Sleep Deprivation Hazards
Lack of sleep or irregular sleep that disturbs your body's natural 24-hour cycle can substantially increase your risk of accidents—on and off the job. To work safely you have to be alert and focused, but when you're sleepy that may be impossible.
Sometimes, despite your best efforts to get a good night's sleep, you'll feel tired during the day. Often you can revive yourself fairly easily; take breaks during your work time, get up, walk around, and do a few stretches. Maybe have a refreshing soft drink or a cup of coffee or tea—without overdoing the caffeine!
A majority of people feel tired in the afternoon, after lunch. That probably has less to do with what you ate than with your body rhythm slowing down. One way to deal with that—and improve your overall fitness—is to incorporate some exercise into your lunch hour. A brisk walk, even around the plant or parking lot, can help work off a few lunchtime calories and make you more alert for the next part of the day.
Sometimes, however, that's not enough. Remember that fatigue can cause mistakes and accidents. If you really believe that you might be a hazard, take some kind of action. You might be able to switch to a task that doesn't require as much alertness and attention or involve safety risks. You can also let your supervisor know that you're exceptionally tired and afraid of making a dangerous mistake to try to work out a way to handle the situation; such as having someone back you up on the job.
Studies report some of the potentially hazardous effects of fatigue as:
- reduced decision making ability,
- reduced communication skills,
- reduced productivity / performance,
- reduced attention and vigilance,
- reduced ability to handle stress on the job,
- reduced reaction time - both in speed and thought,
- unable to stay awake (e.g., falling asleep while operating machinery or driving a vehicle),
- increased errors in judgement,
- increased sick time, absenteeism, rate of turnover,
- increased accident rates
Try these techniques for a more restful sleep.
Create conditions for a good night's sleep:
- Go to sleep when you're tired.
- Go to bed at the same time every night, including weekends.
- Get up at the same time every morning, including weekends.
- Eliminate distractions.
- Use a lightproof window shade.
- Use a fan to mask noise.
- Exercise regularly, preferably in afternoon or early evening, but not right before going to bed.
- Keep before-bed snacks light.
- Avoid coffee, tea, soft drinks with caffeine, smoking, or alcohol before going to bed.
When sleep problems persist:
- Talk with a professional counselor about ongoing stress or worry.
- See a physician if your snoring habits indicate sleep apnea.
To combat midday tiredness:
- Get up and walk around.
- Do stretches.
- Take a brisk walk after lunch.
Sleep is one of life's essentials; our bodies and our minds really can't do without it. As we've learned, proper sleep is a matter of how long you sleep and how well you sleep. And not enough sleep can definitely create a hazard both at work and at home.