How to Know If Your Fatigue Is Normal

How to Know If Your Fatigue Is Normal

By Dr. Frank Illuzzi, MD, CPE, FACEP


Tiredness is a fact of modern life. Sleep is often the first thing to go when schedules get busy and fatigue is a common side effect of the frenetic pace of work and life today. Although feeling tired some of the time is normal, feeling tired all of the time is not.

Normal tiredness versus chronic fatigue

If you've ever asked yourself, "why am I tired all the time?" you're not alone. Up to 27 percent of people experience chronic fatigue.

Everyone goes through periods of low energy and lethargy, especially if you're not sleeping well or are sick. But if your exhaustion lasts for more than a week or two, or gets worse despite adequate rest, it's cause for concern.

When should you worry about being tired all the time?

Beyond a lack of physical energy, signs of chronic fatigue include:

- Drowsiness and not feeling refreshed by sleep

- Inability to stay awake and alert throughout the day

- Unintentionally falling asleep at inappropriate times

- Difficulty concentrating and maintaining attention

- Difficulty starting or completing tasks

- Unexplained muscle pain

- Moodiness or feeling down, depressed, or hopeless

- Needing increasing amounts of caffeine or stimulants to keep your eyes open


Excessive tiredness may be caused by an underlying condition, such as anemia, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, sleep apnea, or cancer. Medication side effects can also lead to fatigue.

Stop by your nearest CityMD if the fatigue starts interfering with your daily social or work functioning, comes on suddenly, or is associated with heart symptoms like chest pain and shortness of breath.

How to Treat Chronic Fatigue


1. Get a proper work up.

The treatment for fatigue depends on the cause. In addition to a thorough exam, your doctor may order blood tests, imaging, or sleep studies to get to the bottom of your symptoms and rule out illnesses. Conditions that cause fatigue can usually be treated with medications, supplements, vitamins, and dietary changes. Your doctor can provide guidance on the best interventions as well as potential medications to avoid.


2. Focus on sleep hygiene.

While it's important to get seven to nine hours of rest per night, it's the quality of your sleep that matters the most. There are easy changes you can make to get a good night's sleep, like going to bed at the same time each evening and controlling the light and temperature in your bedroom.


3. Prevent burnout.

Chronic fatigue is strongly associated with increased stress levels. Prolonged stress (also known as burnout) can disrupt your sleep and lead to insomnia and restlessness that drains your energy. Relaxation techniques, time management, and self-care are positive ways to restore your wellbeing.


Author Bio:

As a board-certified Physician in Emergency Medicine, Dr. Frank Illuzzi has served in many clinical, academic, and leadership roles. Most recently, he served as the Chair of Emergency Medicine at St. Vincent's Medical Center in Connecticut. Dr. Illuzzi also holds an academic appointment as Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine at the Frank Netter School of Medicine at Quinnipiac University. Among his many achievements, Dr. Illuzzi was a finalist for the Magida Award for “Outstanding Young Physician of the Year.” He has published many articles and textbook chapters in his areas of academic interest, and is a sought after lecturer for national medical conferences.