We all have those days where it’s a struggle to make it through until home time, and all you can think about is crawling into bed. Does your workload suffer on these days? Absolutely! Sometimes it’s the result of a one-off late night out you couldn’t avoid. You have a decent sleep and wake up feeling back to your old self. But what if it’s been days or weeks on end, and you’re still dead tired?
Fatigue is more common than you might think. In fact, you’re in good company. Every year, around 1.5 million Australians visit a GP about their fatigue. There are a whole range of factors that could lead to why you might be experiencing fatigue, including work-related, medical, lifestyle and emotional. Or a mix of all of these. The key thing to note is that untreated fatigue can be dangerous. For yourself and others. There are immediate dangers, like being 70% more likely to have an accident. Plus fatigue-related road accidents are twice as likely to be fatal as drivers who are asleep can't brake!
Fatigue is also linked to health conditions including heart disease, depression, reproductive issues, stomach problems, even some cancers. When you’re fatigued, your decision-making ability and judgement also suffers. This not only impacts things like driving to and from work, as mentioned, but also the things you do on the job, like putting together an important report or operating heavy machinery. Even crossing the road safely as a pedestrian involves decision-making and judgement skills.
What to look out for
Safe Work Australia lists the symptoms of fatigue as:
- tiredness even after sleep
- reduced hand-eye coordination or slow reflexes
- short term memory problems and an inability to concentrate
- blurred vision or impaired visual perception
- a need for extended sleep during days off work.
Other symptoms can include:
- excessive yawning
- red or bloodshot eyes
- sore, aching or weak muscles
- taking microsleeps (these are mini ‘naps’ of a few seconds long)
- lack of motivation
- loss of appetite
If you’re struggling with any, or all, of the above, you may be experiencing fatigue. What are your responsibilities in this case?
- Make things safe for yourself and others. Are you fit to continue your tasks? Talk to your supervisor or manager about your immediate concerns.
- You may not be able to drive home. Can you take alternative measures e.g. a nap, accommodation or public transport? NSW Government do an excellent Test Your Tired Self interactive quiz to help you assess your suitability to get on the road.
- If a few good nights’ rest doesn’t help, it’s time to see a GP.
- Check your basic sleep hygiene to ensure your sleep space is adequate and you’re not making any of these sleep mistakes.
Being fatigued isn’t something you should have to put up with or soldier on through. Your GP will help you to assess your lifestyle, work and medical factors and form a treatment plan. He or she will also be able to refer you for tests or to other health professionals if that’s needed.
All information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only. The information provided should not be relied upon as medical advice and does not supersede or replace a consultation with a suitably qualified Health Care Professional.