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Health Problems That Mimic Sleep Disorders

When you work on an unpredictable or varying schedule, you may not be able to get as much sleep as you need every day. If you feel tired and lack your usual energy, you may attribute your symptoms to lack of sleep. Other health problems also may cause these symptoms, however. If you persistently feel weary or worn out, ask your physician or other health care provider to assess possible causes.

Common illnesses that cause fatigue

  • Hypothyroidism. If your thyroid is underactive, the thyroid gland in your neck will not produce enough thyroid hormone to regulate your body’s metabolism, heart rate, and body temperature. While this disorder may occur in people of all ages, it is more common in those aged 60 and older. To assess your fatigue and other symptoms, your doctor will perform a physical exam, and order a simple blood test to assess how much thyroid hormone your body produces. If you have an underactive thyroid, your doctor may prescribe a synthetic thyroid replacement hormone to be taken by mouth.
  • Lyme Disease is a bacterial infection transmitted by a bite from a bacterium-infected deer tick. Such ticks commonly thrive in grassy and heavily wooded areas. Lyme Disease is the most common tick-borne illness in North America and Europe. The first indicators of the illness, which often appear within a month of infection, include a rash in a bull’s eye pattern, with a red outer ring that surrounds a clear area, and flu-like symptoms, such as fatigue and chills. Deer ticks are small, often no bigger than the head of a pin, so they may be hard to spot. People may not realize they have been bitten.Treatment with appropriate antibiotics in the early stages of the disease usually results in a complete recovery. Even when treatment is started in later stages, most people recover fully. Some people have lingering fatigue, muscle aches, and other symptoms, however. If you enjoy hunting, hiking, and other outdoor activities, wear long-sleeved clothing and pants, and long socks in wooded areas. Inspect your skin after possible exposure.
  • Depression may cause persistent fatigue, decreased energy, and reduced interest in your usual activities. It’s sometimes hard to distinguish consequences of chronic sleep debt from these and other symptoms of depression, such as difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions, or feelings of hopelessness or pessimism. Talk to your spouse or partner, or close friends, about what you are experiencing. They may help you decide when it’s time to see your doctor or other healthcare provider.
  • Hearing Impairments may make it hard for you to pay attention or catch all the details of conversations. If you don’t hear what others are saying, you may feel foggy, “out of it,” stressed, and irritable. If you worry about not hearing your phone while you sleep, you may not sleep well. If you find yourself asking people to repeat things, get your hearing checked. Not hearing well poses a safety risk on the job and while driving.