How To Avoid Fatigue In Aviation

Do you feel drowsy and just roll out of bed? You're tired, sleepy and working is the last thing on your mind.

Fatigue in aviation

Once you get to work, you painfully manage to get through the day but at a great cost.

According to the FAA defining fatigue in humans is extremely difficult due to the large variability of causes. Causes of fatigue can range from boredom to circadian rhythm disruption to heavy physical exertion. In layman's terms, fatigue can simply be defined as weariness. However, from an operational standpoint a more accurate definition might be: “Fatigue is a condition characterized by increased discomfort with lessened capacity for work, reduced efficiency of accomplishment, loss of power or capacity to respond to stimulation, and is usually accompanied by a feeling of weariness and tiredness.”

Problems of fatigue in aviation

A long day of mental stimulation can be taxing. Studies have shown that studying for an examination or processing data can be as fatiguing as manual labor. Manual labor and mental fatigue may appear different but the end result is the same, an inability to function normally.

In the FAAs Pilots Safety Brochure,  fatigue leads to a decrease in your ability to carry out tasks. Several studies have demonstrated significant impairment in a person’s ability to carry out tasks that require manual dexterity, concentration, and higher-order intellectual processing. Fatigue may happen acutely, which is to say in a relatively short time (hours) after some significant physical or mental activity. Or, it may occur gradually over several days or weeks. Typically, this situation occurs with someone who does not get sufficient sleep over a prolonged period of time (as with sleep apnea, jet lag, or shift work) or someone who is involved in ongoing physical or mental activity with insufficient rest.

Fatigue in aviation has been a major cause of several aircraft accidents. It has been estimated to contribute to 20-30% of all transport accidents and 70% of all fatal accidents in commercial aviation are related to human error.

The math is substantial and the effect is dramatic.

Whether you're a pilot, technician, or a procurement professional fatigue is real.

Maybe you bought the wrong $50,000 part, or installed the wrong component on your turbine engine. There may be measures to catch these mistakes but not all mistakes get noticed.

Fatigue alters your mood, cognitive function and is a pain to deal with.

Fatigue is easily mitigated

Fatigue in aviation can easily be reduced, unless you're a pilot with strict demands and an unalterable schedule. For the majority of us, fatigue is reduced by making a few minor life changes.

One of the best ways to eliminate fatigue is by getting at least 7 - 8 hours of sleep. [TWEET THIS]

Do not...

  • Consume alcohol 4 hours before going to bed.
  • Take work to bed.
  • Watch TV while in bed.
  • Use sleeping pills.
  • Eat a heavy meal right before bed.

You should…

  • Keep a sleeping pattern. Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day.
  • Create a sleep sanctuary. Block out all noises, eliminate any light and keep your room cool.
  • Get active. Being sedentary will affect the way you sleep. Do something physical during the day.
  • Reduce stress. No one goes to bed easily when stressed. Find ways to reduce this.
  • Get all your thoughts out onto paper. When your mind is racing it’s hard to relax and fall asleep. Write all your thoughts down and address them in the morning.

Fatigue in aviation is real.

Find ways to minimize this and you’ll see a noticeable effect on your mood, your work and your life.

How has fatigue affected you? Comment below.