Aviation Never Sleeps

Health and Safety Aviation Never Sleeps Sleep deprivation causes more than sluggish employees-it impacts safety as well as the bottom line By Michelle GaretsonBy Joan Bittel> March 2002 247365. Winning lottery numbers? The tail number...

Implementing the following steps can make a difference in the workplace and on your bottom line.

  • Install bright lights in the work areas. A well-lit workplace signals the body that it is time to be awake and alert.
  • Provide vending machines with healthy food choices and a microwave oven.
  • Schedule shifts to allow sufficient breaks and days off, especially when workers are re-assigned to different shifts.

Since no two people are alike, each individual must determine how to achieve the most beneficial sleep patterns for themselves. Still, there are some common elements to consider when developing a sleep program.

Stress management is important for a successful sleep program. Working in aviation can provide some tense moments as can some home and family situations. If possible, try to resolve workplace tensions prior to leaving work. Your sleep will be disrupted if you allow your mind to process problems over and over. The same is true on the home front — settle squabbles before leaving for work, or make time for a family discussion when you return. For your safety, and the safety of others, do not focus your mind on problems unrelated to the task at hand.

Separating sleep activity from wake activity is necessary for proper slumber. Sleeping areas should be comfortable, quiet, dark, and free from distractions such as computers or televisions. Special considerations for night workers who live with day workers need to be ironed out before problems arise. Arrange to have a certain amount of hours where radios, televisions, telephones, and vacuum cleaners are turned off.

Sleeping room temperatures should be regulated to a cool setting. If you are restless or are experiencing disruptive dreams, it could mean that the room is too hot.

Diet can involve possible sleep deprivation ingredients. Three balanced meals per day is the best plan, but often is not achievable with those who are on-call 24/7. A little meal planning can help to avoid improper "fuelin" that can lead to heartburn or other illnesses. A heavy meal too close to bedtime interferes with sleep. Caffeine, a stimulant found in coffee, tea, colas, and chocolate, as well as in some medications, should be avoided some four to six hours before bedtime.

Alcohol may seem like it induces sleep, but it will be an unproductive sleep. As the alcohol is digested, your body goes into withdrawal, which leads to awakenings and sometimes, nightmares.

Smokers have an additional consideration in that nicotine is a stimulant and should be avoided before bedtime. Try to have fewer cigarettes during the four hours before bed and none in the 30 to 45 minutes before bed.

There will be times where sleep is elusive, or the 24/7/365 on-call lifestyle prohibits a good night’s or day’s rest. But, identifying problem areas and developing a good sleep regimen will help you stay sharp, safe, and healthy for both your employer and yourself.

For more information, contact: National Sleep Foundation
     1522 K Street, NW, Suite 500
     Washington, DC 20005 USA
     (202) 347-3471

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