Fatigue is something that increasingly affects Americans in their daily lives in more detrimental ways than they might even realize.
Fatigue is a general term that refers to feeling tired and lacking in energy. Fatigue can also lead to a loss of motivation, and it’s not the same as just being sleepy or drowsy. Apathy or disinterest in things in your life can occur with fatigue as well, and symptoms can be a combination of physical and mental.
It’s a common issue, with around 20% of Americans saying they have fatigue to the point that it interferes with their functionality and daily life.
Physical causes are responsible for many of the reasons people have fatigue, but mental causes make up more of the contributing factors to fatigue.
The following are some of the ways fatigue can adversely affect your daily life.
Increased Risk of Traffic Accidents
As law firm Benson & Bingham note, one out of every six fatal traffic accidents is caused by drowsy driving.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated one in 25 drivers say they’ve fallen asleep while behind the wheel within the past 30 days, and drowsy driving is believed to be the cause of up to 6,000 crashes every year.
When someone is sleepy or fatigued, it decreases the functionality and reaction time needed to drive safely.
Being tired or fatigued can cause problems with not only reaction time but also memory, information processing, and decision-making.
The effects of driving while fatigued are often compared to driving with a blood alcohol concentration close to the legal limit in someone who’s well-rested.
People who are most at risk from the effects of driving while fatigued include commercial long-distance drivers, shift workers, young, inexperienced drivers, and people with untreated sleep disorders.
People often struggle with their weight and look for ways to lose weight. We know being overweight can have serious detrimental effects on most other areas of health and wellness.
What people don’t realize as often is that there is a link between not getting enough sleep, fatigue, and being overweight.
Researchers believe that fatigue stemming from a lack of sleep can impact hormone and glucose levels in the blood, and that can impact your metabolism negatively and also increase how hungry you feel.
There are also indirect ways of being tired or fatigued that can impact your health. For example, when you’re experiencing fatigue, you’re less likely to do physical activity.
Sometimes when you’re tired, your body might be looking for ways to refuel itself and boost energy levels.
That might make you more likely to turn to high-carbohydrate and unhealthy foods that are high in sugar and calories.
If those weren’t big enough impacts, fatigue and sleep deprivation could increase your heart rate and blood pressure as well as increasing levels of inflammation in your body. All of this can cause problems with your heart and increase the risk of developing heart disease.
Mood and Mental Well-Being
Being fatigued can be the result of underlying mental health issues, but it can also cause them. Sometimes it becomes a cycle that’s difficult to escape from, particularly if you don’t treat underlying issues that exist.
For example, when you’re tired or fatigued, you may experience a negative mood or mood-related symptoms such as stress, mental exhaustion, sadness, and anger.
Mental fatigue can lead to problems with productivity, and cognitive function and far-reaching symptoms can include loss of appetite or stress-eating as well as mental blocks and irritability. It can also cause insomnia, which exacerbates the problem.
Sleep deprivation, which can contribute to fatigue, can increase the risk of depression in adults.
Your career may be heavily affected by fatigue, and worker fatigue is a big issue in many companies around the country and the world.
According to the National Safety Council, more than 43% of workers are sleep-deprived.
When workers are fatigued, they put themselves and others at an increased risk of workplace accidents.
For example, accidents and injuries are more likely to happen at night when shift workers are on duty.
People who work 12 hours a day also have a greater risk of workplace injury than people who work fewer hours.
The reasons for these statistics are similar to the reasons people who are fatigued are more likely to be in traffic accidents, such as reduced alertness and impairment of motor skills.
People who are fatigued at work tend to engage in riskier behaviors and have problems with decision-making. For example, they might make impulsive decisions that could put themselves or others at risk and not even realize they’re doing it.
Lost productivity because of employee fatigue costs employers billions of dollars every year, so working on addressing the issue is financially worthwhile to employers.
The costs can be related to reduced efficiency and performance, as well as higher workers’ compensation costs and increased absenteeism.
What Can You Do to Combat Fatigue?
With all of the harmful ways fatigue can affect your life, it’s worth exploring ways to combat it.
One of the first things you should do is visit a health care professional to determine if you have an underlying condition that could be contributing to your fatigue.
It’s essential to rule out serious health conditions, or if you do have a condition that needs treatment, that you work with your doctor on that.
Once you’ve done that if you don’t have a medical condition, you can start exploring lifestyle changes that can help you reduce your fatigue and the risks associated with it.
For example, maybe you work on trying to get a little more sleep every night.
You built up a sleep debt over time when you’re not getting enough each night, so you have to work on ways to slowly reduce that debt.
It’s not something you can do all at once.
You should also think about lifestyle changes that can help you reduce your mental fatigue, such as yoga, or getting some form of exercise every day.
Fatigue is a bigger risk factor than many people realize for everything from auto accidents to poor health outcomes, and it’s something many of us need to pay more attention to in our own lives.