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5 reasons older adults might be feeling more tired

1st February 2018

Quality sleep is important for everybody, but it can be particularly elusive for older adults and this can be for a number of reasons. Feeling awake throughout the day is important for a lot of reasons, whether people need to be productive and cannot achieve this due to feeling too tired, or because being tired is hampering their body and mobility, making it more likely that they will trip and fall. For those already reliant on mobility aids and have a curved stairlift in their home, being awake to manoeuvre the equipment is important for safety reasons. Find out below what could be causing tiredness.



People may be feeling tired due to undiagnosed anaemia. There are many different types of anaemia, but the most common in the UK is due to an iron deficiency. One of the most obvious symptoms of iron deficiency anaemia is tiredness, coupled with shortness of breath and a paler complexion. Stop Being Tired explains why anaemia makes you feel tired:

“The explanation for why anaemia makes you so tired is simple. As noted previously, the reduction in the amount of iron in your body leaves a deficiency of the very component needed for the formation of the haemoglobin necessary for healthy red blood cells. Since haemoglobin transports oxygen to the body’s cells, any reduction in the haemoglobin count will result in less oxygen being delivered.”

“That, in turn, leaves less oxygen available for the mitochondrial energy factories within those cells to use as they convert the carbohydrates, proteins, and fats you eat into the ATP (adenosine triphosphate) your body uses as energy. This is where fatigue comes in.”

If someone is suffering with symptoms, then seeking professional advice is the first step. Increasing a person’s iron intake is necessary for overcoming the symptoms and treating iron deficiency anaemia. Diet is key to increasing a person’s iron intake and food that is rich in iron includes red meat, dark green leafy vegetables, dried fruits and nuts.



One of the most common symptoms of depression is tiredness or fatigue and it can be hard to identify the root issue, with people focusing on their tiredness as opposed to what is causing it. The emotional energy expunged in depression is a factor towards the fatigue but bedrooms are often a place of comfort and leaving them can cause anxiety.

Beyond Blue is a company that provides information and support to help those in Australia achieve their best mental health. They feel that older adults may display the physical characteristics of depression: “Older people with depression tend to present with more symptoms from the physical category compared to the other categories. So an older person is more likely to present to their GP with various physical complaints and difficulty sleeping rather than complaints of sadness or low mood.”

If a person is concerned that they are struggling with depression, seeking medical advice should be the first port of call. Staying active both physically and socially aids towards staying positive. There are lots of charities that are focussed on helping older adults who are suffering with mental health.


Poor nutrition

Poor nutrition is a large factor towards tiredness in older adults. Often eating overly processed foods that are high in sugar and refined carbohydrates can cause a spike in blood sugar levels. Body and Soul describe the process:

“Excessive secretion of insulin, which is the body's way of trying to balance blood sugar levels, causes tryptophan to move into the brain, where it is metabolised into serotonin and melatonin. These neurotransmitters have a calming effect and help regulate sleep. To help balance blood sugar and insulin levels, choose natural foods that are high in fibre and protein such as whole grains, legumes and nuts.”

Another area that can cause tiredness is intolerances. If a person’s body is unable to process gluten or lactose it can cause negative effects on the body, like bloating or tiredness. The best way to alter a diet in a positive manner is through eating more fresh produce and avoiding processed foods. Fresh fruit and veg, avoiding starchy carbohydrates will leave people with more energy and improve their productivity.


Side effects of medication

As people get older taking medication is very common for one ailment or another. However, some side effects can cause fatigue and tiredness. Fatigue is one of the most common side effects of prescription and over the counter medicines. Allergy medications and antihistamines are often the cause of tiredness as do some anxiety and depression medications. Blood pressure medication is another common cause of tiredness and is also prevalent among older adults. Some pain medications (based on opioids) are also a cause of tiredness in older adults.

For those who recognise their fatigue may be caused by medication, checking with a GP to see if that medication could be the source. If this is the case, looking into alternative medication may be a possibility. If this is not the case, talking to a GP about preserving a person’s energy and finding ways to boost it may be the only alternative. 


Poor quality of sleep

Broken sleep or poor quality sleep is often a clear reason for tiredness during the day. There are lots of reasons why sleep could be broken, some of them are environmental such as light pollution, noise, temperature, or sometimes it is personal, like pain.

Ensuring the environment is perfect for restful sleep is the beginning of improving the quality of rest. Black-out blinds are the best way to remove any light pollution to keep a person awake. Noise is less easy to block out, but removing technology that will beep and emit noise and charging electronic devices outside of the bedroom is a good way to ensure sleep is not disturbed.

Bedsheets made from natural materials such as pure cotton is a good way to make sure people will not feel too warm during the night as it is a naturally breathable material. For those looking to explore ways to make their environment more restful, check out the article ‘Tips for getting a great night’s sleep in hot weather’.


Image Credit: Sabinevanerpkgberline-Magine Art 

This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.