ZocdocAnswersWhat causes psychological fatigue?

Question

What causes psychological fatigue?

My wife is 49 and has a real problem with fatigue. Around 2 pm she seems to just run out of steam, and she doesn't usually recuperate until night time, if at all. Is this the symptom of disease? I worry about her when she spends all day on the couch.

Answer

Fatigue is a common problem and is characterized by a sense of complete exhaustion, weariness, or lack or energy and motivation. It is common to feel a drop in energy around two o'clock in the afternoon due to circadian rhythms (your body's internal clock that controls sleep/wake cycles). This is why many foreign countries take a "siesta" or nap during this time. However, for most people, this dip in energy is temporary and they are able to continue on with their day. It sounds like this "running out of steam" is more severe in your wife's case. Fatigue is a common symptom for various diseases but does not indicate disease by itself. It is very important for your wife to be seen by her primary care provider to discuss her fatigue and have a full examination. Depending on the severity of the fatigue her doctor may order follow up tests. Some possible explanations for fatigue include depression, anemia (low blood count), sleep disorders such as insomnia, and hypothyroidism. If no medical cause is found for her fatigue there are some tactics to try to improve her afternoon period of tiredness. Make sure she is getting a good night of sleep, have a lighter lunch that has plenty of protein, go for a brisk walk around 2pm, or have a small amount of caffeine around this time.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.