Fatigue is a very personal experience and can mean different things for different people. Fatigue is a very common problem for people with health and neurological conditions. This can be for a number of different reasons. For example:
- The healing process -recovering from surgery, going through treatment, rehabilitation after an injury or illness can all leave a person with less energy than they would normally have.
- Sleep – disturbed sleep because of pain, medication, illness mean that people do not get their usual rest so they can feel exhausted in the morning.
- Pain – whether this is short-term or long-term pain, this can drain resources. Also, medication for pain can leave people feeling drowsy.
- Medication – common side-effects include fatigue
- Depression – fatigue is often experienced by people when they have feelings of depression. It can be difficult to feel motivated or that you have the energy to do things you enjoyed previously.
All of these factors may be familiar to you. Sometimes only one or two are. These factors can be worse or better with each new day. This means your fatigue can change day to day.
Some people find their fatigue makes them feel physically tired. Others find it makes them feel “foggy”, “muddled” or like they cannot think clearly. Sometimes, it can be both.
Often, when people have fatigue and are not able to do as much anymore, they can put pressure on themselves to “catch-up” when they feel better. Unfortunately, this means we push ourselves too hard and can then “pay the price” with worse fatigue the following day or days. This cycle can make feelings around fatigue and medical conditions worse. This is called the “Boom/Bust Cycle”.
Sleep is an important factor to think about for fatigue. If we do not get good sleep, then we feel more tired. Sometimes you can get overtired, and then find it hard to sleep.
There are different stages of sleep. We need each stage to have good sleep and to feel rested when we wake up.
Stages of sleep
There are two main types of sleep:
• Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep
• Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) sleep
Sleep cycle –
• Stage 1 – 5-10 minutes, very light sleep, can be woken easily.
Transition to sleep.
• Stage 2 – 20 minutes, body temperature drops, heart rate
slows. 50 per cent of sleep in this stage.
• Stage 3 – muscles relax, blood pressure and breathing rate
drop, deepest sleep. Non-responsive, difficult to wake.
Transition to REM.
• REM sleep – brain more active, body is relaxed and
immobilised, eye move rapidly, dreams occur. 20 per cent of
sleep in this stage.
Sleep does not always follow these stages in order.
Generally it follows this sequence:-
Stage 1 -> Stage 2 -> Stage 3 -> Stage 2 -> REM -> Stage 2
The first REM usually happens about 90 minutes after we fall asleep.
REM periods become longer as sleep goes on – can last up to an