"The Quest for Zero - Countering Fatigue"

  • Published
  • By Air Force Safety Center
  • Air Force Safety Center

Countering Fatigue

Fatigue is often overlooked by many, but it is a normal response to stress, boredom, physical exertion or simply a lack of sleep. With today’s increasingly on-the-go, around-the-clock society, sleep deprivation is more prevalent than ever. Sleep is vital to our ability to perform in any situation. According to Talk About Sleep, Inc. sleep is a necessary and vital biological function. It is essential to a person’s physical and emotional well-being. Studies have shown that without enough sleep, a person’s ability to perform even simple tasks declines dramatically.

The average sleep-deprived individual may experience impaired performance, irritability, lack of concentration, and daytime drowsiness. They are less alert, attentive, and unable to concentrate effectively. Additionally, because sleep is linked to restorative processes in the immune system, sleep deprivation in a normal adult causes a biological response similar to the body fighting off an infection.

The consequences of sleep deprivation can be tragic. Some famous examples of severe sleep deprivation include the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the NASA Challenger shuttle explosion, and the Chernobyl nuclear accident.

What can be done to counter fatigue? The references below offer many tips and facts to answer this question.







Fatigue can manifest itself in a variety of forms. It is extremely important that individuals, crews, Team members, support staff, etc, all become aware of the signs and symptoms of fatigue and recognize when intervention is necessary. Supervisors must be informed of potentially dangerous conditions. The effects of fatigue can directly impact our abilities to:

1. Perform various tasks

2. Maintain situational awareness and a high degree of alertness

3. React appropriately in a timely manner and fashion

4. Retain a sharp memory and recollection of information

5. Efficiently process information and make sound decisions

6. Maintain a positive and supportive attitude

7. Control levels of frustration, irritation and aggression

Humans are historically poor at estimating their own levels of fatigue. Accidents occurring as a result of fatigue can be easily prevented by recognizing the signs and alerting supervisors. Supervisors must be diligent in evaluating themselves and their crew for such signs as listed above.

Individuals must be proactive in pursuing adequate rest for themselves and avoiding the traps of fatigue. Take advantage of the work/rest cycles provided and get “quality” rest and sleep. Practice good hygiene and eating habits. Remain hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids before, during and after work shifts. Avoid caffeinated drinks such as coffee, soda and “energy” drinks, which often have the opposite effects of hydration. Report any unsafe levels of fatigue, injuries or illnesses to your immediate supervisor.