Shift Worker Fatigue –Are You Just Talking Yourself Into It?

If you’re a shift worker then the term ‘shift worker fatigue’ is a sensitive topic because it pretty much sums up our entire existence – feeling fatigued.

But are we really that fatigued or are we just anticipating fatigue by talking about it all of the time?

Confused? Well let me explain.

I was having a bite to eat in the lunch room one day, and I couldn’t help but overhear the conversation that was going on between two people.

Their conversation focussed on how tired they were going to be tomorrow and for the rest of the week. It was as if they were trying to convince each other how few hours of sleep they were going to get, and most of all, how tired they were going to be. But the interesting thing was, that they were sounding more and more tired the longer the conversation continued.

They were saying things like, “Boy, am I going to be tired tomorrow,” and “Gee, I’m only going to get three hours of sleep tonight.” Basically they were anticipating feeling exhausted so pretty much talking themselves into it.

What was also interesting is that I actually felt myself getting tired just listening to their conversation!

The problem with anticipating tiredness, or shift worker fatigue in this way, is that it clearly reinforces the tiredness. It rivets your attention to the number of hours you are sleeping and how tired you are going to be.

Could anticipating tiredness send a message to your brain reminding you to feel and act tired because you have programmed yourself to respond this way?

Personally, I have found that the best strategy to overcome shift worker fatigue is to get as much sleep as I possibly can and be grateful for whatever amount that might be. If I simply
forget about it and don’t talk about it – I’m far more rested with the sleep that I do get.

So stop talking about how tired you’re feeling – or how tired that you’re going to be, and you’ll start feeling much more energized and certainly a lot less fatigued!


  1. Dragonfly

    Oh, I so remember those days in my previous life as a shift-worker!! (not with fondness either)!!
    Have a lovely week 🙂

  2. Cairo Typ0

    My sleeping patterns were all messed up when i was a shift worker. I still woke up with my husband in the morning but then had to be at work until 10pm. Naturally i couldn't sleep until 1 or 2 after i got home. I was so glad when i finally got on days! 🙂

  3. Erin M.

    While I am not a shift worker, I am a stay-at-home mom and I feel this sort of thing also applies to me. I am constantly tired and always talking about how tired I'm going to be.

    I also recently kicked my caffeine/Diet Coke habit, so that is part of it, too….but you make some really great points here!

  4. Holly

    Good point…I am tired but I don't talk about it, because it does not help at all. My husband always says how tired he is and then gets cranky with me for staying up late…I just say, "Do I complain about being tired." He can only say no.

  5. Life Laugh Latte

    Being stressed and tired has become like a medal to wear around our necks. Sometimes we truly are…but really…do we have it worse than our ancestors…I think not! Holly:)

  6. Lynn

    I bought dark shades for when I would come home as the sun was rising! I feel for you guys and who knows if I'll be joining your ranks again someday soon?

    My best, Lynn


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