Fatigue can be a very challenging symptom to deal with when living with Alzheimer’s disease. It occurs in many forms, including mental fatigue, physical fatigue, and overall tiredness. Although you might have heard about dementia fatigue before, you may still have questions about what it is, how it feels, and what you can do to lessen its impact on your life. Read on to learn how you can manage it more effectively.
What Causes Dementia Fatigue for People with Alzheimer’s Disease?
Depression is a common symptom of dementia, and, in some cases, it may be a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease. Depression can cause fatigue and limit mental function; feeling depressed also adds stress to your brain and body, which takes energy to recover from. Many people turn to antidepressants or talk therapy to treat depression caused by dementia; even supplements may help ease depressive symptoms. If you suspect you’re experiencing depression due to dementia-related changes in your brain function, check in with your doctor right away so they can help you feel better.
- Sleep Problems
Sleep problems are another common cause of dementia fatigue. According to some studies, anywhere from 60% to 80% of people living with Alzheimer’s disease experience disturbances in their sleep cycle. Even if you aren’t experiencing any issues sleeping during your day but are still feeling very tired, it may be time to get checked out by a doctor. If they determine that you’re suffering from dementia fatigue, several options are available to help you get better sleep at night. When life gets stressful or anxiety-provoking, our brains naturally begin pumping out cortisol and adrenaline—fight or flight hormones designed to keep us alive in extreme situations.
Some drugs can cause insomnia, which can trigger feelings of depression. Antidepressants are particularly notorious for triggering fatigue. If you are having trouble sleeping due to medication side effects, talk to your doctor about it; many medications can be adjusted or changed altogether
- Poor Nutrition
There are numerous ways poor nutrition can contribute to dementia fatigue, including dehydration. If you suffer from dementia fatigue, it’s important to look into your diet and make sure you aren’t consuming too much sugar or caffeine, which can lead to dehydration. Other nutritional deficiencies may also play a role in dementia fatigue. For example, if you don’t consume enough B vitamins, you may develop mouth sores that leave you feeling weary of eating and drinking.
Having an underactive thyroid gland—also known as hypothyroidism—can cause feelings of exhaustion, even when you get plenty of sleep. For example, if your thyroid is sluggish, it might not produce enough hormones to keep you alert and energized throughout the day. While depression can also trigger fatigue (due to low levels of dopamine and norepinephrine), fatigue is a key symptom that your body isn’t producing enough energy-producing thyroid hormones. Thyroid hormone replacement therapy can help manage your fatigue. If you feel tired all day long without any other symptoms (like weight gain or loss, constipation, muscle weakness, or excessive sweating), ask your doctor about getting tested for hypothyroidism.