“I feel so tired”, “I just can’t seem to get going”, “I appear to sleep all the time.” There are all kinds of phrases that we use, but there are times when we are genuinely physically and emotionally tired. There are all sorts of reasons why we feel listless and fatigued; stress and other emotional factors contribute to how we sleep and feel. There are also times when weather and other physical pressures play a part. GPs are at the coal face, if you like, of the nation’s health. They are the people that we swing on by and chat with when we feel unwell. Every health journey starts with them and thus, they have an overall picture of how well we feel, as a nation. In May 2015, there was a report published that startled the country; for every 5 visits made to a GP, the underlying reasons was fatigue and tiredness, GPs overwhelmingly agreed that this was down to dehydration.
But, what is this survey of GPs actually telling us?
Collectively, it seems, that just over 20% of all visits made to a GP in the UK are for reasons of tiredness and fatigue. There can be many reasons why we feel like this; anaemia, lack of red blood cells, is one common cause especially in certain groups of the population.
However, in this case, the GP survey is entirely clear why they think that as a nation, we are tired and listless – we are not drinking enough. In fact, from the study, it seems that in 12% of all these cases, the GP believed that dehydration was the underlying cause.
A welcome diagnosis
Patients on visiting the GP, often assume that the diagnosis will be earth-shattering and it seems that, in this case, being told that they are dehydrated is one such diagnosis – but for the wrong reasons. The survey shows that over half of the patients were surprised to be told that dehydration was the cause of their fatigue and that drinking more water would rapidly improve the situations. The symptoms of mild or early onset dehydration can be easy to miss and confuse with other conditions too. It is important, therefore, that anyone suffering from long term tiredness does visit their GP and not attempt to self-diagnose. However, poor concentration, along with fatigue and headaches are all common symptoms of dehydration. But, there is an issue with dehydration and fatigue, and GPs have been quick to spot it. Only 4% of GPs agreed strongly that their patients were aware of how to maintain their hydration levels. This is backed by a recent survey that found only 60% of the population drank more than one glass of water a day. Official NHS guidelines say that we should be drinking between 1.6 litres a day for women, and 2 litres a day for men but even these guidelines are not without their controversies. And with discussion and debate about the high levels of sugar we consume, along with the reported effects of artificial sweeteners is diet drinks, it could be that drinking water faces a much-needed resurgence.
Suggestions from GPs
- Drink enough water every day, around 8 to 10 glass and within the guidelines suggested by NHS Choices. Just as too little water has an effect on the body, too much water can also have adverse effects.
- Avoid sugar as these can cause energy dips and highs in the day, leaving us feeling tired
- Tiredness and fatigue can make us feel weak but, 20 to 30 minutes of gentle exercise can make us feel good about ourselves, as well as energise us – even a brisk walk round the block can work wonders!
- Sleep is important and getting the right amount is essential; cut down on caffeine intake before bed and take the TV out the bedroom to help you relax and unwind after a long day
- Eating well also contributes to the body feeling energised and the mind alert; start your day with breakfast and a healthy glug of water
- Alcohol also affects our mood; as a depressant, it can make us feel listless and fatigued, it also causes the body to dehydrate thus, if you don’t replace lost fluid, it can make your feel tired
Do you feel tired and listless? Have you considered that you could be dehydrated? Why not take a visit to your GP to get yourself checked out?