David's Performance and Training Corner
With David Salthouse from APC, Inc.
Associate Director of Training & Program Development
Exhaustion & Fatigue - Two Very Formidable Adversaries

With the speed and stresses of the modern world, most people have one thing in common. At some point, they find themselves exhausted. This greatly affects our ability to recognize a threat and react to it. Self-defense minded individuals spend a lot of time and in some cases a lot of money training to defend themselves and their family from threats, but very often sacrifice sleep or rest for work or other commitments without a second thought. As a police officer that works around the clock and often extra hours, fatigue is something I battle often. Let’s take a deeper look at these potential deadly threats.

20% of Americans report that they suffer from fatigue severe enough to affect the day-to-day functions of their life. Think about how often you have blinked your eyes a little too often driving down the highway. A scary thought when you think that fatigue is a factor in 15% of all fatal motor vehicle accidents. Experts also compare being tired to being intoxicated. Both slow your reaction time down up to two seconds. No one would think of carrying a gun after a night on the town drinking, but being tired wouldn’t stop most people I know from strapping on there firearm before leaving the house or in some cases working in an armed capacity. If I haven’t gotten your attention yet, I have included a little quiz from the CDC (Center for Disease Control). Take the Epworth Sleepiness Scale test and see how you do.


In contrast to just feeling tired, how likely are you to doze off or fall asleep in the following situations? (Even if you have not done some of these things recently, try to work out how they would have affected you.) Use the following scale to choose the most appropriate number for each situation.

0 = Would never doze
1 = Slight chance of dozing
2 = Moderate chance of dozing
3 = High chance of dozing

Situation Chance of Dozing
Sitting and Reading
Watching TV
Sitting inactive in a public place (i.e. theatre)
As a car passenger for an hour without a break
Lying down to rest in the afternoon
Sitting and talking to someone
Sitting quietly after lunch without alcohol
In a car, while stopping for a few minutes in traffic

A score of greater than 10 is a definite cause for concern as it indicates significant excessive daytime sleepiness.

Ok, so we all can agree that exhaustion is something we need to keep in mind when we consider our defensive readiness.


Let’s look at some physical and emotional causes of exhaustion. Sleep problems are paramount. Not getting enough sleep is common, as most people require 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep.  Another related problem is staying up too long. Severe exhaustion sets in after 19 hours without sleep. Considering that a double shift is 16 hours, it is easy to cross the threshold if you are not careful. Being out of shape can affect your alertness and it is a vicious circle. If you are out of shape, you tend to exert less physical energy. Well exerting less physical energy causes more fatigue. As tough guys and gals, the last thing we want to acknowledge is emotional stress. Worrying about health, finance, and personal issues can not only add to fatigue, but also create sleep problems, which as you can guess compounds the issue. 

It is important to prevent fatigue and exhaustion before it starts. Here are some tips on maintaining a high level of readiness: Get an adequate amount of sleep. Try to set a normal sleeping pattern. Avoid drinking too many caffeinated or alcoholic beverages. Try to stay in good shape and exercise 30 minutes a day. Avoid stress by using techniques like mental imagery and positive self-talk. I find that lying down and closing my eyes while working though simulated situations not only relaxes me, but also raises my defensive readiness.  If you are unable to prevent fatigue or exhaustion, the only remedy is rest. As hard as it can be to step away from your active life, it is important to respect your body and mind.  Find a quite place to rest your eyes and then get back into the world refreshed and alert.

Whether you are going out on the town, going to work, or waking up early for a training class, be aware of exhaustion and fatigue. By reducing your response time you all but eliminate a tactical mindset. You will be unable to respond to a threat such as an armed criminal, or traffic collision. Create that distinct advantage we strive for by staying well rested and following some of the tips listed above.

Be safe and remember, Failing to Train is Training to Fail!
Email David at with comments, questions, or topics you would like him to cover in a future article.