Most adults need anywhere from seven to nine hours of sleep a night. For different reasons, this doesn’t always happen. Not getting enough sleep can stem from mental health disorders and physical health concerns. 

Sometime, even when you do technically get enough sleep, you may deal with symptoms of fatigue. 

There’s even a disorder that leads to extreme fatigue lasting for at least six months called chronic fatigue syndrome. In many ways, chronic fatigue syndrome baffles health care professionals because it’s a disorder that cannot often be explained by an underlying health condition. 

Someone with chronic fatigue syndrome will often experience sleep that’s not refreshing, so they wake up feeling just as tired as they went to bed. Other symptoms of CFS include problems with concentration, memory, and focus, and dizziness that occurs when going from lying down to sitting up or standing. 

There are other names for CFS, including myalgia encephalomyelitis. 

Some of the theories doctors currently have as to why people may develop CFS include viral infections and ongoing psychological stress. 

The following are some key things to know about CFS and the ways it can impact someone’s life.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Symptoms

Some of the symptoms of CFS include:

Extreme fatigue
Sore throat
Concentration problems
Enlarged lymph nodes in the armpits or neck
Muscle or joint pain
Extreme exhaustion after mental or physical exercise

Possible Causes

Again, while doctors aren’t entirely sure about the causes of chronic fatigue syndrome, there are some theories. Someone might have one of the triggering factors, or a combination. 

Viral infections: Doctors feel that some people develop CFS after a viral infection, and viruses that may be specifically linked include human herpesvirus 6 and Epstein-Barr. 
Immune system problems: When people have chronic fatigue syndrome, their immune systems are often slightly impaired, but doctors aren’t sure if this is a cause, a result, or neither. 
Hormonal imbalances: There have been abnormal blood levels of hormones produced in the adrenal glands, pituitary glands, and hypothalamus in some people with CFS. 
Physical or emotional trauma: Frequently, people went through extreme stress or something like surgery or an injury before their symptoms started. 

Risk factors for CFS include age and sex. CFS most commonly affects young and middle-aged people, and women are diagnosed significantly more often than men. 

Complications that can occur if someone has CFS include restrictions on lifestyle, missing work, isolation, and depression. 

How Is CFS Diagnosed?

There’s not one diagnostic test currently available for CFS, and it can be challenging to make a diagnosis because the symptoms can be similar in many other conditions. For example, CFS may be misdiagnosed as a sleep disorder. Sleep disorders include insomnia, restless leg syndrome, and obstructive sleep apnea. 

Fatigue is commonly a symptom of medical conditions like diabetes, anemia, and hypothyroidism. 

Fatigue can present as a key symptom of mental health disorders like anxiety and depression. 

Often people with CFS will have other health problems simultaneously, such as fibromyalgia, depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, or irritable bowel syndrome. 

The diagnostic criteria with CFS include:

Fatigue so severe it interferes with your ability to engage in activities you did before your illness. 
Of new-onset and not something you had for your entire life. 
Fatigue not relieved by rest. 
Fatigue that gets worse with emotional, physical, or mental exertion. 

Symptoms must have been present for at least six months and should happen at least half the time with intensity that’s moderate or severe. 

Can CFS Be Treated?

There’s no cure or specific treatment for CFS at this time, particularly with so little known about it. Instead, most of the treatments are focused on reducing or alleviating symptoms and improving someone’s quality of life. 

Some of the medications used to do this include:

Low-dose antidepressants: Many people who have CFS and other chronic health conditions also deal with depression. When you treat depression, it can help alleviate some of the symptoms of CFS, which is why antidepressants may be used. 
Orthostatic intolerance: For someone with CFS who deals with feeling faint or nauseous when they stand or sit upright, blood pressure medicines may help. 
Pain relievers: If someone has pain with CFS and over-the-counter pain relievers don’t help, sometimes prescription medicines may be used such as Lyrica, Cymbalta, or Neurontin. 

Therapy can also be helpful for CFS. 

Counseling can help a person deal with and learn to cope with the symptoms of chronic illnesses, including the problems it might create at school or work, and in relationships. 
Sleep deprivation can make any other symptoms you’re experiencing worse, so therapy might address sleep habits. 
PEM Symptoms: There’s something called post-exertional malaise or PEM that can occur with CFS. Extreme exertion can occur when someone with CFS does anything physical or mental, leading to exertion. Pacing yourself with activities can help, and there’s something called the energy envelope you might learn about. This means that you learn how to stay within your limits. Keeping a journal about your daily activities can help you stay within your limits. 

Some lifestyle changes may be advisable if you have CFS. For example, reducing your caffeine intake can help you sleep at night. If you have trouble falling asleep at night you might also avoid naps during the day. 

Over time, you’ll likely have to continue managing your CFS. This can mean changing your lifestyle so that it accommodates your fatigue and other symptoms. Joining a support group might help you manage the challenges of CFS and help you avoid isolation. 

Doctors are currently researching to learn more about the long-term effects of CFS and what it might look like for someone who has it for years or decades. 

Try to take care of yourself mentally and physically if you’re dealing with this sometimes debilitating chronic illness. Remember the value of self-care, and knowing what your limits are in your daily life so that you don’t unnecessarily push yourself to a level that’s harmful to you.