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Safety Topic: Fatigue at Work
3/15/2019 2:29:51 PM

A change in schedule, such as Daylight Saving Time, can interrupt a person’s sleep cycle. Fatigue can affect every aspect of our lives from work to personal activities. It can even be dangerous depending on what kind of work you do.

According to the National Safety Council (NSC), "more than 43% of workers are sleep-deprived, and those most at risk work the night shift, long shifts or irregular shifts.” In some ways, it has become part of our culture to brag about how little sleep we get and are still able to function. The question is, how safely and efficiently are we functioning with little sleep? NSC says that "safety performance decreases as employees become tired” which can cost an organization time and money.

We should also be concerned about people who are losing sleep and getting behind the wheel. NSC states, "you are three times more likely to be in a car crash if you are fatigued.” Additionally, losing sleep can have the same impact as drinking three beers and being awake for more than twenty hours can decrease your driving skills as if you were legally drunk. Driving while fatigued can be a major safety concern for the driver and those around them.

Creating healthy sleep habits can help with health, safety, and job performance. The National Sleep Foundation offers these tips:

  • Stick to a sleep schedule of the same bedtime and wake up time, even on the weekends.This helps to regulate your body's clock and could help you fall asleep and stay asleep for the night.
  • Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual. A relaxing, routine activity right before bedtime conducted away from bright lights helps separate your sleep time from activities that can cause excitement, stress or anxiety which can make it more difficult to fall asleep, get sound and deep sleep or remain asleep.
  • If you have trouble sleeping, avoid naps, especially in the afternoon. Power napping may help you get through the day, but if you find that you can't fall asleep at bedtime, eliminating even short catnaps may help.
  • Exercise daily. Vigorous exercise is best, but even light exercise is better than no activity. Exercise at any time of day, but not at the expense of your sleep.
  • Evaluate your room. Design your sleep environment to establish the conditions you need for sleep. Your bedroom should be cool –between 60 and 67 degrees.Your bedroom should also be free from any noise that can disturb your sleep. Finally, your bedroom should be free from any light. Check your room for noises or other distractions. This includes a bed partner's sleep disruptions such as snoring. Consider using blackout curtains, eye shades, ear plugs, "white noise" machines, humidifiers, fans and other devices.
  • Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows. Make sure your mattress is comfortable and supportive. The one you have been using for years may have exceeded its life expectancy – about 9 or 10 years for most good quality mattresses. Have comfortable pillows and make the room attractive and inviting for sleep but also free of allergens that might affect you and objects that might cause you to slip or fall if you have to get up during the night.
  • Use bright light to help manage your circadian rhythms.Avoid bright light in the evening and expose yourself to sunlight in the morning. This will keep your circadian rhythms in check.
  • Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and heavy meals in the evening.Alcohol, cigarettes and caffeine can disrupt sleep. Eating big or spicy meals can cause discomfort from indigestion that can make it hard to sleep. If you can, avoid eating large meals for two to three hours before bedtime. Try alight snack 45 minutes before bed if you’re still hungry.
  • Wind down.Your body needs time to shift into sleep mode, so spend the last hour before bed doing a calming activity such as reading. For some people, using an electronic device such as a laptop can make it hard to fall asleep, because the particular type of light emanating from the screens of these devices is activating to the brain. If you have trouble sleeping, avoid electronics before bed or in the middle of the night.
  • If you can't sleep, go into another room and do something relaxing until you feel tired.It is best to take work materials, computers and televisions out of the sleeping environment. If you associate a particular activity or item with anxiety about sleeping, omit it from your bedtime routine.
  • If you’re still having trouble sleeping,don’t hesitate to speak with your doctor or to find a sleep professional.You may also benefit from recording your sleep in a Sleep Diary to help you better evaluate common patterns or issues you may see with your sleep or sleeping habits.

There are a few things we can do to stay safe on the road according to NSC:

  • Get at least seven hours of sleep a day, especially if you will be driving
  • Avoid driving if you’ve been awake for 16 hours or more
  • Take breaks at least every 2 hours of driving
  • Do not drive after consuming alcohol or medications that may cause

It may be difficult to change our routines and stay with a pattern but it can help maintain a healthy lifestyle in the long run. Encourage those around you to get a healthy amount of sleep. There is no need to brag about unhealthy behaviors such as what little sleep one can get. It may seem like that person is functional but they are putting their health and others at risk.

One Team. One Vision. One Goal. – Everyone Goes Home Safe!

Resources:

https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/healthy-sleep-tips

https://www.nsc.org/work-safety/safety-topics/fatigue

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