Recognizing and managing fatigue

Rebecca Johnson
Alberta Health Services

Fatigue is a feeling of physical and/or mental tiredness that affects your ability to perform at your best. You may feel fatigued because of overwork, poor sleep, worry, boredom, or lack of exercise. Any illness may cause fatigue and it usually goes away as the illness clears up. Most of the time, mild fatigue occurs with a health problem that will improve with home treatment and doesn’t usually require a visit to a doctor.

Nearly everyone struggles fatigue from time to time. It can be caused by long work hours, tough physical or mental activities, and loss of sleep.

Chronic fatigue is a constant state of weariness that develops over time and reduces your energy and mental capacity. It can affect your emotional and psychological well-being.

Fatigue can be linked to your habits and routines, which can include:

  • Sleep disturbances (e.g. snoring, night sweats, and loud noises)
  • Home environment (e.g. window shades, bed surfaces, room temperatures, etc.)
  • Level of support (e.g. peer support, family support, etc.)
  • Too little or too much exercise
  • Dehydration
  • Medication
  • Alcohol, caffeine, or drug use

Fatigue can affect your health, safety, and productivity at work and in life. In some cases, fatigue is a symptom of an underlying medical problem that requires treatment. Reach out to a medical professional when needed.

Good quality sleep is an important part of health and wellness. Here are some symptoms of fatigue.

The feelings associated with fatigue can be broken into three categories: physical, mental, and emotional. Being mindful of how you experience fatigue can help you understand how to address it.

Physical Signs: Yawning, drooping eyes, rubbing of eyes, head dropping and digestive problems
Mental Signs: Difficulty concentrating on tasks, lapses in attention, difficulty remembering tasks being performed, inability to communicate important information, failure to anticipate events or actions and accidently doing the wrong thing.

Emotional Signs: more quiet or withdrawn than usual, lack of energy, and lack of motivation to perform tasks

Being proactive and taking care of your health and wellness can help mitigate the risks associated with fatigue. Getting quality sleep – and enough of it – is an important way to manage fatigue.

Sleep is an important part of maintaining your health and wellness. Not getting enough sleep can lead to feelings of fatigue, low alertness, negative mood, lengthier response times, and diminished attention and memory. Over long periods of time, not getting enough sleep can negatively impact health and has been linked to the development of chronic diseases including obesity, Type 2 Diabetes, cardiovascular disease and depression.

There are many things that can be done to improve your ability to sleep. Build healthy sleep patterns by: Establish a pre-bedtime routine that includes quiet relaxing activities. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. Reduce the amount of noise. White noise or earplugs are good options if the room is not quiet enough.

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