Tag Archives: mental fatigue

Sleepy Nation

Microbursts of sleep refers to periods of sudden somnolence that last from a few to several seconds. People who experience these episodes may doze off without realizing it.
It can occur anywhere, such as at work, at school, or while watching TV. Episodes of microsleep can also happen while driving or operating machinery, which makes this a dangerous condition. People may fall asleep at a stoplight, in a restaurant, at the theater, or at a work meeting. In addition to the potential for serious physical harm to self or others, these bursts of sleep can cause embarrassment and secondary problems (hitting your head, work problems, falling on another person, dropping or breaking items).
Microbursts of sleep happen when parts of your brain are asleep and other parts remain awake.
Warning signs of an episode of microsleep include:
  • inability to keep eyes open
  • excessive yawning
  • body jerks and head bobs
  • constantly blinking or widening eyes to stay awake
  • sudden onset of severe fatigue
  • short REM latencies (entering REM sleep very quickly)
  • feeling foggy; not being able to concentrate on a task or conversation
  • making careless mistakes (inattention to detail)
  • slow processing speed and task completion
  • impaired fine motor skills
Why does our brain go into a shut down and reboot? The biggest culprit is sleep deprivation.
Causes can include:
  • medical concerns (sleep apnea, restless leg and movement disorders, perimenopause, chronic pain, frequent urination)
  • shift work: overnight schedules and changing hours make it difficult for our brains to adjust
  • circadian rhythms that are irregular. Even DST can affect sleep for days to weeks
  • medications: stimulants like Concerta and Adderall may result in fatigue and sleepiness when they ‘wear off’.  Others cause excessive sleepiness if not timed properly, including antihistamines and even melatonin
  • alcohol and substance abuse
  • anxiety/worry/depression
  • boredom: repetitive tasks; solitary work; long drives; excessive sitting
  • ‘revenge insomnia’ is the tendency to purposefully stay up late binge watching, scrolling, chatting, gaming, after working all day. It’s reclaiming ‘me time’ with a cost and can be beguiling for those who work long hours
What to do:
  • Address underlying medical issues. Sleep studies may also be required. A single study or examination may only reveal a partial picture.
  • Get enough sleep. Prioritize rest and listen to your body. The average adult becomes sleepy after being awake for about 7-8 hours. Even with formulas for how much you ‘should be sleeping,’ how you sleep is highly individualized. More more info read: Got Sleep.
  • Exercise and get daily sunlight during the day.
  • When you feel tired, don’t push yourself into continuing to work. You’re not getting much work done anyway. Reboot by resting and starting again later.
  • Reframe attitudes about resting. The old adages about ‘toughing it out’ are not helpful for our mental, cognitive, or physical health.
  • Sleep well before road trips or long tasks. If possible, drive with a passenger. Avoid driving at times when you naturally feel tired, such as times you’re normally asleep, near dusk, or during your post-lunch or afternoon lull. Stop often and get out of the car.
  • Talk to other people. Neuropsychological research shows that conversation and social interaction reduce sleepiness. One study also found that hearing your own name was more effective than other auditory input for attention during a vigilance test.
  • Don’t rely on loud music. Loud volume won’t do much to keep you awake while driving. Some research suggests that the brain may not be registering auditory inputs during periods of microsleep.
  • Caffeine helps a little. It takes a while to kick in and only provides a moderate effect for a couple of hours. You can also have a high tolerance if you frequently use caffeine.
  • Take movement breaks. Fidgeting, stretching, and moving keeps the mind more engaged. Take regular breaks and stretch if you are sitting for long periods of time.
  • Rest when you are tired.
  • Most importantly, work with your own circadian rhythms, schedule, and responsibilities as much as possible. These vary. Micro sleep is our brain trying to function and rest at the same time. Work with it, not against it.

We are Tired: On Mental fatigue

Her: “It is 7 PM and it feels like midnight.“

Mental fatigue is an all too common feeling these days. Uncertainty, high stress levels, juggling responsibilities, financial hardship, medical problems, and a demanding lifestyle are making our minds feel downright exhausted. In addition to lengthy and tiring days, we have numerous daily hassles that take up hours and hours of time: being on the phone with tech-support after the computer crashed again, the jammed printer, the fraud alert on the credit card, sitting in traffic for hours, standing in line for more hours.

But living in a state of permanent mental fatigue can have consequences on our personal and professional well-being. It is painful and unsustainable.

When your brain feels exhausted and unable to function properly, it leaves you mentally and emotionally drained. This is commonly known as ‘brain fog’ or mental fatigue.

According to neuropsychology research, a tired brain impairs your cognitive abilities. This affects your productivity, decision-making skills, learning, and memory. For example, brain fog makes it hard to concentrate. Even simple household tasks like washing dishes, going to the grocery store, changing kitty litter, or doing the laundry seem cumbersome.

Mental fatigue is a state of tiredness that sets in when your brain’s energy levels are depleted, usually the result of prolonged stressors. Long-term stress can be brought on by a variety of factors, including a challenging life transition, grief/bereavement, a demanding job, feeling unsupported or alone, or executive functioning weaknesses, such as procrastination, poor planning, organizing, or prioritizing.

Long-term mental exhaustion can also affect your professional life. When your symptoms aren’t managed, it can lead to workplace burnout. Symptoms of workplace burnout include a lack of belief in your abilities, decreased job satisfaction, cynicism, and a lack of motivation.

The Covid-19 pandemic has turned mental fatigue into a widespread global issue. The World Health Organization (WHO) describes this “pandemic fatigue” as demotivation, alienation, complacency, disconnection, and feelings of hopelessness. Mental fatigue is insidious — its symptoms develop gradually and are not always noticed. The pandemic created an unprecedented time of stress and uncertainty for millions of people around the world. Many people have been in survival mode.

4 emotional symptoms of mental fatigue:
1) Anxiety
Anxiety is one of the most common symptoms of mental fatigue. It develops because prolonged mental fatigue triggers the sympathetic nervous system. This is also known as your fight/flight/freeze mode. This causes you to be in a constant state of panic or worry about the future, which can lead to impulsive behavior, avoidance, and indecisiveness.  Always feeling anxious should act as an alarm bell, telling you something isn’t right. Anxiety is not an enemy, it’s a signal/warning that something is wrong.

2) Languishing
Languishing can be described as a feeling of emptiness and stagnation. This feeling develops when your mind feels depleted of energy. Someone stuck in a state of languishing frequently feels apathy and a disconnection from friends, partners, and work colleagues. It can manifest as zoning out, variable attention and concentration, and not listening. If this feeling persists, it can gradually isolate you from people in your life who start to think that you just don’t care.

3) Low resilience
When you’re mentally fatigued, challenges seem nearly impossible to overcome. You’re going up the hill that everybody expects you to climb, but with a backpack full of rocks. For example, someone with reduced resilience can easily crumble under the pressure of a challenging work assignment or deadline. They may make mistakes, miss deadlines, or procrastinate.

4) Depression
Mental fatigue and depression are interconnected. Fatigue is a symptom of depression and vice-versa. Depression is a mental health disorder that can have multiple causes, including trauma and stressful life events. It’s characterized by a sense of hopelessness, feelings of low self-worth and a lack of energy to engage in daily life. If low resilience is a backpack full of rocks, depression is the boulder.

4 Physical symptoms of mental fatigue:
The characteristics of mental fatigue aren’t just emotional. They can also show up as physical symptoms that impair your health and well-being.
1) Aches, pains, and muscle tension
Your mental health has a direct effect on your physical health. The high level of stress that causes mental fatigue also causes you to feel tired, weary, achy, sore, and lethargic.

2) Sleep issues
People suffering from mental exhaustion often experience trouble sleeping, insomnia, and even hypersomnia. These sleep problems arise due to the emotional side effects of mental fatigue like anxiety or depression. Being in a constant state of hypervigilance and worry makes it harder to get a good night’s sleep.

3) Increase in illness
A weakened mental and physical state can lead to various health problems. Some of these include:

  • Muscle strains
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Weakened immune system

4. Poor eating habits
Unhealthy eating habits are common for someone suffering from mental exhaustion. A number of studies indicate that people are more likely to engage in emotional eating or conversely eat less under mental stress and fatigue. Not getting the proper nutrients and indulging in foods high in sugar can slowly impair cognitive abilities. It also contributes to upticks in anxiety and depression (‘crashes’).

Related, what to do about mental fatigue.

Embolden Psychology
Embolden

Embolden offers the ADOS-2, the gold standard assessment for kids on the spectrum.

Combined with psychoeducational testing, it helps provide comprehensive information and recommendations to help children and teens six and up.

Thank you for contacting us.