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The Impact of Fatigue

Michelle A February 23, 2015 0 comments 0

[su_dropcap style=”default” size=”3″ class=””]Y[/su_dropcap]our eyes droop, your mind sinks or wanders, and your body slowly breaks down. You are tired. You are fatigued. Feeling this way can be perfectly normal given how stressful day-to-day life demands can be. However, when an entire nation is taken over by the side effects of fatigue, the impact of sleepiness can be both dangerous and costly.

A Restless Nation

According to BioMed Central, of those surveyed, 1 out of 10 reported feeling fatigued for more than six months at any given time. Clinically, very few people are actually diagnosed with fatigue; those who are typically experience what is known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). CFS, according to Centers for Disease Control, affects more than one million Americans and does not discriminate by sex, age, class, or physical health.

Chronic fatigue is not the only thing keeping the body up at night or preventing a person from getting the recommended amount of sleep. The National Sleep Foundation reports that 30% of all Americans suffer from sleep disruptions. Most of these sleep disruptions fall in the fairly mild category, such as a parent being woken from their sleep to care for a child. The National Sleep Foundation found that 66% of parents reported insomnia vs. 55% of adults that do not have children. But, in addition to the more moderate cases, many more suffer from severe and chronic sleep disorders such as insomnia.

The Societal Impact of Fatigue

Such a large population of sleepless individuals directly impact national safety both at the workplace and out in public. The Advanced Sleep Foundation has found that 60% of Americans admit to driving while being tired, and 37% according to the National Sleep Foundation reveal that they have fallen asleep at the wheel. The National Highway Administration believes that fatigue, or drowsy driving, has caused over 100,000 police reported accidents and contributed to over 1,500 vehicular deaths per year.

The roadways are not the only place where accidents (including fatal ones) occur because of sleep deprivation. Fatigued workers account for numerous workplace mistakes. For example, a Harvard Medical study reported that medical residents, who work nearly 100 hours per week with little to no sleep, are responsible for 36% more errors. These errors may include giving patients the wrong medicine, prescribing a dangerous dose, or making a mistake on the operating table. Stories of workplace mistakes caused by fatigue are not confined to medical offices.

According to the Huffington Post, fatigue has been attributed to major workplace accidents such as Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and the Challenger Explosion. Employees working a late shift or for more than ten hours at a time are believed to be the cause of these events. With the revival of manufacturing jobs, Shift Work Sleep Disorder has become an even bigger concern for the nation.

Outside of creating a dangerous and unhealthy work environment, society must also account for the individual impact of medical care related to fatigue. Those reporting sleep issues typically require extensive medical assistance ranging from routine doctor’s visits, medication, and therapy. Many suffer side effects of sleep loss including weight gain, high blood pressure, and heart disease. For those with severe cases, the care needed may require an individual to go on permanent or temporary disability, thus affecting the workplace and society equally.

The True Costs of Fatigue

The cost of accidents, medical care, and loss of productivity is astronomical. While it is hard to put an exact number on the cost of fatigue, some conservative estimates, such as those by Harvard Medical School, have put the figures at over $65-150 billion.

The cost of fatigue is split between direct and indirect costs. For direct costs where fatigue was directly to blame, the National Highway Administration estimates that fatigue related car accidents cost $12.5 billion in damages. The National Commission on Sleep Disorders Research puts the price of workplace accidents at roughly $50-100 billion yearly. Advanced Sleep Medicine Services believes that in productivity loss alone, fatigue’s price is somewhere in the $3-15 billion range. The indirect costs, such as litigation, medical treatment, and death, are harder to estimate, but Maryland Medical Center places it at an additional $50-100 billion.

How to Fight Back

With a little cooperation and teamwork, it is possible to fight the costs of fatigue. Employers can lessen the effects of Shift Sleep Disorder by adjusting schedules or allowing employees to take power naps on the job. Schools and universities can assist students, parents, and teachers by pushing back the school day by a mere half hour. And individuals can commit to practicing good sleep hygiene that includes eating healthier, exercising regularly, and focusing on making the bedroom a sanctuary of sleep.

From health-related complications to problems on the job, fatigue is an enormous issue—and the costs can be deadly. The good news is that it can be combated with just a few simple changes and adjustments. Ultimately, though, what it boils down to is a need to simply get more sleep. Greater restfulness and better sleep schedules are needed to give everyone sweeter dreams—and more productive waking hours.

Image via Poker Junkie
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