Why is My Diabetes Making Me so Tired?

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

Why does diabetes cause tiredness?

Diabetes and fatigue are often discussed together. In fact, if you have diabetes, you’re more than likely going to experience fatigue at some point. However, there may be much more to this seemingly simple correlation.

Diabetes, which affects your blood sugar (glucose) and the production of insulin by the pancreas, can also have inflammatory markers. A wealth of studies have looked at the possible connections between diabetes and fatigue.

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It can be challenging to treat both diabetes and fatigue. However, there are numerous options that can help. You may first need to see your doctor to determine the exact cause of your fatigue.

Possible causes of diabetes fatigue

These findings suggest that diabetes fatigue may not be necessarily linked to the diabetes that’s controlled but with other symptoms of diabetes.

Other related factors, often seen in people with diabetes, that can contribute to fatigue include the following:

  • widespread inflammation
  • depression
  • insomnia or poor sleep quality
  • hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
  • low testosterone levels (in those assigned male at birth)
  • kidney failure
  • medication side effects
  • skipping meals
  • lack of physical activity
  • poor nutrition
  • lack of social support

How to manage diabetes fatigue

Treating both diabetes and fatigue is most successful when regarded as whole, rather than separate, conditions. Healthy lifestyle habits, social support, and mental health therapies can positively impact diabetes and fatigue at the same time.

Lifestyle changes
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Healthy lifestyle habits are at the heart of good health. These include regular exercise, nutrition, and weight management. All these can help boost energy while also controlling your blood sugar.

According to a 2012 study, there was a significant correlation between a high body mass index (BMI) score and fatigue in women with type 2 diabetes.

Regular exercise may decrease the risk for developing type 2 diabetes in the first place. But the American Diabetes Association (ADA) says that exercise can help regulate blood glucose even if you already have diabetes.

The ADA recommends a minimum of 2.5 hours of exercise per week without taking more than 2 days off in a row. You can try a combination of aerobics and resistance training, as well as balance and flexibility routines, such as yoga.

Social support
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Social support is another area of research being investigated.

A 2013 study of 1,657 adults with type 2 diabetes found significant correlations between social support and diabetes fatigue. Researchers found that support from family and other resources decreased fatigue related to diabetes.

Talk with your family to make sure they’re supportive of your diabetes management and care. Make it a point to go out with friends when you can, and engage in your favorite hobbies when you have the energy to do so.

Research about diabetes and fatigue

There are numerous studies connecting diabetes and fatigue.

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One such study looked at the results of a survey on sleep quality. Researchers reported that 31 percent of people with type 1 diabetes had poor sleep quality. The prevalence was slightly larger in adults who had type 2 diabetes, at 42 percent.

A 2013 study was conducted on 37 people with diabetes, as well as 33 without diabetes. This way, the researchers could look at differences in fatigue levels.

The participants anonymously answered questions on fatigue surveys. Researchers concluded that fatigue was much higher in the group with diabetes. However, they couldn’t identify any specific factors.

Fatigue seems to occur in both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. A 2013 study found that while fatigue is a classic symptom of hyperglycemia, there was no relationship between hyperglycemia and chronic fatigue in people with type 1 diabetes.

How to boost energy with diabetes

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While you may experience fatigue with diabetes, there are things that you can do to help alleviate that fatigue. Here are some tips:

  • Aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Eliminate processed foods and sugar from your diet.
  • Reduce your alcohol intake, if you drink.
  • Drink caffeine in moderation.
  • Try relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation.

It’s also really important to follow whatever diabetes treatment plan your doctor recommends. Keeping your diabetes in check will help manage fatigue.

Other causes of fatigue

About 2.5 million people in the United States have chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). CFS is marked by ongoing fatigue that significantly disrupts everyday life.

People with this type of extreme fatigue use up their energy sources without necessarily being active. Walking to your car, for example, can zap all your energy. It’s thought that CFS is related to inflammation that disrupts your muscle metabolites.

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Chronic fatigue can also have a variety of other causes, including:

  • boredom
  • certain medications
  • emotional stress
  • anxiety
  • headache
  • heart disease
  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • allergies

When to see a doctor

Fatigue can be worrisome, especially when it interferes with everyday activities, such as work, school, and family obligations. You should see your doctor if your symptoms of fatigue fail to improve despite lifestyle changes and diabetes management. The fatigue could be related to secondary symptoms of diabetes or another condition altogether.

Your doctor may order some blood tests to rule out any other conditions, such as thyroid disease. Switching your diabetes medications may also help.


Fatigue is common with diabetes, but it doesn’t have to last forever. Talk with your doctor about ways you can manage both diabetes and fatigue.

With a few lifestyle and treatment changes as well as patience, your fatigue may improve over time.

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