Fatigue : quand s’inquiéter ?

Fatigue: when to worry?

Dec 21, 2023

Fatigue, also known as asthenia, is an experience shared by all of us. In the contemporary world, characterized by increasingly pressing daily demands and a hectic pace of life, it is common to feel temporary fatigue. However, it sometimes happens that this fatigue sets in for a longer period of time, thus affecting the quality of life. It therefore remains essential to distinguish between classic fatigue resulting from intense daily activity and persistent fatigue which could signal underlying health problems.

Some reminders about sleep

Fatigue occurs as a natural reaction of the body to intense physical or mental stress. In general, it is recommended to dedicate around 7 hours per night to sleep, although this duration may vary from person to person. An effective method for assessing whether sleep needs are being met is to ask about the state of fatigue upon waking.

Respecting your biological clock is of paramount importance. Sleep cycles last approximately 1 hour 30 minutes each. To optimize rest, it is essential to understand and comply with them. A useful indicator is the appearance of yawning: they usually indicate the start of a new cycle.

Sleep is also closely linked to hormones. The body produces dopamine, responsible for morning vitality, and serotonin, produced in the evening, transforming into melatonin to make it easier to fall asleep . Maintaining adequate levels of melatonin is therefore important for quality sleep.

When should fatigue be considered abnormal?

Experiencing a feeling of fatigue after physical exertion or intense intellectual activity is normal, provided that this fatigue dissipates with rest.

A distinction must be made between normal fatigue, the cause of which is known and which disappears after a moment of rest, and pathological fatigue, which can represent a symptom or an illness in itself . If fatigue increases gradually after activities that had not previously caused symptoms, it can indeed be considered one of the symptoms, or even the first symptom, of an underlying disorder, which should question .

In the case of abnormal chronic fatigue, the person feels tired as soon as they wake up and finds it difficult to get out of bed even after an adequate night's sleep. This chronic fatigue causes an unpleasant feeling, creating an imbalance between daily obligations and perceived abilities. Symptoms such as weakness, loss of strength, difficulty concentrating or the constant feeling of exhaustion may also be present.

Therefore, if fatigue persists despite adequate rest or if it is not clearly explained, a medical consultation should take place.

Main causes of chronic fatigue

Chronic fatigue can be caused by a wide variety of factors. However, the main causes are:

  • An infectious process : when an infection occurs, it places an intense strain on the body, inevitably leading to fatigue. Previous illnesses, such as the herpes virus, can also reactivate. The “long covid” phenomenon is a recent example of prolonged post-infection fatigue.
  • A psychological cause : psychological disorders such as post-traumatic stress, depression and burn-out can significantly contribute to emotional fatigue.
  • Sleep disorders : Problems such as sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS) or insomnia can disrupt nighttime rest, leading to persistent fatigue.
  • Cardiovascular pathology : hypertension or hypotension can, for example, be the cause of chronic fatigue.
  • A toxicological cause : certain medications such as beta-blockers, diuretics, antihistamines, antidepressants or even anxiolytics can induce fatigue. In addition, heavy metal poisoning (aluminum, lead, arsenic) or drug use can also be the cause.
  • Causes specific to women : Factors such as heavy periods (leading to iron deficiency), premenopause or menopause can contribute to fatigue.
  • Linked to lifestyle : a poor diet, an unbalanced or insufficient diet can play a major role in chronic fatigue.
  • A serious illness : cancer, for example, often presents fatigue as one of the first symptoms.
  • Certain thyroid pathologies such as hypothyroidism or Hashimoto's disease are also known to cause persistent fatigue.

What to do in case of chronic fatigue?

The manifestation of persistent fatigue can sometimes indicate the presence of an underlying disease , which highlights the importance of not delaying diagnosis. It is crucial to take seriously and promptly treat a prolonged state of asthenia. In the event of the simultaneous presence of other symptoms, sleep disturbances, dark thoughts, or if this fatigue persists despite the implementation of health and dietary measures, it is imperative to consult a health professional.

Typically, a consultation with the treating physician will include a thorough oral history as well as a clinical examination . If the cause remains undetermined after this first step, the doctor may recommend additional tests such as blood tests or x-rays. In some cases, he may also refer the patient to a specialist depending on the nature of the symptoms.

Once the diagnosis has been established , an appropriate treatment plan can be considered . The duration of this treatment will depend on the cause identified. It is important to emphasize that the impression of inevitability among people suffering from persistent fatigue is often unfounded: an underlying cause is generally identifiable, and appropriate treatment can be put in place. The key lies in early treatment and close collaboration with health professionals to restore an optimal state of well-being.

If it is temporary fatigue

Fatigue, even temporary, is an unpleasant state that should not be trivialized. To try to remedy this, it is first necessary to investigate the potential causes of this state (overall lifestyle, professional activity, family and social life, leisure activities, eating habits, etc.). Once these causes are identified, the goal is to make appropriate adjustments to alleviate fatigue.

Here are some tips to reduce this occasional fatigue:

  • Opt for a balanced dinner , reducing the amount of fat and alcohol while avoiding eating just before bedtime.
  • Promote relaxation in the evening by, for example, taking a hot bath or drinking herbal tea, while limiting the consumption of caffeine and other stimulants.
  • Practice calming activities like reading before bed.
  • Limit exposure to blue light emitted by tablets and computer screens.
  • Make sure the bedroom is fairly cool, kept at around 18 degrees .
  • Ensure adequate sleep by maintaining a regular sleep routine.

At the same time , the use of food supplements can actively help reduce fatigue while providing energy and vitality. Some of these supplements are formulated with guarana , known for its natural caffeine content and its stimulating properties, while others include vitamin C , whose beneficial properties on reducing fatigue have been recognized by the authorities. European.

In short, fatigue, whether occasional or persistent, deserves to be taken into consideration. If fatigue proves to be chronic, it is crucial to consult a health professional to identify the underlying cause and implement the appropriate treatment. In the event of temporary fatigue, adjustments in lifestyle, diet, sleep, as well as the use of food supplements can help to alleviate this temporary state. Therefore, fatigue is not inevitably permanent. Appropriate treatment, based on understanding the causes and possible solutions, can often restore optimal vitality and quality of life.

References :

Vidal. (Updated September 7, 2021). Fatigue.

Ameli. (December 11, 2023). Asthenia (fatigue): definition, symptoms and cause s.

The MSD Manual. (Revised February 2023). Fatigue.

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