Your lifestyle matters: Making everyday choices that reduce the risk of fatigue

When it comes to fatigue in the workplace, we’re likely to be aware of some of the more immediate challenges, such as length of shift, hours worked, and on the job challenges. However, there is a lot that can be done outside of work to reduce the risk of fatigue.

Diet, eating habits, and health-related behaviours play a central role in how we function on the job. Taking care of these aspects of health will not only improve work performance, they will improve overall quality of life. Here’s a reminder of some of the lifestyle choices we can take to address fatigue.

Maintain a healthy diet

When it comes to diet, there are a few basic guidelines that, if followed, will maximize your energy levels and bodily functions.

Begin your day with breakfast. It improves alertness and concentration.

It’s important to balance one’s diet with simple and complex carbohydrates and proteins, in order to regulate blood sugar and avoid spikes in energy levels.

Candy bars and soft drinks may fight fatigue in the short run, but they result in letdowns that can make fatigue worse. Instead, a well balanced diet that combines complex and simple carbohydrates maximizes energy. Whole grains, potatoes, and carrots are complex-carbohydrate rich, and provide sustained energy. Faster burn, simple carbohydrates found in fruits, vegetables, and honey provide immediate sources of energy.

Protein helps regulate the release of energy, so eating foods like meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, nuts, and so on will provide a more consistent, balanced energy level throughout a shift.

It is also important to make sure your diet includes fibre. Fibre slows the absorption of carbohydrates, so the body releases energy in a more balanced way.

Caffeine can be useful, but abuse of it is problematic. Restricting caffeine to tactical use is important.

Finally, dehydration causes a lack of energy, so drinking plenty of water is vital.

Eating right, on and off the job provides us with the energy necessary to stay alert and concentrate over long periods of time.

Curb unhealthy habits

Avoiding caffeine and sugars before bed may be an obvious step toward good sleep. But eating habits matter too.

Smoking is a key contributor to poor sleep quality. Nicotine acts as both a stimulant and a depressant, so it sets your body into a “peaks and valleys” scenario that does not help you to relax. It can also affect your breathing, and, in extreme cases, contribute to sleep apnea, which is a major disruptor of sleep. Repeated disruptions to sleep cause fatigue

Many of us also enjoy a nightcap or two, especially after a long workday. However, consuming alcohol too close to bedtime can actually reduce sleep quality, so it’s important to cut off alcohol a few hours prior to going to sleep, especially when working night shifts and sleeping during the day.

Emphasize healthy habits

Exercise helps improve sleep.  When we exercise, it helps to keep us at a healthy body weight, which in turn prevents health problems that also contribute to poor quality of sleep. Doctors recommend that exercise be taken no less than three hours before bedtime to allow body temperatures to fall to good levels for sleeping.

Certainly, it can be difficult to always meet the requirements for healthy eating and lifestyle. Nevertheless, the more proactive we are in taking care of our health, the better we sleep, feel, and work, and by preventing fatigue, we protect the health and safety of our fellow employees.