counteracting fatigue

10 tips for counteracting fatigue

Fatigue is generally considered to be a decline in mental and/or physical performance that results from long hours of work, sleep loss and/or disruption of the internal clock. Whilst getting sufficient rest is a way to combat fatigue, this is not always possible. Expectations of work and personal life as well as external stressors contribute to the build-up of fatigue.

Some of the main causes of fatigue include:

  • Working when you would normally be asleep
  • Sleeping when you would normally be awake
  • Getting less than normal sleep
  • Getting poor quality sleep
  • Working long hours
  • Having no time to rest and recover
  • High workload
  • Suffering medical problems including sleep disorders
  • Stress
  • Poorly designed working patterns

Fatigue impacts many aspects of life, including poor judgement, reduced ability to process information, memory lapses, slower reactions and reduced co-ordination and communication. Research has shown that not sleeping for 17-18 hours reduces task performance to a level equivalent to an alcohol blood concentration level of 0.05%. That is the drink driving limit for many Western European Countries. Fatigue has been implicated in 20% of accidents on major roads and around 30% of fatal crashes can be attributed to driver fatigue.

At work, employers have a responsibility to manage workplace employee fatigue. However, there are also factors under the control of the individual that can be used to manage and reduce fatigue.

Tips for reducing fatigue

Here are 10 tips for counteracting your fatigue:

  1. Get enough sleep: Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep each night to ensure adequate rest and recovery.
  2. Exercise regularly: Physical activity can improve energy levels and reduce stress.
  3. Get in control of your diet: Ensure you are getting enough nutrients to fuel your body.
  4. Drink caffeine: caffeine loaded drinks temporarily alleviate the effects of fatigue as a short-term solution. Caffeine takes about 20 minutes to take effect after ingestion.
  5. Take breaks and stretch: Regular breaks, including stretching and walking, can improve mental performance and help relieve tension and improve circulation.
  6. Power nap: short 20-30 minute naps can reduce fatigue and improve mood and alertness.
  7. Manage stress: Techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, and mindfulness can help manage stress and improve overall well-being.
  8. Limit alcohol consumption: Alcohol disrupts sleep and can contribute to fatigue.
  9. Reduce exposure to electronic screens: The blue light emitted by electronic screens can interfere with sleep and contribute to fatigue.
  10. Make time for leisure activities: Engaging in enjoyable activities can help reduce stress and improve overall well-being.

It is also very important to recognise fatigue warning signs before it is too late. Signs such as:

  • Feeling dazed or daydreaming
  • Yawning
  • Blinking excessively
  • Squinting
  • Increased errors
  • Blurred or dimmed vision
  • Grumpiness
  • Poor co-ordination
  • Inability to concentrate

These can all be indicators of fatigue and be a time to take action to rest, use fatigue countermeasures or reduce doing high-risk activities.

What about Diet?

A key tip for reducing fatigue is having a balanced healthy diet. But what does this actually mean? Being in control of your diet means balancing out the macro and micro nutrients to give your body everything it needs.

Here are 7 tips for maintaining a healthy diet:

  1. Energy levels: Consuming a balanced diet with adequate carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats can provide sustained energy throughout the day and help combat fatigue.
  2. Hydration: Staying hydrated by drinking enough water is essential for maintaining physical and mental performance. Dehydration can cause fatigue, headaches, and decreased concentration.
  3. Blood sugar levels: Consuming a diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates can lead to blood sugar spikes and crashes, resulting in feelings of fatigue and low energy.
  4. Nutrient deficiencies: Deficiencies in key nutrients such as iron, vitamin B12, and magnesium can lead to fatigue and decreased performance.
  5. Stimulant and alcohol consumption: Consuming too much caffeine or alcohol can disrupt sleep and cause fatigue the next day.
  6. Meal timings: Skipping meals or eating irregularly can lead to low blood sugar levels and fatigue.
  7. Inflammation: A diet high in processed and high-fat foods can contribute to inflammation, which is associated with fatigue and decreased energy levels.

A well-balanced diet that is rich in nutrients, low in sugar, and includes adequate hydration can help combat workplace fatigue and improve overall performance.

So what?

Fatigue is a significant contributor to wellbeing, alertness and performance. With so many workplace accidents being attributed in part or in whole to occupational fatigue, it is important that employers and employees recognise the signs of fatigue and what can be done to alleviate it. An effective Fatigue Risk Management System can be used to formally manage fatigue but providing tips and training across organisations can de-risk the effects of fatigue by spotting the early signs and providing countermeasures to address them at an organisation and individual level.

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