Fatigue is something that all of us experience – particularly when we lead busy lives and have multiple things to juggle such as work, school, family, and other commitments. As a result, it’s not uncommon to have poor sleep quality – with 1 in 2 Canadian adults reporting they have trouble going to sleep or staying asleep, 1 in 3 having difficulty staying awake, and 1 in 5 finding they don’t feel refreshed after sleeping. Fatigue and poor sleep can also be precipitated several other health-related factors, including poor mental health and chronic stress or anxiety, anemia, inflammation, concussions, thyroid disease, and kidney disease…just to name a few. Certain medications can also cause one to feel tired. Depending on the cause of your fatigue, making certain lifestyle changes such as avoiding alcohol and caffeine before bed, maintaining a regular sleep/wake schedule, ensuring you have a good sleep environment, and practicing relaxation techniques can all be beneficial in improving your quality of sleep.
Over half a million Canadians also suffer from a condition known as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Unlike normal fatigue where you may feel tired from time to time, someone who is diagnosed with CFS will experience symptoms for at least six months or more (in some cases, years) – and these symptoms usually go beyond simply feeling fatigued. These can include things like memory problems, inability to concentrate, headaches, sore throat, enlarged lymph nodes, unexplained body pain, and dizziness. When it comes to the fatigue side of CFS, you may also experience extreme exhaustion that worsens following physical activity. As a result, chronic fatigue syndrome can be disruptive to one’s everyday life including their ability to carry out day to day tasks, whether it’s getting out of bed, doing household chores, or going to work. This can then lead to social isolation, as well as mental decline (including depression.)
Certain risk factors may increase your chances of developing chronic fatigue. Age, for example, is one factor. While it can affect people of all ages, those between the ages of 25 and 40 are at higher risk. Gender is another, with a higher rate of women being diagnosed with CFS than men. While it’s not exactly known what causes chronic fatigue syndrome, things like viral infections, hormonal imbalances, immune system problems, as well as physical and/or emotional trauma are all thought to be potential triggers.
Because there is no cure for chronic fatigue, treatment is focused more on relieving symptoms, which can be done through a variety of ways – including medication and other types of therapy. If pain is associated with your CFS diagnosis, over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen are often recommended. If these are not helpful, your physician may also prescribe medications like gabapentin or duloxetine. These types of medications work by reducing the level of neurotransmitters that cause pain. However, it’s also important to note that when prescribed these medications, it may take having to be on them for several weeks before you will start to notice any improvement. If you are experiencing depression as a result of your diagnosis, it’s also important to seek out treatment for this. This normally includes a combination of medication in addition to therapy – such as counselling and CBT (cognitive behaviour therapy). Combined, these can not only help improve your mood, but also help you to find better ways of coping with your diagnosis. While high-impact exercise is known to exacerbate symptoms of chronic fatigue, it’s still important to stat fit by having a low-impact, tolerable routine, such as going for a short walk each day.
If you have chronic fatigue syndrome, keeping a diary is recommended so that you can keep track of certain triggers, things that might alleviate symptoms, and things that don’t.