What is the Connection Between Fatigue and Stress?

Fatigue and stress are connected in many ways, and experts continue to study all the complex ways in which they relate to each other and affect people's well-being. Studies have shown that fatigue which does not get better with sleep is often a side effect of the brain not processing stress properly. Other evidence indicates that mental and physical fatigue causes stress on the body and mind. This creates a cycle which is so debilitating for some that medication is prescribed in attempts to treat the condition.

The connection between fatigue and stress is probably most apparent in patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). While the exact causes of CFS are unknown, it is believed that they are related to imbalances within the systems of the brain and body which handle stress. Sleep is usually not restful or rejuvenating for those with CFS, and any mental or physical activity can quickly become exhausting. Any additional stress, even the normal stress of having such a condition, can further exacerbate it.

Sleep is a time when fatigue and stress become closely related. Continuous stress while a person is awake can affect the adrenal glands, and cause them to release adrenaline into the body. If the body has not rid itself of that extra adrenaline by bedtime, it is unlikely the person will sleep well, causing mental and physical fatigue the next day. Typically, this can be righted by eliminating the factors which are causing stress or through stress relief exercises.


Physical conditions such as heart disease, muscle diseases, and obesity also may cause fatigue and stress physically and mentally. Any illness which causes the body to work harder in order to function properly may put added strain on muscles, organs, and the brain. Fatigue and stress are common side effects of these exertions, and lifestyle changes may need to be made, causing a person more stress. Chronic fatigue is also a commonly reported side effect of many medications prescribed for these conditions, though is generally a temporary effect.

The causes of fatigue and stress are many, and the cycle may be difficult to break if the main causes are not dealt with. Some seek spiritual treatment like prayer or meditation, while others look for holistic remedies like herbal supplements. Still others are prescribed medicine to help balance the chemicals in the brain and regulate their moods. It is generally recommended that those suffering chronic fatigue which does not seem to get any better with rest see a medical professional to assess the causes and find treatment.



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