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The Fatigue Insider Blog

Are sleep pods the answer to a stressful office?

Feb 05, 2020 ISS Comments (0)

The increase of sleep pods and relaxation rooms in offices, ostensibly introduced to combat increased stress and fatigue among employees, may actually be fuelling a 24-hour working culture.
 
In recognition of the importance of sleep, innovative companies like Google, Nike, and Hootsuite have all invested in napping pods and rooms in an attempt to boost productivity. Although it can be hard to work out whether these efforts are in the best interest of employees’ health and wellbeing or suggest an expectation that employees will be spending much more of their time in the office.
 
While napping for 10 to 20 minutes has been shown to increase alertness, it can also delay the onset of sleep later in the night. As such, the provision of facilities for employees to nap can be extremely important for those doing shift work; but for those doing traditional 9 to 5 jobs, napping could just disrupt circadian rhythms and encourage employees to work longer hours.
 
If employees in corporate environments who aren’t working shifts are so tired that they require naps throughout the day, there may be deeper issues present related to workplace culture and expectations of productivity that need to be addressed. It is important for employees to be able to fully switch off from work for a reasonable amount of time each day in order for them to deliver peak performance long-term.

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Fatigue Science and the NFL

Jan 29, 2020 ISS Comments (0)

With Superbowl LIV right around the corner, there is no better time to talk about the integration of fatigue science in the world of sport, especially the NFL.
 
NFL teams obsessively track everything they can about a player: weight, muscle mass, hand-eye coordination and more. Yet in recent years, in the never-ending search for an edge, teams have opened their eyes to sleep as a priority, backed up by science that increasingly points to its importance for physical and mental health.
 
The Seattle Seahawks have been on the forefront of using innovative technology to optimise their players’ sleep habits, including using wristbands that tracks their sleep and scores their alertness. This focus is partly borne out of necessity, as the Seahawks spend the most time travelling for their games in the League, which can interrupt players circadian rhythms. The information they collect can also give insights into reaction times; data that can be used to help optimise a player’s performance.
 
Being an elite athlete in a sport as physically demanding as NFL, combined with a gruelling schedule and lots of travel, requires players and teams to take a holistic and forward-thinking approach to health. Sam Ramsden, the Seahawks’ director of player health and performance, told the New York Times in 2016, “I’ve always had a belief that sleep is one of the main ways your body recovers… some of the best players on the team are the best sleepers.”

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US Worksite Health ScoreCard to include fatigue

Jan 22, 2020 ISS Comments (0)

 

In a step in the right direction, the US Centre for Disease Control (CDC) updated their Worksite Health ScoreCard in 2019 to include sleep and fatigue questions for the first time since it was introduced in 2012. The tool is for employers to assess whether they have implemented evidence-based health and wellbeing programs in their workplace.
 
The ScoreCard is comprehensive in nature and not intended to be a quick 'tick and flick' tool. As such, the inclusion of fatigue and sleep section signals that the CDC is taking this factor seriously in the provision of a safe and hazard-free workplace.
 
The new fatigue and sleep section includes questions on whether the workplace has written policy on scheduling that aims to reduce employee fatigue, the provision of educational materials and screenings related to sleep and common sleep disorders, as well as whether there are solutions offered to combat drowsy and distracted driving.
 
Introducing sleep and fatigue concerns into this ScoreCard alongside other important health risks like nutrition, diabetes, physical exercise, cancer, heart attacks and many others is a positive step in the right direction. It serves as an indication to employers of the importance of fatigue-related workplace concerns for the health, safety, and productivity of employees.

 

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Getting through the day when you're sleep deprived

Jan 08, 2020 ISS Comments (0)

While we absolutely do not recommend letting yourself get sleep deprived, sometimes there are days when it’s just unavoidable. So if you couldn’t sleep last night, we’ve got some tips to help you power through a work day when you’d much rather hit the snooze button. They’ll also ensure that you are not relying on behaviours that lead to continued sleepless nights.
 
Be strategic about the tasks you have to get done
Be aware that a sleep-deprived brain can sustain focus for far less time than a normal one, so try to postpone tasks that require difficult decisions and critical thinking for tomorrow. Nevertheless, there will be duties that you cannot put off, and for those, you have to think realistically about how you are going to achieve them. You might have the urge to procrastinate your more difficult tasks for later in the day, but try to get them done as early as possible, because your cognitive function will continue to decline throughout the day. Leave busy work for the end of the day, when you’ll need a break from tasks that require focused attention.
 
Caffeine is your friend
This may seem obvious, but you’ll need some caffeine to get you through the day, just don’t overdo it. Everyone’s caffeine tolerance is different, but studies have shown that the body can handle no more than 400 milligrams a day (for comparison, a shot of espresso is roughly 100 milligrams). A caffeinated drink can be really useful to get you through tasks that require intense focus, like driving, but don’t drink it to close to bedtime or you’ll continue to compound your sleep loss. Try to avoid caffeinated energy/soft drinks, as the sugar will make you crash, counteracting the effect of the caffeine.
 
Get outside and do some exercise
While it might seem like the last thing you would want to do after a sleepless night, a brisk walk in the sunlight will do you a world of good. Getting your blood flowing and producing some endorphins will energise you, so try to do this in the morning and/or throughout the day, especially if your job requires you to be mostly sedentary. The sunlight on your face will also help your brain shut off melatonin production.
 
Eat well and stay hydrated
While eating well is important every day for cognitive function, it is doubly important when your energy supplies are already depleted. Make sure you don’t skip meals, especially breakfast, as eating within an hour of waking up will boost your mood and cognitive performance for the early part of your day. When you are sleep deprived you are more likely to crave simple carbs and sugars, but avoid them at all costs, as they will likely provide a rush of unsustained energy and a crash that may leave you more tired and hungry. Make sure you are drinking plenty of water too, it’s not going to combat sleepiness, but you’ll feel much worse if you’re dehydrated as well as exhausted.

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Developing a blood test for drowsy driving

Dec 04, 2019 ISS Comments (0)


Some experts have said that drowsy driving can be as dangerous as drunk driving, and as such we should devote as much attention to tired and fatigued drivers as we do to speeding and inebriated ones. Victoria’s Transport Accident Commission (TAC) says that fatigue is a contributing factor in 16-20% of the state’s road crashes. But until recently, without a tool like a breathalyser, it has been near impossible to identify fatigued drivers.
 
Now, because of breakthrough research led by Professor Derk-Jan Dijk, there may be a blood test that will tell us whether a driver is sleep deprived on the horizon. A unique study conducted at the University of Surrey’s Sleep Research Centre used machine learning to a blood-based generic risk profile using mRNA sequences to help identify persons who were acutely sleep deprived. A machine learning algorithm identified a subset of 68 genes and with 92% accuracy could detect whether a sample was from a sleep-deprived or well-rested individual. For the study, 36 participants had their blood sampled after 40 hours of sleep deprivation to evaluate changes in the expression of thousands of specific genes reflecting acute inflammation.
 
Developing a simple test for sleep deprivation that could be used to keep drowsy drivers off the road may be a while off, Professor Derk-Jan Dijk says "This is a test for acute total sleep loss; the next step is to identify biomarkers for chronic insufficient sleep, which we know to be associated with adverse health outcomes." At the moment, this breakthrough may have more immediate use within the field of clinical sleep medicine, as it may assist doctors in the diagnosis of sleep conditions.
 
Nevertheless, sleep deprivation is a huge public health problem, and any step towards understanding and combatting it is one in the right direction. Hopefully this ground-breaking research can be applied to the fatigue management of those in transport professions like pilots, train operators, truck drivers, and bus drivers, who place the public at risk when they have had insufficient sleep; and eventually, contribute to a solution for enforcing against drowsy drivers.
 
Check out the study here, in the journal of Sleep.

 

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