Why do we need sleep?
It’s recommended that adults have between 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Our bodies use some of this time to repair tissues, restore energy, store activities and things we’ve learned throughout the day in our long-term memory, increase blood flow to our muscles to help restore and build strength, renew skin cells and aid recovery from free radical damage that occurs during the day, reduce cortisol (stress hormone) responsible for causing thinning of the skin and discolouration and increase melatonin which helps fight premature aging. It helps to regulate the immune system and the level of hormones that are responsible for controlling our feelings of hunger and fullness. As well as repairing and replenishing, sleep also plays an extremely important role in cognitive function.
So what is chronic fatigue?
Fatigue is being in a constant state of exhaustion with a severe lack of energy. The cause is unknown and research is currently hugely underfunded. People with chronic fatigue suffer from sleep disturbances. We need sleep for all of the reasons above, but when we don’t get that on a regular basis, our bodies struggle to function at the level they should be. It’s almost like the body is constantly behind schedule and fights to get ahead but is nearly always pushed back. Without going through the correct sleep cycles, the body can’t fully recover from the previous day or replenish hormone levels to regulate the immune system and brain function. Therefore, chronic fatigue sufferers start everyday without fully recovering from the previous days. With the body constantly pushing through with limited resources, it becomes exhausted at a much quicker rate than “normal” bodies.
The symptoms of chronic fatigue?
- Post exertional malaise – the need to rest from even the most simple task. These could range from getting dressed to doing the food shop.
- Impaired cognitive function – difficulty concentrating. This could range from not remembering certain words to not being able to take in any information to forgetting important information or appointments. This can be dangerous if we forget to take medication and can cause anxiety if we are out alone and don’t recognise familiar surroundings.
- A weakened immune system – being more susceptible to catching colds. Being around a lot of people can increase our risk of getting ill more than “normal people” because our bodies can’t fight infection as easily.
- Increased senses – being affected by light, noise and smells, even touch. Most people will have experienced a screaming child at some point and the noise has gone through them and made them wince. Bright, synthetic lighting, strong smells, the TV and even hugs can make us react the same way. All our senses are heightened and can make us feel extremely uncomfortable.
- Looking haggard – signs of premature aging due to cells not replenishing correctly. Dark circles, puffy eyes, fine lines and dull skin can occur because of disturbed sleep. Many people will experience at least one of these after a poor nights sleep, however, when the poor sleep is constant, the signs of premature aging become permanent features. Luckily, there are ways to hide the signs of fatigue and premature aging which I will include in my next blog post.
These are just a few of the symptoms. My hope with this post is to raise awareness of chronic fatigue and to hopefully help people understand that there is a huge difference between being lazy and being physically and mentally affected by something we have no power to control.