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Fatigue Management & Human Factors in our 24-hour Society
Fatigue Management & Human Factors in our 24-hour Society

The Fatigue Insider Blog

Surviving a 19 hour flight

Nov 20, 2019 ISS Comments (0)


 

Air travel these days is already a marathon, but with Qantas' testing the limits of human endurance recently with a 19-hour trial flight, we wanted to provide some tips on surviving an ultra-long haul flight.

 
1. Stay hydrated
Obviously this involves drinking plenty of water, and even adding electrolytes to maximise your absorption if you want to, but avoiding dehydration requires more than just water intake. Avoiding dehydrating food and drink like caffeine, alcohol, salty foods, and heavy carbohydrates will make you feel much better. Go for leafy greens instead!
 
2. Set your watch to the local time
Travelling across time zones upsets our circadian rhythms, so set your watch to the local time and try to eat and sleep at the appropriate time for your destination.
 
3. Apply your SPF
You have much less protection from harmful UVA and UVB rays up in the air, where the ozone layer is thinnest. Make sure you apply and re-apply sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun.
 
4. Keep your body moving
You want to make sure that you keep your body mobile to avoid Deep Vein Thrombosis. No one’s body is meant to sit in a tiny chair for 19 hours, so doing some exercise on the flight will also make you a little less irritable! The video below suggests setting alarm for every three hours so that you’ll remember to get up, walk around, and do some stretches.
 
Check out this great video from the Wall Street Journal for more tips on surviving an ultra-long haul flight.

 

 

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Smart drugs: the rise of cognitive doping

Nov 13, 2019 ISS Comments (0)

 

 
More and more people are turning to pharmaceutical drugs to improve their performance at work and university, which raises a lot of questions about their efficacy and safety. How did nootropics like Modafinil go from a powerful narcolepsy drug to the centre of the conversation about doping at work and unrealistic expectations of productivity?

 

Nootropics are a broad range of drugs said to improve cognitive function, from improving memory retention to spurring creativity. The drug Modafinil keeps you awake far beyond normal limits and is said to allow you to maintain intense focus for a period of time. It was taken by helicopter pilots to stay alert as they carried US Special Forces to and from the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. It can also have serious side effects like intense headaches and anxiety, and we don’t even know the long-term safety issues for those using them as a performance enhancer rather than a narcolepsy drug.

 
In 2011, just over 650,000 people in the US had Modafinil prescriptions. By 2012, that number had risen to 1.9 million, a figure not including people obtaining it illegally. Drugs like these have become more widespread in competitive and high-stakes environments like universities and Silicon Valley, as expectations about productivity have skyrocketed. We must question the kind of working environment that incentivises taking powerful drugs in order to keep up with demands.

 

It also calls into question the efficacy of using drugs like these to get a competitive edge. Is it cheating? Some sports organisations ban the usage of drugs like Adderall for those with an ADHD diagnosis for the same reasons they ban steroids and other performance enhancers. Will employer drug tests soon screen for modafinil use? Or on the contrary, will CEOs welcome the rise of extra-sharp workers who never need sleep?


 

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Is a midnight snack the key to staying alert?

Nov 06, 2019 ISS Comments (0)


A recent study by researchers at the University of South Australia looked at how food intake can affect those working the nightshift. By testing the impact of a snack, a meal, or no food at all, the study found that a simple snack was the best choice for maximising alertness and productivity.

The study looked at a small group of 44 nightshift workers over a week, dividing them into groups to test three different midnight eating patterns: a meal, a snack, and no food. They were then asked to report on their levels of hunger, gut reaction and sleepiness.
 
It found that all participants reported increased sleepiness and fatigue, but those who had a snack reduced the impact of those feelings. Additionally, the snack group did not experience the same uncomfortable gut reactions as the group that ate a meal.
 
In today’s 24/7 economy, working the nightshift is increasingly common, with industries like health care, aviation, transport and mining needing employees to work around the clock. Of Australia’s 1.4 million shift workers, over 200,000 (15%) regularly work the nightshift. Upsetting the body’s circadian rhythm in this way can be a real health and safety risk, which is why robust fatigue management needs to be in place for employee wellbeing as well as productivity.
 
Lead researcher Charlotte Gupta said that the next step is research into how different types of snacks could affect night shift workers. She says that the findings have to potential to affect thousands of shift workers; “the findings will inform the most strategic eating patterns on-shift and can hopefully contribute to more alert and better performing workers.”
 
The study can be accessed here.

 

 

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Developments in trucking laws: Fatigue risk management

Oct 30, 2019 ISS Comments (0)


 

The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NVHR) is calling for more flexibility in fatigue rules in its submission to the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) review being conducted by the National Transport Commission.

The implementation of the submission would allow operators with demonstrably robust fatigue management systems more flexibility to manage fatigue risks. This could mean a change in framework and culture surrounding fatigue management, allowing it to expand from basic prescriptive work and rest hours.
 
Dr Adam Fletcher said, “Fatigue management is about much more than work hours and sleep. It also relates to workload, individual factors including health and sleep timing preferences, and the ability for drivers to be flexible when they feel it is safer...This development reflects a closer alignment with the point I have made publicly and with regulators for many years.”
 
NHVR CEO, Sal Petroccitto said, “the NHVR believes that prescriptive work and rest hours should still play a role in providing a minimum ‘safe harbour’ for drivers, but that a multi-tiered approach to fatigue risk management would allow flexibility for operators who take up additional, new or innovative safety practices.”
 
Current laws reduced fatigue-related crashes between 2003 and 2009, but "the rate of heavy vehicle crashes caused by driver fatigue" has been stable since then. An expansion in the scope of fatigue management to include factors like workload, health, and driver autonomy could bring the rate of fatigue-related crashes down further.

 

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Sleeping habits around the world

Oct 23, 2019 ISS Comments (0)


While we live in an increasingly globalised world, people still tend to sleep very differently in different countries. The diversity of sleeping habits around the world can reflect attitudes towards health, work-life balance, relationship to the environment, and a myriad of other cultural values. Check out some of the unusual and interesting ways people sleep, it may even introduce you to a new habit to incorporate into your own bedtime routine.

 
Japan
In Japan, the habit of falling asleep in public, whether that is on the train or even in the middle of a meeting, is actually revered. Called inemuri, or ‘sleeping while present,’ it is a sign that people have worked themselves so hard that they have exhausted themselves. It may be praised as a sign of a person’s industriousness.
 
Botswana and Zaire
Members of the !Kung tribe and the Efe tribe, hunter-gatherers from Botswana and Zaire respectively, sleep when they feel tired. This could be at any time of day for any length of time, rather than in recurring blocks. While this system may not be fully compatible with current expectations in Western countries, the act of listening to your body to give it the sleep it needs is a sure-fire way to prevent fatigue.
 
Spain and Latin America
The popularity of the famous siesta has waned in recent years as Spain has become more urbanised. Nevertheless, an afternoon rest break, especially when kept short, can improve productivity. Interestingly, the afternoon power nap has sprung up in Silicon Valley, where employees are encouraged to use sleep pods to help them remain refreshed.
 
Australia
Some Aboriginal peoples practice co-sleeping, where they line up their mattresses or swags in a line called a ‘yunta.’ This practice can maximise the safety of the group, especially by protecting the most vulnerable members sleeping in the centre.

China

 In China, it’s a popular belief that a firm bed supports the alignment of the back, promoting better sleep, a belief shared by many around the world. Some Chinese factories have also been blurring the lines between workplace and bedroom, encouraging employees to utilise in-house sleeping and washing facilities to maximise productivity.

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A positive attitude could lead to better sleep

Oct 16, 2019 ISS Comments (0)

 

Are you struggling to sleep? Try being more optimistic! A recent study has found that those with a more optimistic disposition had significantly better odds of getting better quality sleep.
 
More than 3,500 people ages 32-51 participated in the 2019 study, which measured optimism by asking participants to assess 10 statements using a 5-point scale.
 
To measure their sleep, participants reported on their sleep twice over a period of five years and rated their sleep quality and duration during the previous month. The survey assessed their symptoms of insomnia, difficulty falling asleep, and the number of hours of actual sleep they obtained each night. Some participants also wore activity monitors that collected data on their sleep duration, percentage of time asleep and restlessness while sleeping.
 
Participants with higher optimism scores were more likely to sleep for 6-9 hours each night and 74% less likely to have insomnia.
 
Lead author Dr Rosalba Hernandez, from the University of Illinois, speculated on what could explain their findings: "Optimists are more likely to engage in active problem-focused coping and to interpret stressful events in more positive ways, reducing worry and ruminative thoughts when they're falling asleep and throughout their sleep cycle."
 
You can access the article from the Journal of Behavioural Medicine here.

 

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NASA test could keep an eye on sleep deprivation

Oct 09, 2019 ISS Comments (0)

 

A new study conducted at NASA’s Ames Research Centre in California identified a simple and easily obtainable set of eye movement measurements that can provide accurate insights into whether a person is sleep-deprived.
 
Participants spent two weeks on regular 8.5 hours per night sleep schedule and abstained from alcohol, drugs, and caffeine so that they were sure they started the experiment from the same baseline. Then participants spent up to 28 hours awake, where they were tested periodically to monitor how their visual and eye-movement performance changed.
 
The researchers found that when participants were asked to track stimuli with unpredictable onset, direction, speed and starting location, human eye movements were dramatically impaired.
 
These findings have important implications for people working in high-pressure jobs such as surgeons, military personnel, and truck drivers. These measures could be used to assess individuals working nightshifts.
 
Lee Stone, senior author on the study said: "There are significant safety ramifications for workers who may be performing tasks that require precise visual coordination of one's actions when sleep deprived or during night shifts. By looking at a wide variety of components of human eye movements, we could not only detect sleepiness but also distinguish it from other factors, such as alcohol use or brain injury, that we have previously shown cause subtly different deficits in eye movements."
 
Access the study in the Journal of Physiology here.

 

 

 

 


 

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