Fatigue is one of the most frequently experienced symptoms of menopause, with up to 80% of women reporting this experience at one time or another. Difficult to pinpoint and sneaky in its effects, fatigue can make this already tumultuous phase even harder to deal with, by making women irritable and unable to concentrate.
Primarily caused by the hormonal changes that come along with menopause, fatigue can be exacerbated by illnesses, other menopausal symptoms, behavior, or lifestyle. By understanding more about the causes and effects of fatigue, it is possible to overcome it.
What is fatigue?
In order to understand what fatigue is, it’s helpful to outline the signs and symptoms of fatigue during menopause.
Fatigue is defined as an ongoing and persistent feeling of weakness, tiredness, and lowered energy levels. This should be distinguished from drowsiness, which implies an actual urge to sleep. Fatigue involves a lack of energy rather than sleepiness.
Another distinction that must be made is that between fatigue as a symptom of menopause and chronic fatigue syndrome, which is a more serious and complicated disorder. Chronic fatigue syndrome includes periods of extreme fatigue that do not improve with bed rest, may worsen with physical or mental activity, and is often tied to other illnesses.
This symptom can be distinguished by a variety of mental and physical characteristics. Often these symptoms can be experienced in tandem. A woman undergoing menopause might feel a lag in energy levels that lasts all day, or experience shorter bursts of fatigue intermittently.
Fatigue is particularly frustrating as it has a duel effect on both mind and body, making the completion of normal tasks difficult if not impossible.
What causes fatigue during menopause?
For women undergoing the menopausal transition, the most likely cause of fatigue is the fluctuation of hormones that occurs naturally during this time. Hormones are responsible for controlling energy at the cellular level, thus, when levels of oestrogen and progesterone decrease, so do energy levels.
Hormones also play a role in regulating the sleep cycle. These fluctuations also affect a woman’s ability to get a good night of rest, leading to fatigue in the morning.
Other hormones that are involved in this process include the thyroid and adrenal hormones, as well as melatonin. They all work at the cellular level to regulate energy levels, which means when the hormone levels naturally decrease during menopause, so do a woman’s energy levels. This is what leads to the feeling of persistent fatigue.
While most middle aged women experiencing fatigue as a result of the hormonal changes that occur naturally during this time period, there are certain other, less common conditions such as thyroid disorders or depression, that are liable to cause fatigue as well.
Other causes of fatigue
- Adrenal fatigue
- Thyroid dysfunction
- Sleep disorders
- Psychological illness
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Sleep apnea
- Heart disease
Risk factors for fatigue
- Poor diet
- Sedentary lifestyle