Diabetes and Fatigue

What causes diabetes fatigue?

Melanie's story is not unique. She is tired all the time. Her eyes open in the morning and she is ready to fall asleep again. Sometimes Melanie even starts dozing off while standing around her kitchen and living room, or while sitting down with a book. Fatigue can take its toll on any diabetic. It impacts time spent with family and friends.

It can impact your work performance. Fatigue can even be dangerous, for example, while operating a car. Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of people with diabetes. And it is a symptom that can impact your entire life.

Can diabetes cause extreme fatigue?

If you feel exhausted and tired all the time, despite the amount of sleep or food you have, the possible reason for that can be type 2 diabetes.

People with type 2 diabetes are about ten times more likely to experience weakness, exhaustion, and fatigue. According to a recent study that compared people living with diabetes and those without the chronic condition. Glucose is a major source of energy for all cells in our body cells, tissues, and organs. Especially the brain.

A person with type 2 diabetes does not respond normally to the insulin produced by the body. As a result, glucose has a harder time getting into cells and doing its job of supplying energy. This is resulting in cells having less energy to function properly. As a consequence, a person develops generalized fatigue.

Now, this is not the end of the story. Chronic fatigue in type 2 diabetes is typically multi-factorial.  Stress, depression, increased body mass index (BMI), and a lack of exercise can all be contributors to fatigue in people with type 2 diabetes. It affects insulin's ability to deliver glucose from the bloodstream into tissues, such as those in the heart, brain, and muscles.

Meanwhile, many people with type 2 diabetes also have coexisting problems and conditions. Heart disease, kidney damage, and depression; all can further increase fatigue. Many hypertension medications are known to cause fatigue.

RELATED: Life Challenges- Diabetes

What does diabetes fatigue feel like?

Many people with diabetes experience feelings of exhaustion, lethargy, or fatigue from time to time. It could be caused by stress, hard work, or a lack of a decent night’s sleep. But it could also be linked to having too high or too low blood glucose levels. Chronic fatigue, particularly tiredness after meals, is one of the common symptoms of diabetes.

Fatigue manifests itself in the following ways:

  • Physical or mental lack of energy;
  • Difficulty in performing basic daily tasks;
  • Apathy;
  • Feeling run down;
  • Depression or mental fatigue.

Diabetes and Fatigue

Why does diabetes cause fatigue?

As we mentioned before there are various reasons why diabetics feel tired all the time. Let's explore the correlation between diabetes and fatigue in more detail.

Your blood sugar levels are not in the healthy range.

When your blood sugar is too high, it affects how your body burns glucose for energy. Unless you are on some specialized diet, sugar is your body’s primary fuel source. If you are primed to use it. Once we get sugar from food, the pancreas releases insulin. Opening the cells to absorb the sugar for usable energy. 

However, if your cells do not respond properly to the insulin, the sugar will not absorb into your cells. Instead, it stays in your bloodstream. When your cells cannot get the sugar, they are starved for energy. If you have no energy, you feel tired and fatigued. High blood sugar also leads to another reason for fatigue.

Slow Blood Circulation

High blood sugar thickens your blood, which slows down blood flow. Slow blood flow means your body can get very limited amounts of oxygen and nutrients. Which are crucial to maintaining healthy energy levels. 

This is the reason why you feel groggy when you wake up in the morning and why you easily fall asleep in the afternoon. It is also why so many people struggle with getting the energy to do their everyday work.


Stress is our body’s response to a threat or challenge. Anytime we are challenged, stress kicks in. The stress response is sometimes called the “fight-or-flight” response. The historical function of it was to enable our bodies to fight or run away from danger.

Stress does this by raising our blood sugar levels and increasing insulin resistance. It also increases blood clotting and boosts our heart rate and blood pressure, allowing us to run faster. Stress will make us extremely tired by increasing insulin resistance. Long-term stress is extremely harmful to our health and wellness.


Diabetes may have a negative effect on a person's mental and emotional health. People with diabetes are two to three times more likely to experience depression, according to a 2016 study.

In general, many of the symptoms of depression are linked to fatigue. Including sleep disturbances, energy loss and waking too early, or being unable to return to sleep.

RELATED: Diabetes and depression. What's the link?


Anemia is a common complication of diabetes. Tiredness, pale skin, shortness of breath, and rough, damaged hair and skin are all signs and symptoms of anemia.

Increased body mass

The foundation of good health is healthy lifestyle habits. Regular exercise, proper diet, and weight management are among them.

Such habits will make you feel more energized while still keeping your blood sugar in check. According to a 2012 study, a high body mass index (BMI) score and fatigue in women with type 2 diabetes were directly linked.


When you start taking metformin, your doctor will check for symptoms of anemia. People with a certain type of anemia are more likely to have lower vitamin B12 levels using metformin. Which could lead to symptoms like fatigue, weakness, dizziness, and nerve pain.


People with diabetes have poor sleep quality. Many reasons can cause. Including frequent urination, hypertension, medication, and others. Insomnia is leading to fatigue and tiredness during the next day.

What can a diabetic drink for energy? How do I feel energized?

Diabetics should exercise every day, eat a balanced and healthy diet, and drink plenty of water to keep a high level of energy.

To help keep your glucose level at a healthy range, doctors recommend that you exercise a minimum of 2.5 hours a week, or 30 minutes every day. Some diabetics enjoy yoga, others love aerobics. Even doing strength training can be beneficial. You need to find an activity you love so that you feel motivated to keep doing it.

Tips to help if you are experiencing chronic fatigue and diabetes

Fatigue is a medical term for severe tiredness and exhaustion that does not go away with rest or sleep. It can be one of the symptoms of diabetes. When diabetes and exhaustion are treated as a whole, rather than as individual ailments, the results are the best. Healthy lifestyle habits, social support, and mental health programs can also improve diabetes and fatigue.

Treating diabetes and fatigue

Talk to your health care provider about ways you can manage both diabetes and fatigue. With a few changes, your fatigue may improve. Make sure to:

  • Take proper care of your mental health;
  • Consider making healthier lifestyle changes;
  • Build your social support network.

Researchers discovered that help from family and other networks reduced diabetes-related fatigue. Read about it in this study.

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Diabetes and Fatigue