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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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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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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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Workload and Cabin Crew Fatigue

Oct 02, 2019 ISS Comments (0)

 

A new study published in the International Journal of Aerospace Psychology examined the correlation between fatigue and workload in cabin crews, and found perceived workload to be an independent predictor of fatigue.
 
Cabin crew face workload demands very different from that of pilots, their responsibilities include a lot more physical tasks as well as factors like turbulence, passenger demands, and medical incidents. The need for them to be awake during all meal services also means that they have less time available for significant blocks of rest.
 
The study evaluated Fatigue Risk Management Systems (FRMS) tailored to the needs of cabin crews on ultra-long haul flights (longer than 16 hours). 55 airline cabin crew wore an actigraph and completed a sleep diary during an ultra-long trip. Before landing, the participants completed a psychomotor performance test and after landing they rated their workload for the flight. They found that on higher workload flight, members of the cabin crew felt more sleepy and fatigued, and were less successful at their psychomotor performance test.
 
Lead author Margo van den Berg, a PhD candidate at Massey University said, “It is important that the effects of workload in flight should not be viewed in isolation... Cabin crew often experience fatigue as a consequence of their irregular work schedules, which include early starts, late finishes, night work, frequent time zone changes, and long duty periods, causing sleep loss and circadian rhythm disruption. Considering that their most important role is to ensure cabin and passenger safety during flight, cabin crew fatigue and its associated risks needs to be managed carefully.”
 
As airline cabin crews are responsible for ensuring the safety and comfort of passengers aboard flights, it is important to manage and decrease fatigue-related operational risk.
 
You can view the study here.

 

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Fatigue and Psychosocial WHS Risks

Sep 04, 2019 ISS Comments (0)

We know that fatigue can adversely affect safety at the workplace. It reduces alertness, which may lead to errors and an increase in incidents and injuries, not to mention its long-term health risks.
 
Companies need to be more cognisant of their work health and safety (WHS) obligations following the tightening of regulations and possible consequences of neglecting responsibilities. The release of Marie Boland’s independent review of WHS laws earlier this year has brought this to the forefront, with her recommendations including tougher penalties for breaches and the introduction of industrial manslaughter laws.
 
Unsurprisingly, psychological health and safety was one of the most frequently raised issues by stakeholders during the Boland Review. This is perhaps to be expected, given that Safe Work Australia data shows that workplace psychological injuries are one of the most costly forms of workplace injury, and many business owners are uncertain about how to address psychological health in the workplace. There has been a shift in the last few years to place more emphasis on psychosocial risks and injuries in the workplace, which can include fatigue, mental health issues, harassment, and bullying.
 
Part of the strategy to address these psychosocial risks should include robust fatigue management, as we know that major long-term health risks associated with fatigue include mental health issues, namely depression and anxiety.

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