It’s a good bet that most of today’s seniors feel tired from time to time. That’s OK: residents of Burbank and elsewhere may notice that they have less stamina than they used to and may need more breaks throughout the day, whether they’re living alone or receiving 24-hour care.
The staff at Accredited Home Care works with plenty of clients who get tired easily. Some are good at pacing themselves through the day and love their naps. Others don’t necessarily nap but do take time to slow down a few times a day, even if sleep isn’t involved.
In many cases, sleeping a little later, going to bed earlier or having the occasional siesta can all provide boosts of physical and mental energy. They often wake up recharged, whether it’s a 20-minute catnap or a longer sleep break for a couple of hours.
But we also know that quality sleep isn’t for everyone, unfortunately. Medical conditions, medication, anxiety or daily activities may cause people to not sleep as much as they should.
In some cases, poor sleep or less sleep than needed can lead to them experiencing a variety of energy-related conditions, from simple sleepiness and drowsiness to full fatigue.
Defining these types of conditions and the differences between them goes beyond semantics: there are actually medical definitions and symptoms of the different types of exhaustion that people may feel. Interestingly, it’s possible to experience several of these feelings at once.
Most of us are familiar with the general feeling of being sleepy. It can be the physical sensations as your brain sends out commands to the rest of the body that it’s time to rest. This can include eyelids drooping, head nodding, a lot of yawns, greater sensitivity to light and sound, and a temptation to close one’s eyes for a few minutes, wherever you are.
These feelings may be triggered by increasing amounts of a chemical called adenosine, which grows throughout the day during our awake cycle and is stronger in the evening if we follow a traditional sleep cycle. Other factors, such as physical activity, warmth, medical conditions, even eating a big meal, can all increase the need for a nap or full sleep. We can also train ourselves to nod off with similar stimuli, like watching TV in the same spot or reading a few pages of a book right before bed.
We also can feel sleepy right after we wake up – our eyelids may still not open all the way, our reactions are slower for a few minutes or a few hours, and it’s when many of us start looking for the coffeepot or some similar sort of stimulant. This is also due to a new sleep cycle kicking in, and the amount of drowsiness can vary depending on how much sleep we’ve received.
Tired or fatigued?
Describing yourself as “tired” can have a different meaning than “more than a little sleepy.”
It can involve general muscle aches and pains, and perhaps lower levels of energy than usual. This may come from not having enough sleep recently, but not on a regular basis.
Coordination may be lower, reasoning may be trickier (like a student staying up late to finish a project or study for a test the next day. These feelings can make it more likely for someone to fall asleep faster, and often some of these feelings of tiredness may go away after a good night’s sleep or adjusting your daily routine.
A few days of tiredness isn’t terribly tough on the body once in a while, but it can be more demanding on the mind if it goes on longer. If it becomes chronic, however, it can lead to fatigue or exhaustion.
Describing yourself as “feeling fatigued” also has a more complex meaning, from a health perspective.
This can be a sensation where you are tired mentally and physically. Feelings of fatigue are common among those with serious chronic medical conditions, such as multiple sclerosis.
This level of fatigue can increase one’s pain and anxiety, light sensitivity, and a general feeling of having less energy than usual.
There’s even a condition called chronic fatigue syndrome, where the fatigue doesn’t seem to go away with rest. It also can include other symptoms such as memory loss or conditions that could require a trip to the doctor.
Beyond general fatigue is the feeling where you’re physically, mentally, and perhaps emotionally, socially, and spiritually worn out.
Even worse, when you’re exhausted lying down to sleep doesn’t always help. Though your body may want to slow down, your brain may still be active and keep reminding you of incomplete projects or past mistakes. Or, you may gain a little energy from a few minutes of resting quietly, even if you don’t fully sleep.
Someone suffering from extreme exhaustion also should consider visiting a doctor or provider, who can try to figure out whether there are physical causes for this, mental ones, environmental ones or a combination. A sleep specialist or mental health provider also may be consulted.
The team at Accredited Home Care always likes to know whether someone is sleeping or how much rest they’ve recently received.