Public Safety

Coffee and Donuts: Fighting Fatigue

For many Americans, the mention of these two simple items immediately brings to mind one other image – cop. It has been the punch line of an unlimited number of jokes, featured in movies and TV shows since the days of silent pictures. Do you know why? Because it is true.

Coffee, Donuts, and Cops

Cops drink a lot of coffee and eat more than their fair share of donuts. But it is not because they are unfit slobs who do not care for their own health and wellness. It is because they are trying to survive in their battle against fatigue.

When do you usually have your coffee and donut? Usually it is early morning as an eye-opener or mid-shift as a pick me up – both are times when you are feeling the effects of fatigue.

What is Fatigue?

What is fatigue? Most people think it means “sleepy” or “tired,” but that is not 100% accurate. Fatigue is anytime you are operating at a reduced cognitive performance level. It is often the result of being tired, but can also come from stress, medical conditions, over the counter or prescription medicine use, repetitive tasks or shift work.

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We have all heard that the majority of humans need 7-9 hours of sleep per night and, regardless of what you might think, fatigue is not a condition to which someone can adapt. You might be able to soldier on and get the job done, but there is no way to avoid the effects. Short term this means reductions in decision making ability, reaction time, attention level and motor skills. Long term fatigue can lead to numerous health problems.

Correcting Fatigue

The good news is that fatigue can be corrected and even prepared for.

  • Short term interruptions in your sleep pattern can be corrected by a good night’s sleep. In other words, if you have a particularly difficult week and do not get 7-9 hours of sleep each night, do not stay up late watching the game on Saturday; instead, get 8-10 hrs of rest.
  • If you are involved in repetitive tasks with limited stimulation, take a break. Getting up from your desk, walking around and breaking the cycle of inactivity can reenergize your batteries and avoid task-induced fatigue.
  • Your biological clock tells you when fatigue is most likely to occur. Most humans achieve the deepest level of sleep between 0300-0500 daily, or during the last 1/3rd of your sleep cycle. Likewise, many of these same individuals experience a corresponding level of fatigue approximately 12 hrs later, or between 1500-1700 hrs. Knowing this allows you, or your supervisors, to arrange schedules accordingly.
  • Shift work increases the likelihood of fatigue and needs to be prepared for ahead of time. Aside from a lack of sleep, the leading cause of fatigue changes in shifts or time zones. Even if you were able to achieve 7-9 hrs of sleep beforehand, either of these changes is likely to result in short term fatigue early in the new schedule period. To counter this, leaders should schedule shift changes after longer off-duty periods, and employees should prepare by adjusting sleep schedules at the beginning of this off-duty period rather than during the last rest period.

Now, shut off the computer and get some rest!

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the opinion of the writer and do not reflect the policies of this website or organization.


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