What is hyper-fatigue and how can you tackle it? GP advise

A GP explains hyper-fatigue
-Credit: (Image: PA)


We all get tired from time to time – but new research suggests over half of Brits are feeling hyper-fatigued, meaning they’re exhausted all the time. A study by the vitamins and supplements company Solgar found 55% of Britons are hyper-fatigued, rising to 65% of 25-34 year olds.

More than a fifth (23%) blame the ‘always on’ working culture for their constant tiredness, with just over a third (34%) of 25-34-year-olds attributing it to this lack of work-life balance, and 19% putting it down to spending too much time on social media.

But although we all know what tiredness is, what exactly is hyper-fatigue?

Dr Samantha Wild, a GP at Bupa Health Clinics, says hyper-fatigue isn’t a medical term but was a trend identified last year by the research agency Mintel, who said: “The pandemic, rising cost of living, energy crisis, geopolitical unrest, and climate crisis are taking their toll, leaving consumers feeling overwhelmed.” Wild says that while feeling exhausted is very common and we all feel tired sometimes, it can usually be put down to late nights, busy family life, long hours at work, or having disrupted sleep.

But she explains: “Hyper-fatigue is the state of continual mental, emotional and physical exhaustion, which is an all-consuming exhaustion caused by unprecedented demands on our energy.” The GP says the feeling of hyper-fatigue is linked to busy lifestyles, high-pressured work lives and other stressors such as the cost-of-living crisis, climate change, social media, full social calendars, caring responsibilities and energy costs.

And psychotherapist Helen Wells, clinical director at The Dawn Rehab, adds: “Hyper-fatigue is a more severe and persistent form of exhaustion that goes beyond regular fatigue, characterised by extreme tiredness that doesn’t improve significantly with rest. Hyper-fatigue often impairs cognitive and physical functioning and is usually associated with chronic stress, burnout, or underlying health issues.

“This profound exhaustion can lead to a continuous cycle of feeling overwhelmed and unable to recuperate.”

What can people do about hyper-fatigue?

Solgar ambassador and sprinter Desiree Henry, who won an Olympic bronze medal in the 4 x 100 metres relay at the 2016 Rio Games, says when she does too much she can get a sense of hyper-fatigue, and recommends some ‘headspace’ time to get back on track. “I am as guilty as most people of probably spending too much time on social media and spreading myself too thinly by trying to do too much, all of which can lead to feelings of overdoing it and that sense of hyper-fatigue,” she says.

The athlete, 28, points out that she has “a variety of tricks” she uses to keep her mind and body calm, including breathing exercises or just a few minutes of quiet. “If you find it hard to take time for yourself then it can be a good plan to schedule ‘headspace’ time,” she says. “You are giving yourself space and time to think, to be in the moment and to recalibrate. Those moments of nothing can be as important as the moments of full-on effort.”

Here’s what the experts recommend to combat hyper-fatigue…

Be kind to yourself

Wild warns that even if you address the lifestyle factors that may be causing hyper-fatigue, it may take time to get back to normal. “There is no magic cure for fatigue, especially if you’ve been feeling tired for a long time,” she says. “Be kind to yourself and set realistic goals and make sure you’re getting time to rest in between working and enjoying yourself.

“If you’re overwhelmed by social plans then make sure you empower yourself to say no, rather than agreeing to everything and then regretting it.”

Prioritise a sleep routine

Make sure you have a good bedtime routine, advises Wild, who says this means not taking mobiles to bed with you, as this can wake you up rather than help you sleep, dimming the lights about two hours before you go to bed, and relaxing and unwinding from your day, perhaps by having a warm bath, reading or watching a boxset. Then, make sure the bedroom is a good temperature to sleep in and isn’t too noisy.

“Once you get in bed, lie on your back and take a deep breath in for four beats, then exhale,” she suggests. “This will help your muscles relax and help you drift off to sleep. Your sleep routine is so important to making sure you get a good night’s sleep.”

Eat a healthy diet

Wild recommends your diet is rich in vitamins and minerals, as this will help with fatigue. She suggests choosing high-protein foods such as meat, fish, beans, pulses, eggs and nuts, as protein is a good source of energy. “Having lower iron levels can make you feel more tired, so try to add green leafy vegetables which contain iron into your diet,” she says.

Exercise regularly

“You may feel too tired to exercise, but exercise actually boosts your energy levels,” explains Wild.

If you don’t exercise at the moment, start with small exercises and build them up so they become regular, she advises. “Try different types of exercise until you find something you enjoy, or you won’t want to exercise and give up quickly. Exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous either, it can be as simple as a quick 30-minute walk round the block – this can help clear your head.”

Address social media use

Wells says social media addiction or excessive time spent on social media platforms has a detrimental effect on wellbeing and is linked to increased anxiety, depression, poor sleep quality, and hyper-fatigue.

“The constant stimulation from notifications, scrolling feeds, and the fear of missing out leads to our brains becoming overwhelmed and exhausted,” she explains. “Taking breaks and setting boundaries around social media consumption is key to resetting attention reserves and restoring healthy energy levels.”

Try to reduce stress

Wild says stress can make us feel more tired, and suggests: “You can reduce stress in a number of ways, including through exercise, talking about how you’re feeling and practicing mindfulness. When things feel overwhelming, stress can become all-encompassing – you could try writing down reasons why you’re stressed and look at simple ways in which you can overcome them.”

Improve work-life balance

Wells says there’s a clear link between work-life balance, burnout, and hyper-fatigue, explaining: “Poor work-life balance often leads to chronic stress, as individuals struggle to juggle professional demands and personal responsibilities, and this persistent imbalance can result in burnout, which further exacerbates hyper-fatigue.” She says patients frequently report feeling overwhelmed and unable to recharge, leading to declining mental health. “Addressing these issues through therapy involves setting boundaries, fostering self-care routines, and developing stress management techniques to restore balance and wellbeing.”

Get checked out

If you’re worried about any tiredness, Wild says you should speak to a healthcare professional who’ll be able to look into why you may be feeling like this and recommend the best course of action.