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How To Tell The Difference Between Fatigue And Tiredness

By Nidhi Nangia. Updated: November 10, 2017
How To Tell The Difference Between Fatigue And Tiredness

We all get tired at the end of the day, especially after a hectic work schedule or even an eventful day off, but being tired is something different from feeling weak all the time. Identifying the difference between fatigue and tiredness can be extremely helpful in recognizing any potential condition or weakness. In doing so, you can work towards improving your health and helping to prevent the onset of certain health issues. Fatigue can also be a symptom of an underlying disease that needs to be treated without fail. This oneHOWTO article will tell you how to tell the difference between fatigue and tiredness.

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What are Tiredness and Fatigue?

Tiredness:

Tiredness is usually caused due to too much work or lack of sleep. An individual aged between 18 to 64 years needs to sleep at least 7 to 9 hours in a day. If you don’t get enough sleep, you are likely to feel tired. This kind of tiredness usually subsides on its own when you go back to sleep and get adequate rest. Sometimes, tiredness may also indicate an underlying medical condition, such as anemia, diabetes or glandular fever. So, if you are getting enough rest and still feeling tired all the time, then it is not tiredness, but fatigue. You should contact your physician regarding any possible condition relating to tiredness.

Fatigue:

Fatigue is often used as synonymous to tiredness, but there is a difference between the two. Unlike tiredness, you can’t cure fatigue easily just by having a cup of coffee. Most of the time, fatigue is long-term and makes you feel exhausted even after a full night’s sleep. Depending on the severity of fatigue, it may affect a person’s everyday life. You may find a fatigued person taking time off work because they are feeling too tired or weak to continue with their everyday activities. Severely fatigued people may even have difficulty brushing their teeth. According to a study, women have more chances of getting fatigued than men. Most common causes are infection, weak immunity, emotional trauma and hormonal imbalance.

Symptoms

Tiredness is often characterized by lack of energy and feeling sleepy. The person feels a dire need to take a nap and revive energy. But as soon as they rest and sleep for some time, they should feel reenergized and ready to go back to work. In many cases, a cup of coffee is enough to take the person back on track. But, if the tiredness lasts for more than 24 hours and if it does not subside even after taking enough rest and sleep, then you need to take a look at the symptoms of fatigue:

  • Chronic sleepiness, dizziness and tiredness
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain, weakness and soreness
  • Slow response and reflex
  • Impaired judgment and decision making
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Mood changes and irritability
  • Poor hand to eye coordination
  • Deteriorated immunity
  • Blurred vision
  • Poor concentration
  • Memory problems
  • Hallucinations
  • Lack of motivation
  • Throat soreness
  • Not feeling refreshed even after sleep
  • Enlarged lymph nodes in armpits or neck

Causes

While cases of tiredness are usually lack of sleep, work overload and too much exercise, fatigue has more serious and long-term causes. There can be a long list of conditions that can lead a person to feel fatigued. Some of them are:

  • Anemia
  • Cold and Flu
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Heart failure
  • Jaundice
  • Acute bronchitis
  • Dehydration
  • Low blood sugar levels
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Anorexia Nervosa
  • Primary Hypothyroidism
  • Hypokalemia
  • Low Blood Sodium (Hyponatremia)
  • Congestive (Dilated) Cardiomyopathy
  • Obesity
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Emphysema
  • Bleeding or hemorrhage
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder
  • Urinary Tract Infection
  • Coronary Artery Disease
  • Infectious Mononucleosis
  • Food Poisoning
  • Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)
  • Pregnancy
  • Radiculopathy (Pinched Nerve)
  • Sinus Infections (Sinusitis)
  • Pneumonia
  • Becker Muscular Dystrophy
  • Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy
  • Cellulitis

In order to feel energized and to get rid of your chronic fatigue, you should get the cause diagnosed and treated professionally. After proper diagnosis, your physician will be identify your disease and work towards treating it. If the condition is treatable or, at least, manageable, you should be able to reduce the effects of fatigue. Depending on the severity of your condition, you may need to take certain steps to reducing symptoms of fatigue.

How To Tell The Difference Between Fatigue And Tiredness - Causes

Diagnosis

Usually, tiredness is short-term and does not need medical diagnosis and treatment. But if your tiredness does not go away for several days, you need to get it diagnosed. Since fatigue may present a wide range of signs and symptoms, it will be difficult to diagnose it properly. That’s why, a number of tests might be required to confirm the condition:

  • Your fatigue might be related to a recent traumatic event, such as a surgery, childbirth, bereavement, etc.
  • Physical examination may be used to check for signs of disease or illness, such as jaundice, anemia, AIDS etc. The doctor may ask for detailed information on the person’s lifestyle, diet and overall health
  • A number of x-rays, blood tests, investigations and urine tests may be used to rule out conditions like hormonal imbalance, infection, jaundice, anemia etc.

Treatment

Tiredness is more easily treated than fatigue. It can be simply tackled by scheduling more sleep in your daily routine. You can try some other things to get back on track:

  • Do not take caffeine for about 6 hours before going to bed. Once caffeine enters your body, only 50% of it is eliminated after 6 hours.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol before going to bed, as only one unit of it is processed in a period of an hour.
  • Stay away from light emitting technological gadgets at least 2 hours before going to bed, as the blue light emitted by TV, laptop, tablet and phone delays production of melatonin, the sleep inducing hormone in your body.
  • Keep your bed neat and tidy and buy a comfortable mattress to sleep on.
  • Reduce stress by trying some breathing techniques, such as meditation, yoga, tai chi, etc.
  • Organize your work in such a way that you can easily do it in time without the need to work overtime.

If you get enough sleep and keep your stress levels to a minimum, you will get rid of your tiredness easily and quickly. But fatigue does not go away that easily. After tests, if the person has been diagnosed with a disease, illness or malnutrition, then that condition will need to be treated in order to reduce fatigue. But if no medical condition has been found and you are still feeling fatigued, then you will need to follow these dietary and lifestyle modifications:

  • Improve sleep habits and take adequate sleep
  • Exercise regularly and keep a balance between activity and rest
  • Cut out caffeine
  • Drink lots of water to avoid dehydration
  • Eat healthy
  • Avoid being underweight or overweight by managing your weight
  • Set realistic goals for work and schedule
  • Relax, try to meditate and practice yoga
  • Identify and resolve your life’s stressors, such as a relationship problems or workplace conflict
  • Avoid use of nicotine, alcohol and drugs
  • For some patients, cognitive behavioral therapy may be recommended for overall mental health improvement

Things to Remember

Fatigue may be caused by a number of factors, such as stress, workplace issues, medical conditions, malnutrition and unhealthy lifestyle. Every adult must have experienced fatigue at some point in their life. If you are not getting good nutrition, enough sleep and physical activity, you should try getting them at all costs. Go to bed and wake up in the morning at fixed times, try go get up early in the morning, avoid fattening foods and include antioxidant rich food in your diet.

Try to keep your mind active by playing brain games, solving puzzles, reading self-help books and practising relaxation techniques. If you are still feeling fatigued, you need to get help from a medical professional, as it may be a sign of an underlying illness, such as jaundice, AIDS, anemia, insomnia, depression and pneumonia.

This article is merely informative, oneHOWTO does not have the authority to prescribe any medical treatments or create a diagnosis. We invite you to visit your doctor if you have any type of condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to How To Tell The Difference Between Fatigue And Tiredness, we recommend you visit our Healthy living category.

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