Fatigue is a state of impairment that can include physical and/or mental elements associated with:
- lower alertness
- reduced performance and ability to concentrate
- impaired decision-making.
Fatigue and disrupted sleep are significant problems for night-shift workers, as their schedules go against the body’s natural rhythm. They are even bigger problems for people on short shift rotations, as the body needs several days to adjust to a new time structure.
Why is fatigue an issue at work?
In the workplace, fatigue becomes an issue when high-risk workers perform safety critical tasks as part of their role, e.g. driving a road vehicle, operating heavy plant and machinery, working at heights or working with flammable or explosive substances.
Tips for getting a good sleep
- Don’t use alcohol or medication to help you sleep. They will not help your body clock to adjust to the new time pattern and can often make the problem worse.
- Caffeine and nicotine are both stimulants, so avoid caffeine and smoking four hours before going to bed. If you wake up during your sleep hours, don’t smoke or consume caffeine – it will make it that much harder to get back to sleep.
- Relax and reduce your activity before going to bed. Read or listen to soft music for 15 minutes before bedtime.
- Don’t exercise in the three hours immediately before bedtime.
- Don’t go to bed hungry, as an empty stomach can interfere with sleep. A light healthy snack before bed is fine, but don’t eat a heavy meal. A cup of warm milk or caffeine-free herbal tea can also help you sleep.
- Don’t watch television in bed. Your body needs to be used to using your bed for sleeping. If you like to read in bed to bring on sleep, use a light bulb of no more than 15 watts.
- Adapt to your new timeframe as quickly as possible by timing meals and other activities to match the new work day. For example, have breakfast when you wake up at 6pm, before starting night shift.