Your body doesn’t know the difference

Fatigue, the type of fatigue that is likely to affect job performance is caused by a lack of adequate restorative sleep and rest. For the most part our work schedule is the most well planned part of our life. That is, we have a good idea which days we’re going to work and what time we’re going to start and complete each duty day. There are exceptions, of course, but typically our work doesn’t consume so much of our time that we should acquire adequate sleep. The real problem is often the part of our life that happens outside of work.

It is the nature of life that is often chaotic. Our non-working hours are filled with activities, such as home chores, school, family outings, children, organized sports, and other commitments that could be simply described as having a life. As far as fatigue is concerned, your body doesn’t make a distinction between work and non-work activities. If you work 8-10 hours, commute for an hour, spend 2 hours taking your children to swimming lessons, watch television for a few hours, work on a home project for 2 hours, and just be with your family for another couple of hours, that leaves only 6-8 hours for your sleep before you start all over again.

Your body doesn’t care that you spent only 8-10 hours of that time working. It knows only that you got 6 hours of sleep, or 4 hours or less, depending on how much time your really spent doing non-work activities. It’s probably not fair, but it is a fact that we have the most control over our non-work activities, so that’s where we have to arrange things so we can get enough sleep to avoid fatigue.

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Be Safe in the Region of Risk

Roger Hughes

Decoding Human Factors, LLC