I feel tired

In brief

In brief

  • Good sleep habits help against tiredness. These include:
    • Not drinking any coffee (caffeine) or alcohol in the evening.
    • Switching off the TV, smartphone and tablet an hour before going to sleep.
  • Taking good care of yourself helps too.
    • Maintain a healthy diet. Choose mainly wholegrain products, pulses, vegetables, fruit, nuts and fish. 
    • Get enough exercise every day.
    • Try to solve problems actively.
  • Do you have any other symptoms? See your general practitioner
  • Dutch healthcare practices in general may differ from what you are used to in your home country. Learn more.
New to the Netherlands

New to the Netherlands?

Moving to a new country with your family can be exciting. It can involve a new challenge, a change of scene, and perhaps a new job. But adjusting to a foreign language and a different culture can take more time and effort than you might expect. This can leave you feeling sad, lonely and left out. It can lead to anxiety and depression. It may also bring on eating disorders and addictions or make them worse. Dutch GPs take these matters seriously. They are trained to help you cope with them, and also with other mental health issues that are not related to your move. If necessary, the GP will refer you to specialized mental healthcare.

Normal sleep

What is normal sleep?

Sleep is important for your health. Your body and mind need several hours of sleep regularly in order to recover and relax.

  • Not everyone needs 8 hours of sleep. Some people sleep 6 hours a night, and others sleep 10 hours a night. Teenagers sleep an average of 9 hours a night.
  • How long it takes to fall asleep (often 10 to 20 minutes) also varies from one person to another.
  • Waking up now and then is normal, especially early in the morning.
  • Older people generally sleep shorter and not as deep. This is part of ageing.
  • Even if you often lie awake, you have often slept longer than you think.
  • Not getting much sleep now and then is nothing to worry about.

If you feel reasonably fit during the day, you are clearly getting enough rest.

What is it?

What is tiredness

Everyone feels tired sometimes. You could describe tiredness as a lack of energy. You can no longer do what you would like or need to do. You don’t feel as fit as you could normally be. Being active, exercising, talking; if you’re exhausted everything becomes more difficult. The only thing you want to do is sleep.

About a quarter of the Dutch population suffers from tiredness, women more often than men. Young people are more often tired than people over 50 years old, and parents of young children are also often exhausted.

When you are tired, for example after a late night party or a night shift, you usually feel better after getting 1 or 2 nights of good sleep.

If you have been tired for a long time, and it strongly affects your daily life, then tiredness really is a problem.


What causes tiredness?

Tiredness is usually caused by sleep problems (in Dutch).

But psychological or physical causes are also possible.
Psychological causes have to do with how you feel and what you think about.
Physical causes have to do with what you feel in your body (itching, pain) and all sorts of diseases. 

Possible symptoms

What are the symptoms of tiredness?

Symptoms of tiredness are:

  • looking pale, dark circles under the eyes
  • regularly yawning and rubbing the eyes
  • feeling sluggish and lacking energy
  • dozing off or falling asleep now and then

You probably have difficulty concentrating. During a conversation, you don’t hear everything the other person says, and you have trouble paying attention. For example, in traffic or at work. 

Other symptoms are:

  • easily getting irritated, angry, upset or in tears
  • not wanting to do anything
  • headache
  • dizziness or spinning
  • tripping or dropping things more easily
Psychological causes

What are the psychological causes of tiredness?

Psychological causes of tiredness have to do with how you feel or what you are thinking about. For example:

At home and at work

  • Problems at home or at work can make it more difficult for you to relax. You feel stressed and might spend the whole day worrying. Feeling tense all day is very tiring. Arguing can make the tension even worse. At night, you can’t stop thinking about your problems. You therefore don’t sleep well and you become even more tired.
  • You work hard and don’t get enough rest. You keep on going, go to bed late and get up very early again. Working hard isn’t bad, but sometimes it can be too much and lead to extreme tiredness.
  • The problems, tiredness and tension can get so bad that you feel overstressed. An important characteristic of being overstressed is extreme tiredness.
  • Although you might not think it, even passive activities, such as watching television and playing computer games, can be very tiring.

Major events

  • You are moving or renovating your house, for example. You have a serious leak in your home and at the same time the boiler breaks down in the winter. This costs a lot of money and you can’t pay it all at once. These are all reasons to become very tired.
  • Losing a loved one and the sadness and all of the feelings that go with it can be exhausting.


  • Tiredness and feeling listless are important characteristics of depression. People who are depressed sometimes want to spend the whole day in bed. They’re often still tired when they get out of bed.

Anxiety and panic

When you are constantly anxious or have a panic disorder, fear and panic can take over your life. This can make you feel completely exhausted.

Physical causes

What are the physical causes of tiredness?

Physical causes of tiredness have to do with your lifestyle. How much you exercise, how much and what you eat, and smoking, drinking alcohol and using drugs all affect  your physical condition, and therefore determine whether you feel tired. In addition, almost all diseases cause tiredness.

Major physical causes of tiredness are:

Physical condition

  • The less you exercise, the worse your physical condition is. You are then more likely to be tired regularly.
  • People who maintain an unhealthy diet (fatty meat, fried food, mayonnaise, sweets, not enough fruit and vegetables) are more likely to be tired regularly.
  • People who are overweight are more likely to be tired.
  • People who hardly eat anything and are very skinny are also more likely to be tired.

Smoking, alcohol and drugs

  • Smoking reduces blood flow to all of your tissues and organs. It also releases toxic substances into the blood. People who smoke a lot and for a long time are often very tired.
  • People who drink more than 1 or 2 glasses of alcohol a day can be very tired. People who drink a lot of alcohol also don’t sleep well. They often fall asleep easily, but wake up very early and then can’t get back to sleep.
  • Drugs, such as cannabis, ecstasy and cocaine, can cause tiredness. This tiredness can occur immediately after use, and also from long-term use.


  • Various medications can cause tiredness. For example, allergy medications (antihistamines). Medications to treat cancer (chemotherapy) can cause extreme tiredness and exhaustion.


  • Especially women who have heavy menstrual periods can become anaemic from losing a lot of blood. They then have too little iron in their blood. This means that the red blood cells cannot bring enough oxygen to your tissues, which can make you very tired.


  • Long-term pain can exhaust you completely. This is caused not only by the pain itself, but also because the pain keeps you awake at night.

Heart and lungs

  • A disorder that affects your heart or lungs will usually make you very tired. Examples are a heart attack or a lung infection (pneumonia) (in Dutch), heart failure (reduced pumping function), and shortness of breath due to asthma or COPD (in Dutch).

Chronic diseases

  • Tiredness also affects people with chronic diseases, such as diabetes mellitus (in Dutch) and bowel diseases (Crohn’s disease or colitis). People who have had a stroke (in Dutch) can also remain tired for a long time.


  • Severe tiredness is one of the main characteristics of cancer. It is often accompanied by loss of appetite and weight loss.

Chronic fatigue syndrome

  • Chronic fatigue syndrome (in Dutch) means that someone is extremely tired for more than 6 months in a row, for no apparent reason.

Sleep apnoea

  • Sleep apnoea (in Dutch) means ‘not breathing’ while you sleep. Breathing stops for at least 10 seconds a few times an hour. You are tired or sleepy during the day.

What can you do about your tiredness yourself?

Try to give up habits that can cause tiredness. In general, this means:

  • Quit smoking if you smoke (in Dutch).
  • Drink as little alcohol as possible, or preferably no alcohol (in Dutch) at all until your tiredness is over.
  • Try to quit using drugs if you use drugs.
  • Try to lose weight if you are overweight (in Dutch).
  • Maintain a healthy diet (in Dutch).
  • Try to exercise actively for half an hour at least 5 times a week (in Dutch). It doesn’t matter whether you exercise for half an hour a day, 15 minutes twice a day or 10 minutes three times a day. Examples of active exercise are a brisk walk, cycling to the shops or to work, intensive housework such as washing windows or gardening.
  • Try to resolve problems at home (in Dutch) or at work. Talk about things and don’t keep your problems to yourself for too long. If you are overstressed (in Dutch), take time to rest and then try to start working again gradually. Make agreements about your tasks and pace of work.
  • Take short breaks regularly during your work. Go for a walk at lunchtime. Try not to take work home with you on weekends. Do things you enjoy which don’t have anything to do with work.
  • If you are overstressed (in Dutch), have anxiety or depression (in Dutch), it is good to talk to your family doctor, the mental health practice nurse (praktijkondersteuner GGZ) or a psychologist. Your family doctor can give you advice on this. More information can be found in the topic Psychological Symptoms (in Dutch). 
  • Join a sports club.
  • Spend as little time as possible watching TV or sitting at the computer and put your mobile phone away more often.
When to call

When should I call my doctor for tiredness?

See your family doctor if your tiredness is accompanied by:

  • long-term coughing
  • loss of appetite
  • weight loss
  • pain
  • depression
  • drowsiness or
  • confusion

Also make an appointment if the tiredness lasts 3 months without any clear cause.

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