Tiredness and fatigue

Many people have problems with extreme tiredness after a stroke. This is known as post-stroke fatigue. 

What is post-stroke fatigue?

Everyone feels tired sometimes. But post-stroke fatigue is not like typical tiredness. 
 
Unlike usual tiredness, fatigue doesn’t always improve with rest and it isn’t related to how busy or active you’ve been. 

Why does it happen?

It’s not understood why people have problems with fatigue after a stroke. It’s likely to be a mixture of physical and emotional factors. 
 
In the first weeks and months after your stroke your brain and body is healing. The recovery process takes up a lot of energy so it is normal to feel very tired.
 
Physical problems will also mean that your energy is being used in different ways. Simple tasks like walking or talking will use up much more energy than they did before your stroke.
 
Emotional problems like depression or anxiety can also add to tiredness and fatigue.

How do I know if I have it?

Post stroke fatigue is more than feeling tired. You probably feel that you have no energy and constantly feel weary. 
 
It’s likely that you’ll need to rest every day or nearly every day. This can make is difficult to take part in everyday activities – so you may have to stop a therapy session or a visit from someone early because you feel so tired.
 
Even if you have made a good recovery, or your stroke was some time ago, fatigue can still be a constant problem.
 
Fatigue can have quite an impact on your life and relationships. It may stop you from doing things with your friends and family, and because the signs of fatigue are not always obvious to other people, they may not understand how genuinely exhausted you are.

Does it get better?

Fatigue often does get better, but it can take many months before it begins to lift. 
 
Unfortunately, some people continue to have problems with fatigue a long time after their stroke. However, many find that it does become easier to live with as they learn ways to manage it over time. 

Are there treatments that can help?

There aren't any treatments specifically for post-stroke fatigue. However, there are lots of things that can help you manage it. 
 
Your GP or stroke nurse can check if there are any medical conditions that could be adding to your fatigue. They can also review your current medication to see if this could be causing problems as well.
 
They can also help you think about how well you are sleeping, and whether there is anything that may help you to sleep better. 
 
Regular exercise can sometimes help to improve fatigue. So although it may be difficult, try to do some amount of physical activity every day. Start with just a few minutes and slowly build up from there.
 
It’s important to listen to your body and not ignore fatigue. Things are likely to get better, but it will take time. So take it easy on yourself – don’t force yourself to do all the things you used to do straight away and rest when you need to.
 
Rest your mind as well as your body.
Patricia, stroke survivor

Find out more

Read our Fatigue after stroke leaflet for tips about managing your fatigue and returning to work. 

 

Page published: February 2015. To be reviewed: August 2015.Information Standard logo