The word ‘exhausted’ is often thrown around these days after a long hard day at work. However, being exhausted can often be a symptom of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome which is a medical problem and is significantly worse than not achieving your full 8 hours of sleep. To help you decipher whether your constant yawns are a cry for a nap or medical attention, here is how to tell the difference between tiredness and chronic fatigue.

Related: Tired All The Time? Lifestyle Changes That Can Influence Your Daily Energy


As you already know, tiredness is generally caused by a lack of sleep. The National Sleep Foundation recommends having around 7-9 hours of sleep when aged 18-64, if the amount of sleep you achieve is significantly less than that, then you are likely to be feeling tried. Tiredness can also be a symptom of a medical condition for example, anaemia, glandular fever or diabetes. So, if you’re getting your 8 hours, but still feeling sleepy throughout the day, it may be worth going to your GP.


How to get rid of tiredness

To tackle tiredness the answer is simple, schedule in more sleep. If you find you get to bed and struggle to drift off, there are several things you can try:

  • Avoid caffeine for roughly six hours before bed. This is because, once in the body, only one-half of your caffeine intake is eliminated after 6 hours.
  • Avoid alcohol before bed, as it takes roughly an hour for a unit of alcohol to be processed.
  • Avoid using technology for at least 2 hours before bed. This is because phones, television, laptops and tablets emit blue light and exposure to this blue light results in a delay of melatonin production, which is the sleep-inducing hormone.
  • Keep your bedding clean and invest in a comfortable mattress. Use our Personal Comfort Guide to find the best kind of mattress for your sleeping position.
  • Reduce stress levels before bed by exercising or trying various breathing techniques.

Related: How to Use Yoga to Help You Get a Good Night’s Sleep

An image showing a woman practising yoga

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

Unlike tiredness, fatigue is a type of tiredness that is not so easily cured. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is also known as ME, which stands for Myalgic Encephalomyelitis. This condition is long-term and causes persistent exhaustion that doesn’t go away with sleep. Depending on the severity of an individual’s CFS, it can affect everyday life. Mild cases may involve taking days off work, whereas severe cases can inhibit daily tasks, such as brushing your teeth.

According to the NHS, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome affects around 250,00 people in the UK and is more common in women than in men. Although the exact cause of CFS is not known, theories point to problems with the immune system, a bacterial infection, a hormone imbalance or emotional trauma.

Chronic Fatigue symptoms

People who suffer from fatigue feel they lack motivation and energy. The main symptom of CFS is extreme exhaustion that surpasses simply feeling tired. If your exhaustion lasts more than 24 hours after physical or mental exercise, then it is likely to be Chronic Fatigue. According to Mayo Clinic, other symptoms of CFS include:

  • A sore throat
  • Enlarged lymph nodes in your neck or armpits
  • A loss of memory
  • A lack of concentration
  • Unexplained muscle pain
  • Headache of a new type, pattern or severity
  • Unrefreshing sleep

An image of a tired woman demonstrating chronic fatigue

Treating Chronic Fatigue

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) says a diagnosis of CFS should be considered if you suffer from several symptoms and if your fatigue can’t be explained by other factors, such as a lack of sleep.

Although attempting to sleep won’t do much to help CFS, there are a few other things you can try. Treatment depends on your specific case of CFS, but main treatments include:

  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).
  • Graded exercise therapy, which involves a structured exercise programme.
  • Medication, such a painkillers or anti-depressants.

We hope this helps you tell the difference between tiredness and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. If you’ve ever suffered from CFS, let us know how you’ve dealt with it in the comments.