The Impact of Fatigue
Blog written by Kylie Marler
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Have you ever been tired? Most likely. Have you ever been so fatigued that you felt like you could fall asleep standing up? I have, and it’s not a pleasant experience. In fact, it’s downright dangerous. According to the National Safety Council, “you are three times more likely to be in a car crash if you are fatigued” and “being awake for more than 20 hours is the equivalent of being legally drunk.” But fatigue isn’t just a safety issue- it has economic consequences as well.
Mayoclinic.org writes that while there are no known causes of fatigue, it can be triggered by viral infections, immune system problems, hormonal imbalances, and physical or emotional trauma. Fatigue can also be caused by sleep deprivation or intense physical exertion.
The Department of Health of the State Government of Victoria, Australia lists many symptoms of fatigue: chronic tiredness or sleepiness, headache, dizziness, sore or aching muscles, muscle weakness, slowed reflexes and responses, impaired decision-making and judgement, moodiness, impaired hand-to-eye coordination, appetite loss, reduced immune system function, blurry vision, short-term memory problems, poor concentration, hallucinations, and low motivation.
If you are experiencing fatigue that is not relieved by enough sleep, good nutrition, or a low-stress environment, it should be evaluated by your health care provider. Your doctor can screen out health problems, diet, exercise, and other lifestyle habits to identify the causes of your fatigue and help you on the path to recovery.
Consequences of Fatigue
Fatigue reduces employee performance by reducing the ability to make safe decisions, diminished attention, memory loss, and reduced reaction time and accuracy. SalemHealth, a comprehensive regional health care system in Oregon, lists several consequences of fatigue, including behavior lapses, learning and recall deficits, working memory decline, depression, decreased work performance, impaired judgment, increased sick time, errors increased, hypertension, work related accidents, motor vehicle accidents, and slower reaction time. SafeStart, a safety company focused on preventing preventable deaths and injuries in the workplace, says, “fatigue affects people’s moods and behaviors. Employees may become impulsive, often resulting in misunderstandings and conflicts. And a workplace filled with overtired employees also has less empathy, awareness and ethical behavior” and “fatigue and related physical ailments and conditions can lead to short-term and long-term absence from work and increased medical costs.”
Methods for Reducing Fatigue
While there is no “cure” for fatigue, there are ways to combat the symptoms of fatigue. Healthline, an organization dedicated to making health and wellness information accessible, gives a few lifestyle changes that may help reduce fatigue: drink enough fluids to stay hydrated, practice healthy eating habits, exercise on a regular basis, avoid known stressors, avoid a work or social schedule that’s overly demanding, take part in relaxing activities (such as yoga), and abstain from alcohol, tobacco, and other illicit drugs. But most importantly – try to get enough sleep.
High levels of fatigue can reduce our own quality of life as well as putting others at risk. Many people can reduce their levels of fatigue by getting medical treatment of underlying health problems, getting more sleep or making changes to their lifestyle.
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A Comprehensive Guide to Overcoming the Effects of Fatigue in the Workplace – SafeStart. (2020, February 11). SafeStart. https://safestart.com/news/a-comprehensive-guide-to-overcoming-the-effects-of-fatigue-in-the-workplace
Chronic fatigue syndrome – Symptoms and causes – Mayo Clinic. (2020, September 24). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/chronic-fatigue-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20360490
Fatigue – Better Health Channel. (n.d.). Better Health Channel – Better Health Channel. Retrieved December 9, 2021, from https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/fatigue
Fatigue – National Safety Council. (n.d.). National Safety Council – Save Lives, from the Workplace to Anyplace. Retrieved November 22, 2021, from https://www.nsc.org/workplace/safety-topics/fatigue/fatigue-home
Sampson, S. (2020, March 12). Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment. Healthline; Healthline Media. https://www.healthline.com/health/chronic-fatigue-syndrome
Studies | Sleep Center | Salem Health. (n.d.). SalemHealth. Retrieved November 22, 2021, from https://www.salemhealth.org/services/sleep/what-is-fatigue-/studies
What is Fatigue Costing Your Company? – National Safety Council. (n.d.). National Safety Council – Save Lives, from the Workplace to Anyplace. Retrieved November 22, 2021, from https://www.nsc.org/workplace/safety-topics/fatigue/what-is-fatigue-costing-your-company
What is ME/CFS? | Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) | CDC. (n.d.). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved November 22, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/me-cfs/about/index.html