What Are the Differences Between Fatigue and Sleepiness?

by Martin Reed Patient Advocate

Most people don’t give too much thought to sleep until they begin to develop sleeping problems. Then almost everything changes – from their attitudes to their relationships and even their health.

Although most people use the terms interchangeably, there is a difference between fatigue and daytime sleepiness. These differences can help you to know whether you are dealing with insomnia or a different sleep issue. Individuals who deal with excessive daytime sleepiness are more likely to go to sleep when they are in a sedentary situation. They may fall asleep while in a waiting room, sitting in a boring meeting, in their vehicle waiting to pick up a child from an event, and other places where one would not generally sleep.

Excessive daytime sleepiness is generally caused by conditions such as restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea, narcolepsy, and even neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease.

Individuals who deal with fatigue don’t generally fall asleep in sedentary situations. However, they struggle to get through normal daily activities. They may feel weary, weak, lack motivation, have issues with memory and productivity, have no interest in social situations, and they can develop depression.

Individuals who suffer from insomnia generally experience fatigue. Insomniacs tend to feel more tired than sleepy. In fact, they may find it hard to take a nap.

Taking care of sleep issues

Whether you are dealing with fatigue or daytime sleepiness, there is a cost to pay for leaving it untreated. Being sleep deprived increases the chances of being in an accident on the road, in the workplace, and even at home. In addition, people who deal with insomnia and other sleep issues are more likely to miss work, take more risks, make poor choices, have trouble concentrating and staying focused, and mood changes can begin to develop.

While insomnia and other sleeping issues can affect your quality of life, it also increases your risk for a variety of health problems including stroke, heart disease, obesity, a lowered pain tolerance, high blood pressure, diabetes, substance abuse, and more.

Needless to say, if sleep is something that is not coming easy for you, seeking out the help of a professional should be done sooner rather than later.

Whether you are dealing with fatigue or excessive daytime sleepiness, it is generally a secondary symptom of something else. Until the primary cause of it is discovered and treated, your sleeping problems will generally linger.

There is no reason to put off talking to your doctor about your sleep and health. There are many treatments and therapies today that can treat most sleep issues. Do not suffer needlessly. Sleep deprivation is nothing to ignore. It can and will begin to impact all areas of your life.

Martin Reed
Meet Our Writer
Martin Reed

Martin is the creator of Insomnia Coach, an eight-week course that combines online sleep education with individual sleep coaching. His course helps clients improve their sleep so they can enjoy a better life with more energy and start each day feeling happy, healthy, rested, and refreshed. Martin also runs a free sleep training course that has helped over 5,000 insomniacs. He holds a master’s degree in health and wellness education and studied clinical sleep health at the University of Delaware.