Fatigue vs. Tiredness: A Few Things to Know
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Fatigue and tiredness are two words that are used interchangeably quite often. While they may sound quite similar and you may think they mean the same thing, there is actually a difference between the two. The Department of Health of the State Government of Victoria, Australia writes on their website, “although fatigue is sometimes described as tiredness, it is different to just feeling tired or sleepy. Everyone feels tired at some point, but this is usually resolved with a nap or a few nights of good sleep.” In this post, we will define fatigue and tiredness and explore their similarities and differences.
What Exactly is Fatigue?
Oxford Languages, the world’s leading dictionary publisher, defines fatigue as, “extreme tiredness resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness.”
Healthline, an organization dedicated to making health and wellness information accessible, writes, “fatigue is a term used to describe an overall feeling of tiredness or lack of energy. It isn’t the same as simply feeling drowsy or sleepy.” MedicineNet, an online healthcare media publishing company owned and operated by WebMD, says, “often, the symptom of fatigue has a gradual onset and the person may not be aware of how much energy they have lost”. MedicineNet goes on to list three primary complaints of individuals with fatigue:
In their definition of fatigue, Mayoclinic.org states, “[fatigue] lasts longer, is more profound and isn’t relieved by rest. It’s a nearly constant state of weariness that develops over time and reduces your energy, motivation and concentration. Fatigue at this level impacts your emotional and psychological well-being, too.” You can read more about the causes and symptoms of fatigue in our blog post here.
Oxford Languages defines tiredness as, “the state of wishing for sleep or rest; weariness.” A. Vogel, a natural health brand founded in 1923 by research scientist Alfred Vogel, writes in an online post, “tiredness can often be solved by a change in your routine or getting a good night’s rest”. Verywellhealth.com, a website providing health and wellness information by health professionals, says, “sleepiness is relieved by sleep itself. If you get enough hours of normal quality sleep, you wake feeling refreshed and the desire for sleep should be almost fully diminished upon awakening.”
Understanding the difference between tiredness and fatigue is essential to reaching optimal health and wellness. Next, we’ll look at how fatigue and tiredness are similar.
Fatigue and Tiredness: The Common Ground
Tiredness and fatigue, though very different, have some similar factors that can contribute to feelings of exhaustion. On their website, The Department of Health of the State Government of Victoria, Australia addresses a wide range of possibilities that could be related to tiredness and fatigue, including medical factors, lifestyle-related causes, workplace-related causes, and emotional concerns and stress. Going a little more in-depth, the website says, “such as a thyroid disorder, heart disease or diabetes”. The website moves onto lifestyle-related factors, listing lack of sleep, too much sleep, alcohol and drugs, sleep disturbances (for example, noisy neighbors, young children, a snoring partner), lack of regular exercise and sedentary behavior, poor diet, and individual components (such as illness/injury, too many commitments, financial problems). Next, the website suggests various workplace-related factors, including shift work, poor workplace practices (i.e., long hours, hard physical labor, boredom, excessive noise), workplace stress, burnout, and unemployment. Finally, The Department of Health of the State Government of Victoria, Australia‘s website gives a few psychological factors that may be related to tiredness and fatigue: depression, anxiety, stress, and grief.
Fatigue vs. Tiredness: The Difference Explained
HealthCentral, a health company that helps people make informed decisions about healthcare by combining medically vetted health information with personal stories and advice from patients, posted an article written by Martin Reed. In the article, Reed writes, “individuals who deal with fatigue… struggle to get through normal daily activities. They may feel weary, weak, lack motivation, have issues with memory and productivity, have no interest in social situations, and they can develop depression.” Well+Good, a media company dedicated to educating communities and individuals in health and wellness, published a piece by Mary Grace Garis detailing some key differences between fatigue and tiredness. Garis says, “often you know why you’re feeling a bit sleepy: you stayed up to watch just one more episode of that show, or you woke up early to make a gym class, cutting into your eight hours of rest.” Garis also writes, “napping won’t come so easily if you’re actually feeling fatigued, which means your body, mind, and soul are trying to run on 8 percent battery without ever going into sleep mode.”
It’s important to understand the difference between fatigue and tiredness. Fatigue is the inability to function because of a lack of sleep or rest, whereas tiredness is a general feeling of needing rest or sleep. Persistent fatigue and tiredness should always be reported to a physician. But keeping yourself well-rested and healthy can help prevent both fatigue and tiredness.
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Differences Between Sleepiness and Fatigue. (2013, January 7). Verywell Health; Verywell Health. https://www.verywellhealth.com/sleepiness-fatigue-difference-3973906
Fatigue – Better Health Channel. (n.d.). Better Health Channel – Better Health Channel. Retrieved December 23, 2021, from https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/fatigue
Fatigue – Mayo Clinic. (2020, December 2). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/fatigue/basics/definition/sym-20050894
Garis, M. G. (2020, January 20). Fatigue vs tired: what’s the difference between the two? | Well+Good. Well+Good. https://www.wellandgood.com/fatigue-vs-tired/
Kilburn, M. (2019, September 1). Fatigue vs. tired – is there a difference? A.Vogel Herbal Remedies | Natural and Herbal Remedies | Official Website; A.Vogel. https://www.avogel.co.uk/health/sleep/fatigue-vs-tiredness-is-there-a-difference/
O’Connell, K. (2012, September 10). Fatigue: Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment & More. Healthline; Healthline Media. https://www.healthline.com/health/fatigue
Reed, M. (2016, January 4). Fatigue and Sleepiness – What’s the Difference? – Sleep Disorders. HealthCentral: Health Stories, Patient Inspiration, and Trusted Medical Information; HealthCentral. https://www.healthcentral.com/article/what-are-the-differences-between-fatigue-and-sleepiness
What Is Fatigue? Symptoms, Causes, Treatment & Tests. (9 C.E.). MedicineNet; MedicineNet. https://www.medicinenet.com/fatigue/article.htm