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The Fatigue Insider Blog

Can your romantic partner's scent help you sleep?

Feb 21, 2020 ISS Comments (0)

New research at the University of British Columbia has suggested that being exposed to a romantic partner’s scent can help improve sleep quality even when they are not present.
For the study, the researchers analysed sleep data from 155 participants who were given two identical-looking t-shirts to use as pillowcases. One t-shirt had been previously worn by their romantic partner, and the other had either been previously worn by a stranger or was clean.
They spent two consecutive nights sleeping with each t-shirt. Each morning, they completed a survey about how well-rested they felt. Their sleep quality was also objectively measured using an actigraph sleep watch that monitored their movements throughout the night.
Participants reported feeling more well-rested on the nights when they believed they were sleeping with their partner’s scent. Moreover, regardless of their beliefs about scent exposure, data from the sleep watches indicated that objective sleep improved when participants were actually exposed to their partner’s scent.
The researchers say the physical presence of a long-term romantic partner is associated with positive health outcomes such as a sense of safety, calm and relaxation, which in turn leads to better sleep. By signalling recent physical proximity, the mere scent of a partner may have similar benefits.
The research could pave the way for future work examining the efficacy of simple and effective methods of improving sleep, such as bringing a partner’s shirt the next time you travel alone.
To learn more about the study, check out this article from the University of British Columbia:

Can sleep clean out the junk from your brain?

Feb 19, 2020 ISS Comments (0)


The exact reason why we sleep has long been one of the greatest mysteries of modern science, but a recent study offers a theory corroborated earlier research that sleep may act as a way for your brain to flush out all the waste that your neurons produce throughout the day.
The researchers focused on the movement of fluids between neurons in mice during the awake and sleep states. They found that there was very little movement of fluids during awake states, and that movement rapidly increased during sleep. These fluids act as drainage for toxic waste that the brain is likely too busy to purge during the day.
A 2019 study built on this research, showing for the first time that this mechanism is present in humans and that the fluid present in our brains and spinal cords, called cerebrospinal fluid, appears to synchronize with brainwaves to help remove metabolic trash.
Maiken Nedergaard, one of the authors of the 2013 study, commented on the implications that these studies may have on shift workers, as the sleep loss that they experience is likely causing long term damage.
In the short term, the build-up of proteins and junk can make you feel foggy after one night of sleep loss as the neurons struggle a bit more to connect with each other.
But in the long term, this research can shed light on diseases like Alzheimers, as it is toxic protein plaques that play a key role in memory loss and other cognitive impairments experienced by individuals suffering from many neurodegenerative diseases. Researchers don’t yet know if these plaques are a cause or a result of neurodegenerative disease.

You can read the 2019 study ‘coupled electrophysiological, hemodynamic, and cerebrospinal fluid oscillations in human sleep’ in Science here:
You can read the 2013 study ‘Sleep drives metabolite clearance from the adult brain, in Science here:


Should you be drinking banana-peel tea?

Feb 14, 2020 ISS Comments (0)


Here at ISS, all kinds of unorthodox methods to help induce sleep come across our desk every week. The most recent of these being banana-peel tea. Supposedly boiling a whole washed banana in a saucepan with water for 10-15 minutes and drinking the liquid is the way to go if you struggle with sleep.

Bananas are a good source of magnesium and potassium, two minerals that have been linked to better sleep quality and length due to their muscle-relaxing properties. They also provide some tryptophan, an amino acid that’s important for producing the sleep-inducing hormones serotonin and melatonin.

Nevertheless, it’s unknown to what extent these nutrients leach into the tea during brewing, making it hard to know whether drinking the tea would have the same potential sleep-promoting effects as eating a banana.

What unconventional sleep aids have you heard of? Do any of them work for you?


Fatigue and mining: Digging into the issue

Feb 12, 2020 ISS Comments (0)

Across heavy industry, including mining, fatigue has been shown to be the greatest single cause of workplace accidents. As such, addressing fatigue in miners is an issue of safety as well as an issue of productivity and employee wellbeing. An employee that is fatigued is one whose decision making, fine-motor skills, and emotional stability are severely limited. This can have far-reaching consequences for the individual, for their co-workers, and even for the wider environment.

The mining industry often uses shift-work schedules in order to maintain a productive mine 24/7. We know that shift-workers are at a high risk of being fatigued, whether that be in the long or short term. Just one night of interrupted sleep can cause a decline in cognitive ability, alertness, and slower reaction times. In fact, we know that up to 65% of truck driving accidents in open pit mines are fatigue-related.

In the long-term, fatigue can contribute to chronic health issues like heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Underground miners working in an environment without natural light are at an even higher risk of being fatigued, especially if they work nightshifts, as their circadian rhythms and sleeping patterns can be disrupted by the lack of blue light their eyes are able to absorb.

Many of the risks associated with fatigue can be minimised if mine operators take a proactive and preventive approach. Implementing a Fatigue Risk Management System (FRMS) to control worker schedules and help limit shift work and excessive overtime can address many of the fatigue-related issues faced by miners.

If would like to read more on this topic, check out this article in Mining and Engineering titled ‘Mineworker fatigue: A review of what we know and future decisions’:

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.

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.”

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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