When was the last time you were so tired you almost fell asleep at work, or on the subway, or at the dinner table? For most Americans, chronic fatigue has become a normal part of everyday life.
How we deal with this problem has a major impact on our collective health, finances, and future outlook on life.
43 Percent of Americans Too Tired to Function
According to a survey-based report released by the National Safety Council, Americans aren’t getting nearly enough sleep on a nightly basis. This leaves them tired and unable to perform the duties assigned to them by their employer in a safe manner.
Specifically, the survey found that 43 percent of Americans don’t get the proper sleep needed to minimize the risks that jeopardize safety at work, as well as on the road. The lack of sleep prevents them from thinking clearly, making smart decisions, and being fully productive.
Another startling fact from the survey was that 97 percent of Americans have at least one of the leading nine risk factors for fatigue. Three-quarters of workers say they feel tired at work; 53 percent report feeling less productive; and 44 percent have trouble focusing on the job.
Tiredness and fatigue show different effects on us each on an individual basis, but the collective impact is shocking. One report suggests that employee exhaustion costs the American economy a whopping $411 billion annually.
The study found that exhaustion stems, in large part, from a lack of sleep on the part of workers who tend to take their work home with them.
Why Are Americans So Tired?
Trying to determine why Americans are chronically tired is a lot like attempting to figure out why people are obese. Dozens of factors may be implicated — including biological reasons, lifestyle choices, and even psychology.
Researchers believe the situation entails a combination of the following:
- People don’t prioritize sleep in their schedules.
- They work longer hours and take their work home with them in the evenings.
- Americans stay awake in their beds later at night while consuming screen-based media.
- Sleeping disorders are at an all-time high.
- Prescription medication use — which is also higher than ever — cuts into sleep quality.
- Stress levels are at an all-time high.
This latter issue is especially prevalent. High stress levels are the norm for most people. When the human body is in a chronically heightened sense of stress, the adrenal glands kick into overdrive and “burn out.”
The body simply can’t continue pumping out an endless supply of cortisol and adrenaline, which causes adrenal fatigue to set in. The symptoms of adrenal fatigue include: fatigue, blood sugar fluctuations, lowered immune resilience, mood swings, anxiety, irritability, depression, stress intolerance, insomnia, metabolic issues, low libido, dizziness, and a host of other interconnected issues.
When you combine adrenal fatigue with some of the other causes listed above, a vicious cycle ensues: one that’s tough to break out of without serious alterations to the person’s lifestyle and ways of thinking.
The Fight Against Chronic Tiredness and Fatigue
The fight against our collective fatigue is an uphill battle. It has to start with each individual taking responsibility for getting his or her own shut-eye.
Here are some of the things Americans can and should do to reduce chronic tiredness and fatigue:
- Most Americans go to bed at night feeling tired, but it’s not necessarily the right kind of tired. Rather than being physically tired — which signals to the body that it’s time to fall asleep — they’re emotionally and mentally taxed. As a result, the brain has trouble turning itself into standby mode. The best solution is to get more exercise. This will put your body in a position to need and crave sleep.
- Stop drinking caffeine and alcohol prior to bed. Caffeine — not just coffee but soda — should never be consumed within six hours of bedtime. (Some people should stop at lunchtime.) Though it may help you fall asleep, alcohol actually disrupts your sleep cycles. Avoid consuming alcoholic beverages within four hours of bedtime.
- A consistent sleep schedule will train your body to fall asleep and awaken at the same time. If you’re strict with your schedule, you’ll eventually begin waking up at the same time each day without needing an alarm clock. (Though it’s recommended that you continue to use one.)
- Create a bedroom environment that’s conducive to sleep. It should be quiet, dark, and cool. It’s also smart to invest in a mattress, pillow, and bedding that are suitable for your body. These will help you fall asleep and stay asleep: no more tossing and turning.
When you work proactively at changing your approach to sleep, you’ll find your energy levels are gradually restored. This doesn’t mean you won’t ever feel exhausted — tiredness is, after all, a natural human state — but it will no longer define who you are.
As a result, you’ll become physically healthier, more emotionally stable, and more productive at work and at home.