Chronic Fatigue Tiredness

There’s a distinct difference between tiredness and chronic fatigue: The former is often caused by a lack of rest and can usually be remedied by a good night’s sleep. If you’re simply exhausted, you can likely fall and stay asleep and feel rested after doing so. Chronic fatigue, on the other hand, is characterized by a persistent exhaustion that doesn’t go away with time and isn’t easily remedied by sleep.

Tiredness is temporary. Generally, if you take good care of yourself and get eight or more hours sleep for a few days, you can regain the feeling of being awake and alert. However, if sleep doesn’t help–or if you’re exhausted but can’t fall asleep–you may be suffering from chronic fatigue.

What Is Chronic Fatigue?

Unlike exhaustion, chronic fatigue symptoms aren’t easily remedied by a good night’s sleep. Chronic fatigue is a series of symptoms that the body experiences in reaction to one or more illnesses or triggers, such as:

  • A sleep disorder (such as insomnia or sleep apnea)
  • Depression
  • Disease (such as mitochondrial disease).

Patients who experience chronic fatigue go to sleep tired, wake up tired and often have difficulty accomplishing their daily tasks due to exhaustion.

Chronic Fatigue Symptoms

Chronic fatigue symptoms involve more than just feelings of persistent exhaustion, and they don’t usually go away with sleep. The symptoms of fatigue vary from person to person, depending on the underlying cause. In some cases, these symptoms can be debilitating, drastically affecting a person’s quality of life. Symptoms related to chronic fatigue may include:

  • Difficulty sleeping: Patients may be too uncomfortable to sleep (insomnia).
  • Exhaustion: Patients with chronic fatigue experience overwhelming feelings of tiredness that do not go away after sleeping or resting.
  • Joint and muscle pain: A lack of quality rest may result in pain, cramping and stiffness of the joints and muscles.
  • Short-term memory loss: Patients may have difficulty remembering daily tasks, forget what they’re saying or have trouble concentrating without having had adequate rest.

When to Call Your Doctor

If you find that you regularly experience one or more of the symptoms on the above list, or that you’re often fatigued even after eight or more hours of sleep, it may be time to call your doctor. She’ll likely be able to run some basic tests and help you determine what may be causing your symptoms.

Resources

University of Michigan Health System. (2008). Chronic fatigue syndrome. Retrieved August 27, 2010, from http://health.med.umich.edu/healthcontent.cfm?xyzpdqabc=0