Archive for the ‘fatigue’ category

Sleepy Transportation Workers – Scary!

March 15, 2012

Last week was National Sleep Awareness Week, and the time each year that the annual Sleep in America Poll is unveiled. This year it is all about sleep health in the transportation industry. This data raises concerns about public safety, and the health of the transportation workers. Here’s what pilots, train operators, and professional drivers of all types reported about their sleep.

Sleepiness and Safety
When asked about sleepiness, 1 in 4 pilots and train operators said that sleepiness has impacted their job performance once a week. Even more concerning is the number of professionals who say that sleepiness caused safety issues: 20% of pilots, 18% of train operators, and 14% of truck drivers.

These safety issues persist during transportation employees personal time: 6% were in an auto accident due to sleepiness compared to 1% of those who work in other industries.

The Sleep Schedule
Almost half of transportation workers are dis-satisfied with their sleep. Many say their work schedule does not allow enough time for sleep (44% train operators, 37% pilots). This compares to 27% of non-transportation workers.

Transportation professionals tend to work longer shifts, with less time off between shifts. They also tend to have longer commute times, and irregular shiftwork type schedules.

Adequate Sleep for Transportation Professionals
It’s been a pleasure in my office to help transportation professionals get healthy, natural sleep. This is primarily about strategically using our body’s sleep systems to promote alertness during work hours and sleep during sleep times.

First, create a window of time for sleep that can be as consistent as possible. Also put into place a routine of meal times, exercise, activity – all those things that signal time to the body. Second, reduce the commute as much as possible. Third, use precisely timed melatonin and light therapy to promote sleep at sleep times and increase alertness during the work day. This is a very individualized approach which takes into account the irregular work schedule, commute time, sleep environment, and lifestyle.

Summary

“The margin of error in these professions is extremely small. Transportation professionals need to manage sleep to perform at their best,” said David Cloud, leader of the National Sleep Foundation.  His comment really sums this up, that sleep health is so important for transportation professionals and the safety of the public they serve.

 You can read the report here: http://www.sleepfoundation.org//article/press-release/sleepy-pilots-train-operators-and-drivers

Sleep vs. TV

June 8, 2010

In June 2009, Drs. Basner and Dinges published an article titled “Dubious Bargain: Trading Sleep for Leno and Letterman.” Is this something you can relate to- staying up late to watch your favorite show even when you know you’re tired?

The relationship between exercise and sleep
The U.S. Census Bureau has a continuous telephone survey of 105 million households. It is called the American Time Use Survey (ATUS). This paper looked at how people spent the 2 hours before bed, and the 2 hours after getting up. They grouped people into 3 categories: Long workers (>8 hours daily), short workers (<8 hours) and non workers.

An estimated 20-40% of adults sleep less than the recommended 7+ hours each night. Remember that measured sleep is usually less than reported sleep, so these estimates may be low. Short sleep duration is associated with increased illness and obesity. The researchers’ goal was to determine if there are discretionary activities that can be eliminated to increase sleep time.

Among the three groups, bedtime was the same, and the long workers got up earlier than the others. People watch TV for 55 minutes of the 2 hours before bed. Travel and work took up 27% (about 30 minutes) of the 2 hours after waking for the day.

The authors conclude that watching TV may be an important social cue of approaching bedtime. They also conclude that “giving up some TV viewing in the evening should be possible to reduce chronic sleep debt and promote adequate sleep in those who need it.”

Daytime Sleepiness Increases Risk of Auto Accidents

June 2, 2010

Other blogposts have discussed drowsy driving, and this month a new research study updated this work.  The study measured how sleepy individuals were, and how many auto accidents they had.

The Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT) to measure sleepiness was done on 618 people.  During the MSLT, every two hours the participant has an opportunity to nap, and EEG measures how long it takes to fall asleep.  Falling asleep in 5- 10 minutes is considered moderately sleepy, with sleep onset in less than 5 minutes considered excessively sleepy.  The number of car crashes in the 10 years surrounding the MSLT was tabulated for each person.

The people who were excessively sleepy had an accident rate of 59%, while those who were alert had only a 47% rate.  The difference in number of accidents between these two groups was significant.  Excessively sleepy people also had a higher risk of severe injury in an auto accident than alert individuals.

This is important for us as individuals every time we get on the road, and is also a public safety issue.  Read earlier blogpost for tips you can use to stay alert on the road.

“Sleepy” vs. “Tired” vs. “Fatigued”

December 7, 2009

In our American culture, many words can be used interchangeably. This is even true of sleep words. Several years ago I had the honor of speaking at the annual Association of Professional Sleep Societies (APSS) meeting on the language of sleep medicine for the trainees. We looked at the different meanings of “sleepy” vs. “tired” vs. “fatigued.”

“Sleepy” means the propensity to actually fall asleep. Whereas “tired” is more about a feeling of reduced strength after exertion. “Fatigue” is a deep weariness or exhaustion.

Why do I bring this up on the blog? When you are thinking about your health, knowing whether you feel sleepy, vs tired or fatigued, will help you decide what kind of care to pursue.

Of course, if you are feeling sleepy, then a sleep specialist is a good place to start with.  Wednesday we’ll talk about medical conditions that can make you more sleepy.

To learn more about how you can sleep well using naturopathic sleep medicine, go to http://www.naturalsleepmedicine.net/


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