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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

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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Sweet Dreams: How is sugar ruining your sleep?

Sep 25, 2019 ISS Comments (0)

 

It’s a hard pill to swallow, but if you eat garbage, you’ll sleep like garbage too.
 
A 2016 study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that eating sugar before bed was associated with “lighter, less restorative sleep with more arousals.” They found that participants whose diets consisted of more sugar and fat spent less time in deep sleep, a phase that is essential for cell-regeneration, recovery, and immune function.
 
They also discovered that those who ate more sugar had more trouble falling asleep, and were more likely be pulled out of deep sleep without waking up, which can leave you feeling chronically tired even if you get the right amount of hours.
 
This can also work in reverse, as individuals who are getting more high quality sleep are less likely to gravitate towards sugar and refined carbohydrates for an un-sustainable energy boost.
 
The study also linked fibre intake with deeper, more restorative sleep. They posited that a diet rich in fibre, with less sugars and simple carbohydrates and may be a useful tool to improve sleep. If you want to start sleeping more soundly, try slowly cutting back your sugar intake to see if that helps you wake up more well-rested.

 

 

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Simple yoga poses to help you get some shuteye

Sep 18, 2019 ISS Comments (0)

Yoga can be a gentle way to help you wind down at the end of the night and bring some awareness back into your body. An American national health interview survey (NHIS) found that over 55% of respondents reported improved sleep, and 85% reported reduced stress. We’ve included some of the most relaxing yoga poses to help relieve your muscles and get you ready for bed.

Child’s pose (Balasana)
Try this kneeling pose with your legs hip-width apart and your arms either by your side or stretched out in front for additional spine lengthening and shoulder relief.

 

 
Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)
Bend forward with your hands clasped to the opposite elbow to achieve a hamstring, calve and hip stretch and provide relief to your neck and shoulders. Shake your head ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to release tension in your neck, and softly bend your knees if the hamstring stretch is too intense.

 

Legs up the wall (Viparita Karani)

 This pose not only releases tension in the lower back and stretches the hamstrings, but also allows your circulation to re-adjust, taking pressure from the feet and ankles and increasing blood flow to the upper body. Try to get your legs as close to the wall as your hamstrings allow.

 
Corpse Pose (Savasana)
Traditionally the final pose in a yoga class, use this pose to centre your thoughts, focus on your breathing, and allow every muscle in your body to relax.


 

 

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