Years ago, I read somewhere that the Eskimo language have 50 different words for ‘snow’. Because they live in a frozen landscape every day, the Inuit notice all the small nuances, from soft falling snow to the kind that’s good for sledding. For their daily life, these tribes need multiple terms to communicate and prepare for the different kinds of snow.
Immediately after learning that I thought, “that’s how I feel about the phrase ‘I’m tired’!”
You see, we use the word ‘tired’ for lots of different sensations, from that satisfied feeling after a successful day of work to the sick tiredness when you’ve come down with a virus or feeling exhausted to the bone with chronic illness. We say “I’m tired” after making a stressful deadline, if we stayed up partying and when our baby has been waking us up during all hours of the night for months on end.
These are not all the same sensations and experiences, and we need more words to accurately describe the kind of tiredness we’re feeling. Why? Because the better you can identify and explain your specific fatigue, the easier it becomes to feel understood, to let your doctors find the root cause and to take the right actions to solve the problem, cope better and prevent worsening.
Disclaimer: Always check with your doctor if you struggle with unexplained fatigue that doesn’t go away after a few good night’s sleep. This article is written with tiredness related to (diagnosed) chronic illness in mind, but tiredness could also be a sign of anemia, thyroid problems, mental disorders and other health problems that require medical treatment.
Obviously not all the terms in this article will be scientifically accurate or validated, and this is by no means a complete list, but here’s my attempt to help you find the right word for the types of tiredness you’re feeling.
Let’s start by digging into the different dimensions, qualities, causes and durations of ‘tiredness’.