The Many Faces of Exhaustion

An etching from Thistledown by CV Jamison, dreams and exhaustion are nighttime concerns
An etching from the 1903 book “Thistledown” by C.V. Jamison. Dreams and exhaustion are nighttime concerns.

In an opinion piece in The Guardian last month, there was a heart-rending op-ed about the level of exhaustion that comes with chronic fatigue syndrome ending a long-term relationship—one point in particular representing the crux of the poignant exploration: “Perhaps this is the symptom of modern relationships. We are told to believe we deserve the best for ourselves, to make sure we do not settle for anything less than perfect, and that when we meet someone they must fulfill every single criteria we set for our romantic destiny. When did we lose the capacity to love someone for their imperfections, as much as for what we think is perfect?”


The Healing Properties of Sleep

The debilitation experienced by the person writing the piece was one of the reasons for the split and I’m betting there are some readers who have walked in those shoes at one time or another, whether from exhaustion or illness (or both). The fact the piece was published in a UK-based newspaper proves that these are global problems, not just ones suffered by hardworking Americans.

Painting of the norse night Goddess Nott, a help to sleepless exhaustion?
The Norse night goddess Nótt riding her horse, in a 19th-century painting by Peter Nicolai Arbo.

I used this example as a lead-in today because I came across a post on the Miss-Treated blog that made me realize it’s important for our readers to know that we understand the difference between sleep deprivation and chronic fatigue. The blog is the brainchild of Katie Ernst—and trust me, she has quite a brain! She earned her Juris Doctor from Loyola University in New Orleans, graduating Magna Cum Laude in 2007. After giving up a full-time legal practice due to medical issues, she turned her attention to writing. You can hear her story in her own words on her About Page.

Her post is titled, “Five Reasons Fatigue Isn’t Like Normal Tiredness (Proving Most People Don’t Get It)” is so compelling because its author has had experience with people confusing the two completely different situations: “…the most jerkish thing people do is act like the fatigue you’re dealing with—the bone wearying, debilitating, sometimes disabling fatigue—is equivalent to how they felt when they ran a 10K that one time. ‘Just get more sleep,’ they’ll tell you. Or, ‘You need to push through it. We all get tired.’ If you weren’t so fatigued you’d punch the guy right in the face. But you are so you smile and nod.”

Hypnos on Pandora de Balthazar
Bronze Head of Hypnos, the personification of sleep in Greek mythology. The statue fragment, in the British Museum, is from Civitella d’Arna near Perugia in Italy from the 1st to the 2nd Century AD. Image courtesy of WikiMedia and Jononmac46.

Thank you for your honesty, Katie, as your exploration shined a light on the need to address the difference between sleepiness and fatigue, a subject Brandon Peters, MD, discussed on VeryWell.com in April. It’s a well-thought-out piece if you want to read the entire thesis, his premise being that many believe the difference between the two is mere semantics, though it’s far from the case.


The Many Faces of Exhaustion

This, to me, zeroes in on the heart of the debate: “No matter how extreme the fatigue, it does not result in sleep. People who feel fatigued may lie down to rest or take a nap. They do not, however, fall asleep. People with extreme sleepiness or drowsiness will be able to sleep if given the opportunity.”

Explaining why this matters, Dr. Peters notes that tiredness arises from sleep deprivation among those who achieve inadequate total sleep time. He also explains that sleep apnea or narcolepsy could also be to blame. I felt it is important to mention this on the Pandora de Balthazár Experience today because we are seriously sensitive to anyone who is struggling with illness—I’ve had my own issues in the past. When we speak of how much our European Sleep System helps people achieve better sleep outcomes, we are not dismissing those who suffer from an illness that would make this impossible.

In Hesiod's “Theogony,” Nyx—the goddess of night—is the daughter of Chaos and the mother of a number of children, including Hypnos (sleep) and Oneiroi (dreams). She is represented in this detail of a painting by William-Adolphe Bouguereau titled “La Nuit” from 1883.
In Hesiod’s “Theogony,” Nyx—the goddess of night—is the daughter of Chaos and the mother of a number of children, including Hypnos (sleep) and Oneiroi (dreams). She is represented in this detail of a painting by William-Adolphe Bouguereau titled “La Nuit” from 1883.

Though our ergonomic pillows can help lessen the effects of sleep apnea and narcolepsy for some people, we understand that chronic illnesses, like chronic fatigue syndrome and insomnia, are all-together different animals and we empathize with anyone who longs for sleep without being able to achieve it.

In our world, I believe it is critical to be as careful as possible with the message we put out. The last thing we at Pandora de Balthazár would ever want to do is have someone with a chronic illness land here and feel we are being dismissive of his or her struggle because chronic illness certainly needs more attention than just the comfort of sleep. That said, even if someone is sick, to be nurtured and comforted is important during the recovery process and we believe having the right tools to help achieve the best sleep under these challenging circumstance is valuable.

Thanks for following along this train of thought today: we are truly investing all of our energy in making the world a more rested place for those who are able to drop down into blissful sleep.

The Pandora de Balthazár Experience and this post, The Many Faces of Exhaustion, © Pandora de Balthazár, all rights reserved. Products mentioned in this and all posts can be purchased through our atelier and an array of our products are available on Pandora de Balthazár Lifestyle.