Do you consistently feel tired? Nearly everyone is overtired or overworked from time to time, but at what point does unrelenting fatigue become an issue?
What exactly is fatigue?
Also referred to as tiredness, exhaustion, and lethargy, it describes a physiological state of reduced mental or physical performance capability. Fatigue can impair your alertness and ability to function productively and safely – a rapidly growing concern that many industries in the workforce are facing.
Fatigue is a symptom, and it effects your body in different ways both physically and mentally.
So what causes fatigue?
- Physical fatigue | Our muscles don’t work quite as well as they normally do. Reaction time slows and performance drops. Simple tasks such as going up and down stairs or carrying grocery bags may be more difficult.
- Psychological (mental) fatigue | Concentrating on things becomes more difficult. You may feel sleepy or experience presenteeism (when someone is present physically but their mind is too tired to properly be attentive or function accurately).
The most common sources are lack of quality sleep, extended wakefulness, circadian phase, or workload (mental and/or physical activity). There are many reasons for poor sleep including sleep apnea, pain, stress, lack of proper exercise, bad nutrition, etc. Jet lag can also cause sleep problems when your body’s natural circadian rhythm is disrupted.
How common is it?
Experts say that 10% of people globally at any one time are suffering from persistent tiredness. Persistent tiredness affects females more than males.
Why should we care?
Lack of sleep, and fatigue as a result, can impact you in several critical ways on a daily basis.
What can we do?
- Physical performance: sleep deprivation can negatively affect someone’s coordination, agility, mood and overall energy.
- Mental performance: those who suffer from fatigue will often have a difficult time making decisions, handling stress on the job and staying productive. Symptoms include:
- inability to focus or concentrate
- taking longer to perform tasks
- slowed reaction times
- increased irritability
- reduced alertness
- Research has shown that being awake for 17 hours has a physiological effect on your focus similar to a blood-alcohol level of 0.05 while being awake for 24 hours is equivalent to having a blood-alcohol level of 0.10, higher than the legal limit (0.08% BAC) in all states.
- Sleepiness can increase your risk of falling asleep while driving a vehicle or operating machinery. Additionally, victims of fatigue may experience reduced reaction times – both in speed and thought.
- Over time, long-term sleep issues do more than just hinder performance. Multiple studies have discovered that people who sleep poorly are at greater risk for a number of diseases and health problems. For example, those who consistently receive only five hours of sleep or less increase their risk of a heart attack by 45%.
- Fatigue often puts a barrier between relationships. There is no such thing as a stress-free life. With stress comes worry and frustration, often leading to sleepless nights. When someone is tired, they often become irritable.
- Quality of life
- Day by day, if a person is struggling to stay awake, it is arguable but that they are not experiencing life to their fullest potential. If a person is consistently tired, they are likely to barricade themselves in the comfort of their home, missing out on opportunities that are around them.
Sleep! Getting a proper night’s rest (7-9 hours for adults) is crucial for optimal wellness the next day.
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