PCOS Fatigue: Why Am I So Tired?

PCOS fatigue can significantly impact on all aspects of your life. In today’s fast-paced world, it’s not uncommon for people to feel fatigued, and to chalk it up to simply working too many hours and sleeping too little. Those suffering from PCOS may feel particularly more fatigued due to insulin resistance (resistant cells prevent glucose from supplying adequate energy). But what if you are not just a little tired but exhausted? All. The. Time. While minor lifestyle changes can boost your energy, sometimes there may be more serious underlying conditions that are draining you.

Here are some surprising reasons you may suffer from PCOS fatigue and what you can do about it.

Lack of Sleep

Obviously, the first sign that you are zapped of energy could be that you aren’t getting enough sleep. Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep nightly. Research shows that women with PCOS experience more sleep disorders and trouble sleeping which can cause PCOS fatigue. Over time, this sleep deficit can lead to chronic fatigue.

A wind down routine each night can help prepare your body for sleep. Going to bed and waking up at the same time can also help with consistency. Try not to spend too much time in your bed other than at bedtime. Sleep experts warn that the bed should only be used for two things: sleep and sex. If you can’t fall asleep, here are tips to help you.

Unbalanced Plate

Eating a diet high in refined carbohydrates and simple sugars will cause your blood sugar and insulin levels to skyrocket and then crash, leaving you ready for a nap. Start the day with a meal that contains at least 14 grams of protein (eggs or Greek yogurt are two good ones). Swap refined carbs for whole grain ones (try quinoa, faro, or oats) that won’t send your blood sugar into orbit. Don’t forget to add some fat for extra blood sugar stability. A great example is a breakfast sandwich of sprouted grain bread, egg, cheese and turkey sausage.

Skipping meals will also lead to to PCOS fatigue due to blood sugar dips. Eating regular balanced meals (fiber, protein and fat) can help reduce PCOS fatigue.

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Studies show that even mild dehydration can result in significant dips in energy levels. You need 6 to 8 cups of fluid each day for proper hydration (yes, this includes caffeinated coffee and tea) so drink up!

Lack of Exercise

Even if you are tired, exercising can give you more energy thanks to the secretion of feel good chemicals called endorphins. One study found that just 20 minutes of low-intensity aerobic activity three times per week decreased subjects’ feelings of fatigue by 65 percent. Wondering what exercise is best? Do what you most enjoy. Both weight training and high intensity exercises are good for PCOS and will lessen fatigue.

Underlying Medical Conditions

One of the most common causes of PCOS fatigue can be from having nutrient deficiencies or underlying medical conditions.

Vitamin D deficiency and fatigue

Having low levels of vitamin D can contribute to PCOS fatigue. Vitamin D is the only vitamin that’s also a hormone. As a hormone, there are vitamin D receptors on the cells and tissues in our bodies. Vitamin D receptors have been found on eggs as well as immune cells. A deficiency of vitamin D can affect all the cells in our bodies causing them to not function optimally leading to PCOS fatigue.

Iron deficiency and fatigue
If you experience heavy monthly bleeding, don’t eat animal products, or are an intense exerciser, you may be deficient in iron. Since iron’s main role is to transport oxygen, not having enough will make you feel exhausted and out of breath, even with minor exertion. Discuss getting your levels checked with your doctor before supplementing your diet with extra iron.

Thyroid disorders are common in PCOS and are often overlooked. When the thyroid doesn’t produce enough hormones it can cause PCOS fatigue. Ask your doctor for a full thyroid panel (TSH alone is not enough).

Adrenal fatigue

Anyone who suffers from adrenal fatigue, knows it’s real. Adrenals are a source of testosterone production (although not nearly as much as the ovaries). Tired adrenals can create a vicious cycle of fatigue that just won’t go away unless it’s addressed. Talk to your doctor about running blood tests that monitor your adrenal function.

Gluten sensitivity or Celiac disease
A hallmark feature of someone with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity is fatigue or “brain fog” after eating foods that contain gluten. It’s recommended to be checked for celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder, before adopting a gluten-free diet, which can mask symptoms and prevent an accurate diagnosis.

Vitamin B12 deficiency
If you take birth control pills or metformin or eat a vegan diet, you may be deficient in Vitamin B12. A deficiency in B12 not only causes chronic fatigue, but permanent nerve damage. Ask your doctor to check your B12 levels annually. If you do take metformin, supplement with a vitamin B12 supplement or get a multivitamin that has vitamin b12.

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Depression and fatigue are a vicious cycle with each fueling each other. Being depressed can be like living in a constant fog. Lack of motivation and sleep disturbances can contribute to depression. Engaging in regular exercise can help boost mood. If you feel you are depressed, we recommend seeking treatment from a mental health expert.

Sleep apnea
Several studies have shown that women with PCOS suffer from a much higher rate of obstructive sleep apnea, a disorder that causes your airway to be narrowed or blocked. Even if you do get a sufficient amount of sleep, if you’re not oxygenating well, you won’t feel rested. Signs and symptoms of sleep apnea include snoring, frequent waking, and choking for air.

If any of this sounds like you, please contact your health care provider for treatment.

Are you constantly tired and feel one of these situations applies to you? Did you recover from PCOS fatigue and if so, how? Share with us by commenting below.

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Comments (4)
  • Ashley Howard

    May 31, 2016 at 8:55 pm

    I am headed back to the doc! I take the inositol provided by your website and I take 200mg VITEX daily but I’m so fatigued everyday and do not currently suffer from any depression! I think the iron deficiency thing could be very real for methough due to heavy periods! Back to the doc I go for an entire blood panel! Thanks for these articles daily!

  • Angela Grassi

    June 1, 2016 at 7:49 am

    Heavy periods can definitely be a cause. Here’s an article about heavy periods and iron loss: http://www.pcosnutrition.com/pcos-periods-and-iron-loss/

  • Shannon

    July 18, 2016 at 5:01 pm

    Don’t forget about the adrenals. Tired adrenals can create a vicious cycle of fatigue that just won’t go away unless it’s addressed.

  • Alina smith

    June 2, 2018 at 2:17 am

    Nice article its very helpfull thanks for sharing

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