The struggle is real—you’re at your desk, watching the clock until it strikes 5:02 PM so you can finally rush home and crash into your bed. You’re plum tired, to say the least.
Chances are, your feelings of depleted energy are normal. On the other hand, there’s a clear difference between feeling pooped and feeling exhausted, and you might be taking it more lightly than you should. Not to mention, the other signs of serious fatigue aren’t as obvious as just feeling drained.
Mental lapses and slower response times
Research has shown that sleep deprivation has shown to have detrimental impacts on basic cognitive functions including alertness, vigilance and attention but also temporary mental lapses that lead to poor judgement in memory and visual perception.
A 2017 study published in Science Daily via the University of California – Los Angeles Health Sciences investigated 12 UCLA epileptic patients who had electrodes implanted in their brains in order to pinpoint the origin of their seizures prior to surgery. As lack of sleep can provoke seizures, the patients stayed awake all night to trigger an epileptic episode. Patients were then asked to assess a variety of images as fast as possible while their electrodes recorded their brain activity in real time. As the task grew challenging, the patients slowed down and grew sleepier—so did their brain cells.
“We were fascinated to observe how sleep deprivation dampened brain cell activity,” said lead author Dr. Yuval Nir of Tel-Aviv University. “Unlike the usual rapid reaction, the neurons responded slowly, fired more weakly and their transmissions dragged on longer than usual.”
Feeling cranky or just generally in low spirits lately? Your lack of sleep could be the culprit. Even small levels of sleep deprivation over time can chip away at your mood and well-being. According to The National Sleep Foundation, people with insomnia are 10 times as likely to have clinical depression and 17 times as likely to have clinical anxiety than those who sleep normally. However, a lack of sleep can also prove to be the hallmark symptom of many mental health issues. Be sure to discuss this with your healthcare professional if you find yourself getting too little or too much sleep on a regular basis.
If your fatigue isn’t news to you (it has lasted more than six months) and your healthcare professional rules out other medical causes, you could be struggling with chronic fatigue syndrome. According to Everyday Health, vision-related problems are a common symptom of chronic fatigue syndrome, and become worse the more fatigued you are.
“But usually the eye exam of someone with chronic fatigue syndrome is normal,” says Peter Rowe, M.D., director of the Chronic Fatigue Clinic at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center in Baltimore. “Visual blurring tends to be a temporary symptom and more related to lightheadedness and brain blood flow.”
Are your eyes playing tricks on you? According to Brandon R. Peters, M.D., neurology-trained sleep medicine specialist in Novato, California, about 80 percent of people will have visual hallucinations if sleep-deprived long enough. Peters’ research showed that approximately 2 percent of 350 people who were sleep-deprived for 112 hours began experiencing symptoms similar to acute paranoid schizophrenia (the most common type of schizophrenia, a brain disorder where it’s difficult to distinguish between reality and fantasy).
Fatigue can be a result of a variety of underlying health conditions or causes. If you’re noticing these other red flags in addition to your fatigue it’s better to be safe than sorry; make a visit to your healthcare professional:
– Have a higher-than-normal body temperature
– Have experienced unexplained weight loss
– Feel very sensitive to colder temperatures
– Regularly have trouble falling or staying asleep
– Believe you may be depressed
– Replenishing with sleep does not alleviate symptoms of fatigue