Fatigue & Somnolence

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Unhealthy lifestyle choices can result in fatigue.

Fatigue and somnolence, also referred to as drowsiness, are words used to describe two similar conditions commonly characterized by a feeling of weariness and a desire for sleep. While the two conditions are somewhat similar and they often coexist as a result of sleep deprivation, fatigue and somnolence are also distinctly different.

  1. What is Fatigue?

    • Typically, fatigue, also referred to as lethargy, tiredness, weariness and exhaustion, is a state of awareness that is mainly associated with mental or physical weakness and sometimes both. In most cases, the feeling of mental or physical weariness is generally the result of mental or physical overexertion.

    Causes and Symptoms of Fatigue

    • There are many causes of fatigue that fall into three main categories: lifestyle factors, psychological problems and medical conditions. Some cases of fatigue occur from certain lifestyle factors such as excessive physical activity, lack of sleep, or abuse of caffeine or alcohol. Fatigue also occurs due to some psychological problems, including depression, grief or stress. In some cases, fatigue results from medical conditions such as cancer, acute liver failure or anemia. Symptoms of fatigue include feeling weak, headaches and unexplained muscle pain.

    What is Somnolence?

    • Somnolence, also referred to as sleepiness or idiopathic hypersomnia, is a condition characterized by a strong desire for sleep. Oftentimes, somnolence results in an individual staying in a state of near-sleep or sleeping for unusually long periods during the daytime as well as sleeping at night. An individual experiencing somnolence often will fall asleep during inappropriate times and in inappropriate places.

    Causes and Symptoms of Somnolence

    • Like fatigue, there are several different causes of somnolence. Lifestyle factors that cause somnolence include working long hours, inadequate sleep or jet lag. Somnolence is also cause by psychological problems such as anxiety disorders or schizophrenia. Medical conditions such as sleep disorders or hypothyroidism will cause somnolence as well as some medications. Symptoms of somnolence include poor memory, daytime drowsiness, excessive yawning and a general state of low energy.


    • There are several effective ways to treat fatigue and somnolence. Individuals experiencing fatigue or somnolence due to certain lifestyle factors can change their behavior. Fatigue or somnolence caused by psychological problems or medical problems is generally treatable with medication. Doctors will try to discover the underlying cause of the problem so they can prescribe the appropriate medication.

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