Q: How do I know if I'm too tired to:

    Drive a car?
    Care for my kids or someone else?
    Operate machinery?            
    Work efficiently?

People use the terms "fatigue" and "sleepiness" interchangeably, but how do you differentiate the two?

There are three ways:

1. If someone is sleepy, she will experience heavy/droopy eyelids, as well as head-nodding or dozing off, which suggests she is more than just fatigued.

2. If she is given the opportunity to fall asleep and is able to fall asleep, she is suffering from sleepiness. If a person who is suffering from fatigue is presented with the same situation, she wouldn't necessarily be able to fall asleep.

3. If she is sleepy, but well-rested, the sleepiness will subside.  This is not the case for someone who is fatigued,  as a well-rested person will not necessarily be cured of fatigue.

If you are experiencing sleepiness, you should not drive a car, care for someone's children, or operate machinery and you will not be able to work efficiently.


Sudhansu Chokroverty, MD, FRCP, FACP, is Professor of Neuroscience at Seton Hall University School of Graduate Medical Education, South Orange, NJ, and Clinical Professor of Neurology at Robert Wood Johnson University Medical School, New Brunswick, NJ.  He is also currently Professor and Co-Chair of Neurology and Program Director for Clinical Neurophysiology and Sleep Medicine, at the New Jersey Neuroscience Institute at JFK Medical Center, Edison, NJ. 

After graduating in Medicine from Medical College, Calcutta and University of Calcutta, India, Dr. Chokroverty had post-graduate training in internal medicine and neurology in hospitals in the United Kingdom (UK).  After being certified in Internal Medicine, he became a Member of the Royal College of Physicians (MRCP) of UK.  Residency training in neurology and fellowship training in neurophysiology took place at Northwestern University Medical School, Chicago, IL, and Hines VA Hospital, IL.  Dr. Chokroverty is board certified in neurology, electrodiagnostic medicine, sleep medicine, and clinical neurophysiology.  Dr. Chokroverty is the Founding President of the World Association of Sleep Medicine, an international organization devoted to promoting sleep health throughout the world. He was the Founding Chair of the Sleep Section of the American Academy of Neurology, a member of the Advisory Board of the National Center of Sleep Disorders Research of the National Institute of Health (NIH), and the Chair of the Sleep Science Award Subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology.  Dr. Chokroverty is the Founding Editor-in-Chief of the journal, Sleep Medicine, an international journal dealing with clinical sleep disorders. He is the author or editor of fourteen published books and five books in press, including fifteen books dealing with sleep medicine, one on management of epilepsy, one of movement disorders and two on magnetic stimulation in clinical neurophysiology.  He has published extensively in both national and international scientific journals producing over 500 papers, book chapters, and abstracts, and has made over 285 presentations at national and international conferences. 

Dr. Chokroverty’s recent research interest has focused on sleep and movement disorders; restless legs syndrome; sleep disordered breathing in neuromuscular disorders; autonomic failure and neurodegenerative diseases, and actigraphy in Insomnia diagnosis and management.