometimes come and go and can vary in intensity over time. They can get better for a while and then get worse.3Your doctor may be able to come up with a plan to address some of your symptoms.

normal aging and fatigue | princeton nutrients

Is There a Relationship Between Sleep Issues and Chronic Fatigue?

Chronic fatigue syndrome might be one of the highest risk factors of low-quality sleep. People with this issue typically suffer from sleep deprivation.

This can lead to problems with concentration, as well as physical discomfort.

Sleep disruption is one of the classic symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome. One study on chronic fatigue and sleep found over 50 percent of people experiencing chronic fatigue suffer from sleep issues.

People may sleep more often during the day. Their sleep may be non-restorative. This means they still experience sleepiness even after prolonged periods of sleep.

They will often have problems not only falling asleep but staying asleep.4,5

Unintentional Weight Loss and Fatigue

Unintentional weight loss combined with fatigue could signify major health problems. It’s defined as losing more than 5 percent of your body weight in a 6-12 month time period. Between 15 and 20 percent of older adults experience this issue.6

If you notice unintentional weight loss and fatigue, speak with your doctor immediately. They may be able to asses the cause behind your symptoms.

normal aging and fatigue | princeton nutrients

How Important is a Good Night’s Sleep for Older Adults?

No matter what your age, getting a good night’s sleep is critical for good health. It’s even more important as we age.

Older people tend to spend more time in lighter sleep (known as the REM (rapid eye movement) cycle) than deep sleep.

But the aging process can interfere with our normal sleep patterns making it harder to get to sleep.

Insomnia is also more common among older people. Half of the participants in a sleep-related survey reported they suffered from insomnia. In many instances, sleep issues can be a sign of underlying health problems. If you are having difficulty getting to sleep, talk to your doctor about options.7

Does the Aging Process Naturally Result in Sleepiness and Fatigue?

Everyone has an “internal clock” of sorts, known as the circadian rhythm. This 24-hour clock has a big impact on when you feel sleepy and when it’s time for you to wake up. It may also have an impact on your focus and your body’s metabolism.

As we get older, our circadian rhythm changes. This leads to changes in sleep patterns. The clock isn’t as consistent as it used to be. As a result, we sleep less as we get older. This causes sleepiness as well as fatigue during the day.8

How Can Older Adults Maintain High Energy Levels?

normal aging and fatigue | princeton nutrientsAs you get older, you don’t automatically have to assume you’ll be fatigued all day and experience a decreased mood.

It doesn’t mean you have to resign yourself to losing your zest for life. There are several things that can support healthy energy levels.

Vitamin D, for example, is critical for energy levels. Your doctor can let you know if you’re lacking in this vitamin.

He or she will also let you know what you can do to support your energy levels and may recommend taking a supplement.

Exercise is also important in order for you to feel as energetic as possible, for as long as possible. Just moving a few minutes each day could help maintain healthy energy levels. Talk to your doctor about the safest way to get into an exercise routine.9

Learn More:
6 Bad Habits That Are Disrupting Your Sleep
Can Going Camping Help You Get Better Sleep?
Sleep: Can It Be a Predictor of Heart Disease?

Sources
1 https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/fatigue-older-adults
2 https://www.hormone.org/diseases-and-conditions/adrenal-fatigue
3 https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/sleep-newzzz/201301/chronic-fatigue-syndrome-how-does-it-affect-sleep
4 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15669445
5 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC269990/
6 https://www.aafp.org/afp/2014/0501/p718.html
7 https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/aging-and-sleep
8 https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/how-age-affects-your-circadian-rhythm
9 https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/age-defying-energy-levels

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