Do you get cranky when you are tired?

By Clinton Marquardt - Sleep & Fatigue Specialist

August 1, 2013

effects of fatigue, fatigue, jet-lag, safety management, shift-work

Cranky Boy

You know how kids can get just a little cranky when they are over tired?  Well, adults, but not me or you of course, can get cranky too.  Research into partial sleep deprivation, where the total amount of sleep is reduced and kept at a lower than normal amount, has shown that negative mood may be related to the amount of sleep you get. Just this year a study on medical doctors found that physicians’ moods were worse during on-call shifts that kept them from sleeping when compared to their moods before they started the on-call shifts[1].  We also know that partial sleep deprivation leads to fatigue[2]. Partially sleep depriving these doctors by making them work, instead of sleep, made them cranky and given the link between partial sleep deprivation and fatigue, it is probably safe to say that fatigue can lead to decreased mood.

Now think for a moment about the relationship between your mood and your attitude and fatigue.  If you are tired and cranky, it’s hard to stay motivated and energized about your job.  Your attitude about safety suffers and this can become a contributing factor in poor performance, human errors and even accidents.  Fatigued people may take short cuts to make their jobs easier, they may not care as much about how they perform their jobs and if they are really fatigued, they may focus only on getting the job done quickly so they can get home to bed.  In transportation this can result in something I call “get-home’itis” where cancelling the trip, postponing the trip or adding in a stop to sleep is not even a consideration. The only thing that matters is getting home to your own bed!  This means many summer road-trippers will keep on driving while fatigued, pilots will keep flying and truckers will keep on truckin’ when they should be stopping to sleep.

This summer, be sure you get enough sleep before you start your road trip and break it up into short legs with lots of sleep in between.


[1] Wali, S., Qutah, K., Abushanab, L., Basamh, R., Abushanab, J., & Krayem, A. (2013). Effect of on-call-related sleep deprivation on physician’s mood and alertness. Annals of Thoracic Medicine, 8(1), 22-27.

[2] Lo, J., Groeger, J., Santhi, N., Arbon, E., Lazar, A., Hasan, S., Von Schantz, M., Archer, S., & Dijk, D. (2012), Effects of partial and acute total sleep deprivation on performance across cognitive domains, individuals and circadian phase. Plos One, 7(9), 1-16.

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