Living with diabetes can be tiring, not just from actual diabetes symptoms but also from managing the condition in general. These simple steps can help fight fatigue from diabetes and boost energy.
No, it’s not your imagination: Taking care of yourself when you have type 2 diabetes can be exhausting. Diabetes-related fatigue is common, and you may be feeling it from a variety of sources — your diabetes symptoms themselves, exhaustion from the responsibilities of managing diabetes daily, ineffective diabetes management, or even from other underlying conditions.
Understanding Fatigue from Diabetes
There are strong associations between diabetes and testosterone levels, kidney disease, and other health complications, all of which can cause you to become very tired, says Ronald Tamler, MD, director of the Mount Sinai Diabetes Center and associate professor of medicine, endocrinology, diabetes, and bone disease at the Icahn School of Medicine, both in New York City.
There’s also a link between diabetes and depression, he adds, and depression is a common cause of extreme fatigue.
Brett Ives, NP, CDE, a nurse practitioner and certified diabetes educator at the Mount Sinai Diabetes Center also notes that if you have diabetes, you’re twice as likely to be depressed, and depression can cause overwhelming exhaustion.
“There’s a link between diabetes, fatigue, and depression, but the underlying causes aren’t yet understood,” Ives says, adding that if you feel depressed and exhausted, you probably need extra care because as long as you’re depressed, no amount of diabetes management will help you feel less tired.
Other causes of fatigue from diabetes include cells being deprived of sugar, high blood sugar, dehydration from increased urination, loss of calories, and sleep apnea. Graham McMahon, MD, an endocrinologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and an associate professor in the department of endocrinology, diabetes and hypertension at Harvard Medical School, says that high blood pressure, nerve damage, and other underlying physical conditions can be a direct cause of exhaustion.
Pinpointing a Cause of Fatigue
“Don’t take fatigue for granted,” Dr. McMahon says. “It needs to be investigated.” Some people may need to undergo a sleep study for possible sleep apnea, while others should be tested for anemia, and still others may need to be treated for stress and depression.
Reasons you may be tired from diabetes can be more subtle than you might think. If you’re not getting the energy you need from food or you’re skipping meals, you’ll be tired. If you’re overweight, you may be at risk for sleep apnea, which causes poor-quality sleep that can deplete your energy. These problems can also make diabetes symptoms worse.
Being tired from diabetes is a serious barrier to being active, taking good care of oneself, and properly using medication to stabilize your blood sugar levels. The good news, though, is that a lack of energy doesn’t have to be a permanent way of life. “With a healthy diet, weight loss, and exercise, many people who thought they were destined to be tired all the time can break the cycle and boost their energy,” Ives says.
Boost Energy: How to Reduce Diabetes-Related Fatigue
Following these tips to help boost energy may go a long way toward improving your diabetes symptoms and your quality of life:
• Be sure to see your doctor regularly.
• Eat a healthy, nutritious diet and don’t skip meals.
• Move more. Exercise boosts energy and helps you lose or maintain a healthy weight.
• Keep blood sugar levels in control.
• Sleep is critical, so get 7 to 8 hours a night and never less than 6 hours.
• If you’re depressed, get treatment.
• If you’re stressed, ask your doctor for ways to manage it.
• If you think you may have sleep apnea or other sleep problems, seek treatment.
From Diabetes-Related Fatigue to Healthy Living
Because of the great amount of management it takes to live a healthy life with type 2 diabetes symptoms, you’re likely to experience a lack of energy at times. The more complex your diabetes, the more you’ll need to do to keep your blood sugar levels in normal range. And the more work you have to do to control blood sugar levels, the more tired you’ll likely become.
But as you continue to become more educated about diabetes, with as much support as you can get from family and friends, you’ll begin to adjust to eating better, exercising more, sleeping better, and keeping your blood sugar levels in check. Once you’ve made the choice to be healthier, you’ll find yourself less fatigued and more energized.