Fighting Fatigue – The Wise Use of Time (Part 9)

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I grew up with 4-by-40 automobile air conditioning: four windows down while motoring forty miles per hour. The habit hasn’t left me, though I confess to changing the fan speed with the flow of traffic. On a hot summer’s day many years ago, I was driving home from work with the windows rolled down and the radio volume turned up, thankful for a Friday that promised a welcome weekend. I made my way to my usual exit off the interstate without incident only to find it backed up. We were all bumper-to-bumper and inching forward in a losing race with the snails on the side of the road.

An awful noise assaulted my ears and I strained my brain trying to determine its source. I heard it again, only this time it came with a jolt. It was then I discovered that the noise was me ramming the car in front of me because I had fallen asleep at the wheel. The damage to the rear bumper in front of me was negligible, but its effect on my confidence was humbling. What I found most disturbing was that I had lost consciousness unawares. Dreaming you are driving while driving can lead to disaster.

Fatigue is fraught with greater dangers than degrading our courage. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that an estimated 1 in 25 adult drivers (aged 18 years or older) have fallen asleep at the wheel in the past 30 days. They note that drowsy driving causes an estimated 6,000 fatal crashes each year. In 2013 alone, sleep-deprived driving was a factor in 72,000 crashes and 44,000 injuries.[1] The National Sleep Foundation reports that driving after being up for 18 hours straight is the equivalent of driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.05, just 0.03% away from drunk driving.[2]

A prime cause of fatigue is poor sleep hygiene. Americans love to work and love to play. Many of us pay for this dual love affair by short-changing our bedchamber. Good sleep is the frontline weapon in the fight against fatigue, a practice enjoyed by man even in his perfect state.[3]

Psalm 127:2
It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. ESV

Our heavenly Father loves us. He grants us rest, but we can resist His grace through bad habits. If you struggle with sleep deprivation, following the tips below can help get you to healthier sleep hygiene.

  • Have consistent wake and go-to-bed times.
  • Avoid caffeine and sugar several hours before bed time.
  • Turn off TVs and devices.
  • Meditate on Scripture.
  • Pray with your spirit and your mind.[4]

For additional rest and recuperation, enjoy God’s Sabbath gift to man.[5]

It seems counterintuitive, but lack of exercise can also contribute to fatigue. Modern technology has given us more time and less physical expenditure. Man was made to work the garden. If your work doesn’t demand physical exertion, you are more than likely out of shape—unless you make the effort to work out. This is the paradox of modern work life for many of us. Working in offices has forced us to work out in gyms and at home. When our bodies are undertaxed, our physical stamina decreases. Nothing tires a body out quite like sitting around for weeks on end.

Stress is a definite fatigue factor. Our Creator crafted us with stress in mind and beautifully designed us to handle it. As a matter of fact, our psyche without stress begins to behave like our bodies without exercise. But just as we are limited in the weight we can lift, there are limits to the level of stress we can healthily manage. We need to take inventory and be aware of the stressors in our lives and adjust accordingly.

When confronted with seasons of elevated stress—moving, home improvement, and funerals come to mind—we can compensate through increased nutritional input, both in good food and proper dietary supplements. Sleep is usually the first sheep sacrificed to stress and the one thing we need more of to better cope with life’s increased demands. Proper sleep hygiene is always a plus, even more so when we are under pressure.

Finally, in the fight against stress fatigue our best defense is to shift the load to its proper place.

1 Peter 5:6-7
6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:
7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. KJV

Philippians 4:6-7
6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ESV

[1] https://www.cdc.gov/features/dsdrowsydriving/index.html, accessed March 22, 2019.
[2] https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/drowsy-driving-vs-drunk-driving-how-similar-are-they, accessed March 22, 2019.
[3] Gen. 2:22.
[4] 1 Cor. 14:15; Isa. 28:11-12.
[5] Mark 2:27.