Are we turning into a world of zombies struggling through our day constantly exhausted? Physicians have reported what appear to be epidemics of self-diagnosed illnesses whose core symptom is constant tiredness.
A host of new conditions being medicalized by drug companies include terms such as adrenal fatigue, candidiasis, under-active thyroid and even 'low blood PH'. They're also being popularized and promoted by celebrities and 'check yourself' websites.
So many patients are turning up at their Doctor's offices complaining of fatigue that doctors have invented an acronym for their woes: TATT -- or 'tired all the time'. Studies show, however, that only around one in five of these patients actually has an identifiable physical illness.
Leading experts have another, simpler, explanation for our growing malaise: we're suffering from 'electronic insomnia'. We need to switch off our smartphones, laptops and other gadgets at night and get some proper sleep, lest we really do develop serious illnesses.
Many people have developed hypersensitivity illness with headaches, fatigue, brain fog, double vision, auditory confusion, nausea and muscle weakness when exposed to the microwaves emitted by recently installed high-power Wi-Fi transmitters. And when those same people are away from these transmitters, these symptoms disappeared. Repeated medical evaluations found no other cause, and no medical treatments proved helpful.
Many 'tired all the time' patients whose Doctors say there is nothing wrong with them go on the internet or look to the celebrity world to find an explanation for their fatigue. They don't have to go far.
Gwyneth Paltrow and the fashion designer Donna Karan, for example, have declared that they are working to boost the 'alkalinity of their blood' in order to beat fatigue.
Earlier this year, Dannii Minogue became a standard-bearer for people who put their tiredness down to a thyroid condition after she was told she had an under-active thyroid.
But UK doctors have reported an alarming rise in people self-diagnosing with this particular ailment. An editorial in the British Medical Journal has raised fears about a rise in misdiagnosis of hypothyroidism.
The negative health effects of electromagnetic fields on biological tissue are very real although it remains highly controversial mostly due to the influence of the technology sector. However, virtually all scientists agree that more research is necessary to determine safe or dangerous levels. It's like one big human experiment which we won't know the results of for several decades. Now, with the increasing proliferation of wireless handheld and portable devices, it is literally impossible to escape EMFs in any major city.
Mainstream medicine does not believe that this condition exists, except in a tiny minority of patients.
John Wass, professor of endocrinology at Oxford University, is seeing growing numbers of patients referred to him for testing by private doctors who have diagnosed adrenal fatigue.
These glands sit on top of the kidneys and produce hormones that help control the heart rate and blood pressure.
Worse still, Professor Wass adds: 'Some of the patients referred to me have been prescribed steroid drugs, which is terrible. If you give anyone steroids, it will make them feel buzzy. The patients therefore think that the drugs are doing them good.
'But, in fact, the steroids make the brain suppress the adrenal system, so patients end up having a real case of the non-existent adrenal problems that they started with. They could end up dependent on powerful steroids for life.'
Long-term use of steroids carries a high risk of side-effects such as liver damage, heart problems, loss of libido, mood swings and sudden aggressiveness.
In these days of a 'medical diagnosis for every ailment', many people want to believe that there is something more exotic wrong with them than a simple lack of natural rest and a lifestyle that is out of kilter with their body's needs.
When we do go to bed, we have difficulty switching off. One in ten of us takes sleeping pills three times a week or more, said a study by Professor Sara Arber, of the University of Surrey, in March.Although a small percentage of people will suffer from insomnia, a medical condition, another reason for sleeplessness is becoming much more prevalent, experts say: our electronic gadgets are keeping us awake.
A survey of 6,000 adults by researchers at Cambridge University Hospitals found that, just before they turn in, more than 70 percent of adults now go online to update social networking sites, send messages and check celebrity gossip.
Millions of us leave our smartphones on at night , according to a survey by the bedmaker Silentnight. But being exposed to bright light from computer and mobile phone screens while in bed can confuse our body clock, delaying the brain's ability to get to sleep.
On top of this electronic insomnia, a number of other lifestyle factors can exacerbate the problem. These include our workaholic culture (we are up at the top of Europe's long-hours league, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), junk-food diets, and a lack of exercise.
The answer is clear, according to the leading British expert, Professor Adrian Williams, of the London Sleep Centre: we must ban all electronics from the bedroom -- including televisions and laptops.
'So often it is people's highly networked lifestyle causing constant tiredness, rather than any of these strange new diseases,' he says.
'It is well recognised that using phones and computers in the bedroom is a common cause of sleep problems. The standard rule of sleep hygiene is that the bedroom is for sleep and sex, and nothing else.'
Professor Williams says he increasingly sees patients complaining of exotic tiredness-related ailments that they have self-diagnosed. 'Only yesterday, one man said to me that he believes he has an under-active thyroid. But actually, that simply would not have caused his straightforward symptoms of sleepiness.'
'One way of seeing if someone isn't sleeping enough is to ask them about their symptoms on a Monday, when they've had weekend catch-up sleep, and then on a Friday, and see if their “illness” symptoms have increased.'
Professor Williams says while 'lack of sleep' may sound neither as intriguing or dangerous as the new crop of 'illnesses', it can nevertheless have serious consequences, as it has been linked to an increased risk from a host of conditions including diabetes and heart disease.
Professor Jim Horne, the director of the Sleep Research Centre at Loughborough University, echoes the call for a ban on electronic gadgets at bedtime. The answer,¬† he says, is to rely on an older form¬† of technology at bedtime: the printed word.
'It is old-fashioned but it works: read a book in bed -- this will help you to conk out naturally.'