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What Is The DIfference Between Being Sleepy vs Tired?

Dec 23, 2022

sleepy young female student yawning while doing homework assignment at home | What Is The DIfference Between Being Sleepy And Tired | Featured

Sleepy vs tired—which is it? Most might use the two term interchangeably, but sleep experts note that there is a significant difference.

RELATED: Tips To Get A Good Sleep And Boost Your Immune System

Understanding the Difference — Sleepy vs Tired

man yawning by table with laptop | exhaustion

Sleepy vs Tired | How Are They Different?

a man sitting at the table | need sleep

Feeling sleepy and being barely able to keep your eyes open is your body telling you that it needs a few hours of shuteye. When you’re sleepy, the only treatment is a good bed and a dark and cool room.

When you’re tired, you are either mentally or physically exhausted. You can cure tiredness or fatigue by resting. And how you rest is up to you. You might find comfort in getting some peace and quiet, settling down with a good book, or immersing yourself in your favorite pastime or hobby. But a nap might not actually get you out of your slump.

Sleepiness and tiredness are connected but distinct. They might stem from the same place. Sleep deprivation or sleep deficiency can cause you to feel lethargic throughout the day. Simultaneously, you might find yourself nodding off, finding it more and more difficult to battle the sandman as the days wears on.

Sleep experts and researchers also treat the two concepts as clinically distinct and are largely considered as two separate assessments.

In fact, there are two standard tests that measure sleepiness and tiredness. The Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS) is an assessment tool that asks how likely you are to fall asleep in particular situations. The Fatigue Severity Scale (FSS) uses as a 7-point Likert scale to evaluate how deeply your fatigue interferes with your day-to-day activities, and helps measure the severity of your fatigue.

Also, a study conducted on shift workers found that there’s a weak connection between fatigue and sleepiness.

It’s important to figure out whether you feel one or the other because how you treat them are very different. It’s also a stepping stone to find out why you’re feeling drained.

Sleepy vs Tired | What Makes You Sleepy?

1. Diet

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Another pillar of good health—your diet—can influence sleep.

When you eat carbs and protein, your tryptophan and serotonin levels may spike. A good combination of carbs, tryptophan, and serotonin might make you feel sleepy especially after a hearty meal.

Heavy meals also require heavy lifting from your body as it needs to work harder to digest and process your food.

Some foods like milk, tart cherries, and fatty fish—keto-approved foods—are also rich in the sleep hormone melatonin. Similarly, taking melatonin supplements can manipulate your circadian rhythm and adjust your body clock.

If you frequently find yourself sluggish or drowsy after a meal, try eating small but frequent meals. It’ll provide you a healthy amount of calories to power you through the day without the droopy-eyed feeling at the end of each meal.

2. Sleep Disturbances

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Sleep obstructions like sleep apnea can interrupt your sleep, frequently waking you in the middle of the night. In fact, sleep interruptions like obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can cause both your daytime sleepiness and fatigue or tiredness.

Keep a sleep journal if you suspect you might have OSA or another sleep disorder. Jot down what time you slept, what time you woke up, and how refreshing your sleep was (if at all). Going over these with your doctor might help bring to light sleep issues, possible underlying health conditions, and address your sleepiness or tiredness.

RELATED: What is Sleep Apnea? How Does It Affect The Quality Of Your Sleep?

Sleepy vs Tired | What Makes You Tired?

1. Psychological Stressors

kids making noise and disturbing mom working at home | drowsiness

The UK National Health Services (NHS) lists psychological sources of tiredness:

  • stress
  • emotional shock
  • depression
  • anxiety

More than psychological causes, mental stressors can also wear you down and make you feel tired, lethargic, or strained.

2. Exercise

group of women doing work out | activity

Pumping iron in the gym can definitely take a toll on your stamina. But a lack of physical activity can also leave you feeling tired more often. It’s important to build muscle mass and work on strength training.

In addition to build physical strength, a quick 15-minute walk can give you a substantial energy boost when you need it the most.

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends 150 minutes of physical activity weekly. How you chop these up into bite-sized sessions depends on what works best for you.

3. Shift Work

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Those working night shifts are likely to feel more tired. Similar to jet lag, frequently switching your wake-sleep schedule can leave you tired and drained.

4. Obesity

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When you’re obese, your body may have too exert more effort your carry your body weight. You may find that doing day-to-day activities is much more tiring.

5. Pregnancy

pregnant woman holding tummy | fatigued

Expecting mothers, especially those in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, may feel the most tired.

6. Medications

heap of various pills in blisters on yellow background | drowsiness

Medication like antihistamines can make you feel tired or drowsy.

These types of medications may leave you feel fatigued:

  • antibiotics
  • diuretics
  • blood pressure medication
  • antidepressants
  • antipsychotics
  • statins and fibrates
  • benzodiazepines
  • proton pump inhibitors

Diuretics may dehydrate you and lead to electrolyte imbalance, which may cause tiredness and fatigue.

Medication like antidepressants may disrupt your hormones and neurotransmitters and cause fatigue symptoms.

Be sure to discuss any side effects with your consultant, and ask about possible alternatives.

The Verdict | Sleepy vs Tired

Sleepiness and fatigue are understandably tricky to differentiate.

As they may also have different causes, they may also have different treatments. And they are also two different assessments where your doctor’s diagnosis is concerned.

They could both root from sleep deficiency, but how you treat each of them may be different. Sleeping can get rid of your sleepiness. But some tired people may find that even a nap is beyond their reach even at their most exhausted state.

Do you now have a better understanding on the difference between sleepy vs tired? Do you think you’ll be able to tell the difference from now on? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below! We’d love to hear from you.