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Fatigue is Impairment

Today is World Sleep Day! What better opportunity to remind ourselves of the importance of being well-rested and well-fed?

Feeling tired is something that we tend to accept as normal and don’t think a whole lot about unless it is extreme, but the truth is that insufficient sleep, over-exertion and other forms of fatigue can be hazardous to our health and safety, at home, at work and on the road.

Fatigue is the state of feeling very tired, weary or sleepy resulting from insufficient sleep, prolonged mental or physical work, shift work, or extended periods of stress or anxiety, and it is something that most of us deal with at one time or another.

Fatigue decreases our ability to make sound decisions, do complex planning, communicate effectively, perform successfully, pay attention, handle stress, react, remember details, and function effectively. At the same time, it increases our tendency to take risks, makes us more forgetful, and leads to increased errors in judgement, accidents and illness.

Many workplae injuries and fatalities occur when a worker is tired. This is one of the reasons why shift workers are at an increased risk of getting hurt at work.  Most incidents happen when people are more likely to want to sleep – between midnight and 6:00 AM, and between 1:00 and 3:00 PM.*

There are many things you can do to reduce your fatigue-related risks:

  • Eat a healthy diet that promotes longer-lasting energy such as complex carbohydrates instead of simple ones and avoid “junk” foods.
  • Get regular exercise, including cardiovascular, muscle strength training and flexibility. You should aim to get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week, or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity.
  • Aim to get at least 7.5 – 8.5 hours of sleep per night and maintain a regular sleep schedule if possible – even on weekends.
  • Stay positive. Make a conscious effort to keep yourself from feeling overwhelmed or negative.
  • Do not drive or participate in hasardous activities while you are tired, and avoid excessive noise.

*Alberta Human Resources and Employment, Fatigue, Extended Work Hours and Safety in Workplace Health and Safety, June 2005, Reformatted August 2010. 

Did you know that staying awake for 24 hours straight affects your body almost exactly the same way a blood alcohol level of .10% does? If the effect is the same as being impaired by alcohol, should you be driving a vehicle, operating or working near equipment, or engaging in any other activities that require your full attention? Of course not!