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10 Causes of Sudden Episodes of Extreme Fatigue

Hayley Dawes
11 October 2023

Dreem Distillery is your go-to product collection to support sleep, rest and recovery. We believe building in moments of down time and adequate rest into your routine helps to support improved energy levels and leaves you feeling more productive and able to handle the stresses of life.

Have you ever experienced a sudden episode of extreme fatigue that left you feeling drained, both mentally and physically? Extreme fatigue is more than just feeling tired or sleepy; it can significantly impact your daily life and even interfere with your ability to perform everyday tasks. With a prevalence of 80-100% among individuals diagnosed with cancer and a potential connection to sleep apnea, chronic fatigue syndrome, and various infections, it’s crucial to understand the causes and triggers of extreme fatigue. In this comprehensive discussion, we’ll delve into the factors that contribute to sudden episodes of extreme fatigue and provide guidance on when to seek medical help.

Short Summary

  • Sudden extreme fatigue can be caused by dietary, lifestyle, or underlying health issues.
  • Common triggers include stress and medical conditions such as sleep apnea and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).
  • Good sleep hygiene, balanced diet & exercise, and seeking medical help when needed are recommended to reduce episodes of extreme fatigue.

Understanding Sudden Extreme Fatigue

Extreme fatigue is a feeling of tiredness or exhaustion that goes beyond the usual sense and can significantly impede normal daily activities. One might feel tired beyond the usual sense, making it challenging to carry out activities that were once straightforward.

Various dietary or lifestyle factors, as well as underlying health issues, may be contributing to sudden extreme fatigue.

Defining Extreme Fatigue

Often mistaken for ordinary tiredness, extreme fatigue is a condition that has a significant impact on everyday life. It is characterized by a persistent feeling of tiredness lasting at least six months, which is not relieved by rest and has no identifiable medical cause.

According to the National Health Service, other symptoms of extreme fatigue include muscle pain, joint pain, headaches, poor concentration, sore throat, tender lymph nodes, and difficulty sleeping.

Identifying Symptoms of Extreme Fatigue

Symptoms of extreme fatigue can be both physical and mental. Physical symptoms may include:

  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Headaches
  • A sore throat
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Feeling dizzy or sick
  • Fast or irregular heartbeats
  • Tender lymph nodes

On the mental side, extreme fatigue can be associated with:

  • Depression
  • Reduced motivation for activities
  • Difficulty concentrating or focusing
  • Very low energy
  • Issues with memory or thinking skills

If these symptoms continue for an extended period of time, it is advisable to consult a medical professional.

Common Triggers for Sudden Episodes of Extreme Fatigue

Various factors can contribute to sudden episodes of extreme fatigue, including both lifestyle factors and medical conditions. A new medication or a gradual accumulation of stress, without proper coping strategies or self-care practices, can lead to emotional exhaustion and consequent severe fatigue.

In some cases, medical conditions like rheumatoid arthritis have been known to cause fatigue.

Lifestyle Factors

Lifestyle factors such as insufficient sleep, an unbalanced diet, and elevated stress levels can all contribute to extreme fatigue. Poor sleep can result in fatigue due to lack of restorative rest, while an unhealthy diet can cause nutritional deficiencies and increase inflammation, further exacerbating fatigue.

Additionally, stress hormones may elevate, leading to a decrease in energy levels and an increase in inflammation.

Medical Conditions

Sleep apnea, chronic fatigue syndrome, and infections may be associated with sudden episodes of extreme fatigue. Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by interruptions in breathing during sleep, which can lead to poor sleep quality and increased daytime sleepiness.

Chronic fatigue syndrome is a complex disorder characterized by extreme fatigue that does not improve with rest. Infections, such as urinary tract infections, can also cause fatigue due to the inflammation they cause and the disruption of the body’s normal functioning.

Sleep Apnea and Extreme Fatigue

Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder that is characterized by recurrent interruptions in normal breathing patterns while sleeping. This can significantly impact energy levels due to disrupted sleep patterns and lowered oxygen levels in the bloodstream.

Let’s take a closer look at sleep apnea and how it contributes to extreme fatigue.

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by:

  • Recurrent interruptions in normal breathing patterns during sleep
  • Poor sleep quality
  • Disruptions in the normal sleep cycle
  • Inadequate sleep quality
  • Absence of restorative sleep

If left untreated, sleep apnea can have a range of health consequences, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and other serious health issues.

How Sleep Apnea Causes Fatigue

Sleep apnea causes fatigue due to fragmented sleep and reduced oxygen levels in the blood, which can affect the body’s ability to function properly. The disruption of the normal sleep cycle and the body’s inability to attain restful sleep can lead to extreme tiredness and a lack of energy.

Additionally, sleep apnea is associated with increased energy expenditure, as the body requires additional energy to restore regular breathing during episodes of sleep apnea.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Systemic Exertion Intolerance Disease

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and systemic exertion intolerance disease (SEID) are complex disorders that can cause extreme fatigue and significantly impact daily life. Both conditions are characterized by persistent fatigue that does not improve with rest and is exacerbated by physical or mental exertion.

In this section, we will delve deeper into these conditions and their impact on fatigue.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Explained

Chronic fatigue syndrome is a long-term condition characterized by persistent fatigue lasting at least six months, which is not relieved with rest and has no identifiable medical cause. A review of medical history, physical examination, and laboratory tests are typically used to diagnose chronic fatigue syndrome.

Treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome often involves:

  • Obtaining adequate sleep
  • Engaging in regular physical activity
  • Consuming a nutritious diet
  • Taking medications to help manage associated symptoms

Systemic Exertion Intolerance Disease and Its Impact on Fatigue

Systemic exertion intolerance disease is a severe form of chronic fatigue syndrome that causes extreme exhaustion after minimal physical or mental exertion. Individuals with SEID can experience this.

  • Extreme fatigue following minimal physical or mental exertion
  • Impaired ability to carry out daily activities
  • Significant impact on their quality of life

The precise etiology of SEID is yet to be determined, but it is hypothesized to be associated with a combination of genetic, environmental, and psychological components. Treatment for SEID is geared towards managing symptoms and enhancing quality of life, which may involve lifestyle modifications, medications, and therapies.

The Role of Infections in Extreme Fatigue

Infections can play a significant role in extreme fatigue, as they can interfere with the body’s normal functioning and cause inflammation. Urinary tract infections (UTIs), viral illnesses like influenza, mononucleosis, and hepatitis, and even more serious bacterial infections such as pneumonia and sepsis, can all contribute to extreme fatigue.

Let’s explore the role of infections in more detail.

Urinary Tract Infections and Fatigue

Urinary tract infections can cause fatigue due to the body’s immune response and inflammation. The inflammation associated with a urinary tract infection can result in fatigue, as the body is utilizing energy to combat the infection.

It is important to recognize and treat UTIs promptly to avoid complications and reduce the impact on energy levels.

Viral Illnesses and Their Effect on Energy Levels

Viral illnesses, such as mononucleosis and COVID-19, can lead to extreme fatigue as the body fights the infection. The body’s immune response and inflammation can cause exhaustion, making it difficult for individuals to perform daily activities.

Ensuring adequate rest and maintaining a balanced diet can help manage fatigue caused by viral illnesses, and seeking medical advice if the fatigue persists is recommended.

Mental Health and Extreme Fatigue

Mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety disorders, can be closely linked to extreme fatigue. These conditions can cause disruptions in sleep patterns, decreased motivation, and changes in appetite, all of which can contribute to feelings of extreme tiredness.

Let’s take a closer look at how mental health disorders, including mood disorders, can impact fatigue levels.

Major Depressive Disorder and Fatigue

Major depressive disorder can cause fatigue due to imbalances in neurotransmitters and the central nervous system. This can lead to:

  • Decreased motivation and energy levels
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Alterations in sleep patterns
  • Extreme fatigue

Treatment options for major depressive disorder may include medications, therapy, and lifestyle modifications.

Anxiety and Its Impact on Energy Levels

Anxiety can lead to extreme fatigue as a result of constant worry, stress, and tension. These factors can cause both physical and mental exhaustion, making it difficult for individuals to carry out daily activities and maintain focus on tasks.

Managing anxiety through relaxation techniques, physical activity, and consulting a mental health specialist may help address fatigue related to anxiety.

Diagnosing the Cause of Sudden Extreme Fatigue

There is no single test to diagnose the cause of extreme fatigue. However, physicians may conduct blood tests to exclude potential medical conditions, such as anemia or liver dysfunction, and use clinical criteria to assist in diagnosing chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).

Let’s examine some of the diagnostic methods for determining the cause of sudden extreme fatigue.

Blood Tests for Fatigue

Blood tests can help identify underlying causes of fatigue, such as anemia or vitamin deficiencies. A complete blood count (CBC), thyroid function tests, iron studies, vitamin B12 and folate levels, and C-reactive protein are commonly employed to diagnose fatigue.

The outcomes of blood tests can assist in identifying potential causes of fatigue, such as anemia or vitamin deficiencies, and help physicians determine the most suitable treatment plan for the patient.

Other Diagnostic Tools

In addition to blood tests, other diagnostic tools may include sleep studies, imaging tests, and psychological evaluations. Sleep studies assess a person’s sleep patterns to diagnose potential sleep disorders, while imaging tests like X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs can identify potential medical conditions that may be causing fatigue.

Psychological evaluations can evaluate an individual’s psychological state and help determine any psychological conditions that could be causing exhaustion.

Cancer-Related Fatigue

Cancer-related fatigue is a type of fatigue that is caused by cancer or cancer treatments and is typically characterized by overwhelming exhaustion that is not relieved by rest. This extreme tiredness can make it difficult for individuals to carry out daily activities and can significantly affect their quality of life.

In this section, we will explore cancer-related fatigue and its treatment options.

Understanding Cancer-Related Fatigue

Cancer-related fatigue is a common side effect of cancer and its treatments, causing extreme tiredness and weakness. The fatigue can be attributed to the cancer itself, the treatments used to combat the cancer, or other elements such as stress, inadequate sleep, and inadequate nutrition.

Symptoms associated with cancer-related fatigue include extreme tiredness, lack of energy, difficulty concentrating, and difficulty performing everyday activities.

Treatment Options for Cancer-Related Fatigue

Treatment options for cancer-related fatigue include medications, exercise, and complementary therapies. Lifestyle modifications such as adequate sleep, a balanced diet, and regular exercise are suggested for cancer-related fatigue.

Additionally, medications, counseling, and complementary therapies like acupuncture and massage may be recommended.

Lifestyle Habits and Their Impact on Fatigue

Lifestyle habits play a crucial role in determining energy levels and fatigue. Adequate sleep, stress management, and abstaining from alcohol and drugs can all have a positive effect on energy levels.

In this section, we will discuss the impact of lifestyle habits on fatigue and provide guidance on how to improve sleep hygiene and manage stress.

Sleep Hygiene and Fatigue

Poor sleep hygiene can contribute to extreme fatigue by disrupting the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. Sleep hygiene is a set of practices and habits that promote good quality sleep, including:

  • maintaining a regular sleep schedule
  • avoiding stimulants before bedtime
  • creating a comfortable sleep environment
  • practicing relaxation techniques to induce better sleep

Ensuring good sleep hygiene, as recommended by the National Sleep Foundation, can help improve energy levels and reduce the risk of developing fatigue.

Diet, Exercise, and Energy Levels

A balanced diet and regular exercise can help improve energy levels and reduce fatigue. Here are some tips to keep your energy levels up.

  • Consume small, regular meals to provide a consistent source of energy.
  • Incorporate fruits, vegetables, proteins, and healthy fats into your diet to get essential nutrients.
  • Avoid foods with high sugar content or processed carbohydrates, as they can cause energy dips.

Regular exercise can positively affect energy levels by increasing circulation and oxygenation of the body, reducing stress, and improving sleep quality.

When to Seek Medical Help

It is essential to know when to seek medical help for sudden episodes of extreme fatigue. If fatigue interferes with your ability to participate in work or school, social or personal activities, you should consult a physician. Additionally, it is recommended to visit your doctor if your fatigue persists for over two weeks and does not improve.

If you feel sudden exhaustion and have symptoms of a heart attack or stroke, don’t hesitate; call 911 right away. These are serious medical emergencies and should be taken seriously.


In conclusion, extreme fatigue is a complex issue that can be influenced by various factors such as lifestyle habits, medical conditions, and mental health disorders. Understanding the underlying causes and triggers of sudden episodes of extreme fatigue is crucial in managing and preventing this debilitating condition. By adopting good sleep hygiene, maintaining a balanced diet, engaging in regular exercise, and addressing any underlying medical or psychological issues, you can significantly improve your energy levels and overall quality of life. Remember to seek medical help when necessary and prioritize self-care to combat fatigue and live a healthier, more energetic life.

Frequently Asked Questions

What causes extreme fatigue out of nowhere?

Extreme fatigue out of nowhere can be caused by physical activity, illness, medical conditions, unhealthy lifestyle, stress, depression, hormonal changes, and some illnesses like glandular fever and COVID-19.

Should I be concerned about sudden fatigue?

If your sudden fatigue is preventing you from participating in daily activities or has other symptoms such as weight loss or mood changes, it’s important to seek advice from a medical professional.

Additionally, if you’ve been feeling tired for a few weeks with no clear cause, speak to a GP.

What does diabetes fatigue feel like?

Diabetes fatigue can be characterized by a lack of energy and feeling too exhausted to perform even simple tasks. It can also involve a foggy feeling and difficulty getting up in the morning.

This type of fatigue can be caused by a variety of factors, including high blood sugar levels, dehydration, and lack of sleep. It can also be a symptom of an underlying medical condition.

How do you deal with sudden extreme fatigue?

Consult a GP for advice, eat often, get moving, lose weight, sleep well, reduce stress, talk therapy, reduce caffeine and alcohol intake, and find your own level of exercise to help relieve fatigue symptoms.

Taking steps to improve your lifestyle can help reduce fatigue symptoms. Start by consulting a GP for advice. Eating regularly and healthily can help maintain energy levels. Exercise can help reduce fatigue, but it is important to find your own level of exercise that works for you. Reducing stress, getting enough sleep.

What is the difference between ordinary tiredness and extreme fatigue?

Extreme fatigue is a more profound level of tiredness than ordinary tiredness, causing significant impairment to daily activities.

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