If you suspect you have low iron, ask your doctor for a blood test. Don't take iron supplements without the approval of your healthcare provider, since excess iron can be toxic. Also, don't discount the possibility of the sleepiness being connected to something else. For example, kidney and liver problems, a chronic infection, and diabetes can all contribute to fatigue.
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A serious iron deficiency can cause anemia. According to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, fatigue is a very common symptom of anemia. Different people will experience fatigue in different ways. Some might be too tired to exercise, while others might experience mental fatigue. Many will feel sleepy during the day, even if they slept well the night before. Other symptoms of anemia include dizziness, weakness and shortness of breath.
Low iron often occurs because of a dietary deficiency. Vegetarians are at a risk for low iron unless they eat a variety of iron-rich foods such as beans, iron-fortified cereals, green leafy vegetables and dry fruits. Blood loss, heavy menstrual periods and certain health issues such as celiac or Crohn’s disease, might affect your iron levels.
Treatment for Low Iron
Your doctor might recommend iron supplements to help normalize your iron levels. However, taking too much iron at once can be dangerous and cause symptoms such as low blood pressure, chills, dizziness and nausea. Liver damage and even coma are possible after very large dosages. This means you will need to take smaller amounts over a long period of time to normalize your iron levels. You can also eat foods that contain vitamin C, since this vitamin improves the absorption of iron. Foods rich in vitamin C include citrus fruits, red and orange fruits, and vegetables, especially the dark green kinds such as broccoli.
Dealing with the Sleepiness
Because it will take some time for iron supplements to make a difference, your sleepiness and fatigue might not go away immediately. To help you deal with it, try getting a consistent amount of sleep every night. Go to bed at about the same time and get eight to nine hours of sleep if possible. If you’re still tired during the day, take a couple of 10-minute naps to help you recharge. Lower your intake of caffeine, as this interferes with iron absorption. Skip alcohol and nicotine too if you can, as this can cause tiredness and interrupt sleep.
- National Heart Lung and Blood Institute: What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Iron-Deficiency Anemia?
- National Heart Lung and Blood Institute: What Causes Iron-Deficiency Anemia?
- National Heart Lung and Blood Institute:How Is Iron-Deficiency Anemia Treated?
- University of Maryland Medical Center; Fatigue: Treatment; David C. Dugdale, III, MD; August 2009
- MedLine Plus; Iron Overdose; Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA; January 2010