If employees are to get a good night sleep, they must first understand how!

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Author: Gemma Maisey, Senior Consultant at Melius Consulting and PhD student at Edith Cowan University.

Given that we spend almost one-third of our lives asleep, we need to understand why we need to sleep, how much sleep we need, and how to get a good night sleep. It is well accepted that adults need between 7-9 hrs. sleep per night for optimum health and wellbeing. However, alarmingly 1 in 3 adults do not achieve this amount of sleep [1, 2].

Shiftworkers have been identified as an at-risk group for inadequate sleep (<7 hrs) as a result of long work hours and disrupted sleep patterns as they are often required to sleep during the day resulting in shorter sleep durations of 5-6 hrs [3, 4]. This reduced sleep duration may result in reduced performance, slower reaction times and an inability to concentrate, and potentially result in a fatigue-related incident. Furthermore, inadequate sleep is associated with poor short and long-term health conditions, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, weight gain and poor mental health [4-6].

In recognising fatigue as a major occupational risk factor, shiftwork organisations are increasingly investing in sleep education for employees. Sleep education programs often include information on circadian physiology; lifestyle and behaviour advice relating to alcohol and caffeine; environmental factors that influence sleep such as light, noise and temperature; recognising and managing fatigue at work; and sleep disorders [7-9].

Sleep education provides employees with the knowledge required to achieve better sleep, empowers them to take responsibility for their health, and encourages positive behaviour change that may benefit their overall health and wellbeing [9]. As employees increase sleep quantity and improve sleep quality, the organisation may benefit from reduced absenteeism and staff turnover, as well as fewer reports of fatigue-related incidents [9].

Studies assessing the effectiveness of sleep education programs on sleep outcomes are limited. However, some studies have reported an increase in awareness and knowledge of fatigue that has resulted in improved sleep and performance, including reduced errors and improved reaction times [7-12].

Gemma Maisey, Senior Consultant at Melius Consulting, is currently undertaking her PhD with an industry-funded scholarship with Edith Cowan University and Melius Consulting. The focus of the PhD thesis is on the effectiveness of an online sleep education program on sleep quality and quantity of shiftworkers. The preliminary results from this study will be available in late 2020.

For further information contact Gemma.maisey@meliusconsulting.com.au

References

  1. Luyster, F.S., et al., Sleep: a health imperative. Sleep, 2012. 35(6): p. 727-734.
  2. Yong, L., et al., Prevalence of Healthy Sleep Duration among Adults-United States, 2014. MMWR: Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report, 2016. 65(6): p. 137-141.
  3. Akerstedt, T. and K.P. Wright, Jr., Sleep loss and fatigue in shift work and shift work disorder. Sleep medicine clinics, 2009. 4(2): p. 257-271.
  4. Kecklund, G. and J. Axelsson, Health consequences of shift work and insufficient sleep. BMJ (Clinical Research Ed.), 2016. 355: p. i5210-i5210.
  5. World Health Organisation, IARC Monographs on the evaluation on carcinogenic risks to humans: Painting, firefighting, and shiftwork. 2010: Lyon, France.
  6. Van Dongen, H., et al., The cumulative cost of additional wakefulness: Dose-response effects on neurobehavioral functions and sleep physiology from chronic sleep restriction and total sleep deprivation. Sleep, 2003. 26(2): p. 117-126.
  7. Barger, L.K., et al., Effect of fatigue training on safety, fatigue, and sleep in emergency medical services personnel and other shift workers: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Prehospital Emergency Care: Official Journal Of The National Association Of EMS Physicians And The National Association Of State EMS Directors, 2018. 22(sup1): p. 58-68.
  8. Avers, K.B., et al., Flight attendant fatigue, part IV: Fatigue countermeasure training and potential benefits, F.A.A. Civil Aerospace Medical Institute, Editor. 2009: Oklahoma City.
  9. Davy, J., Good sleep, good health, good performance. It’s obvious, or is it? The importance of education programmes in general fatigue management. Ergonomics SA : Journal of the Ergonomics Society of South Africa, 2014. 26(1): p. 64-73.
  10. Banks, J.O., et al., Evaluation of Aviation Maintenance Fatigue Countermeasures Training, F.A.A. Civil Aerospace Medical Institute, Editor. 2013: Oklahoma City.
  11. Steffen, M.W., et al., Improving sleep: Outcomes from a worksite healthy sleep program. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 2015. 57(1): p. 1.
  12. Itani, O., et al., Sleep-related factors associated with industrial accidents among factory workers and sleep hygiene education intervention. Sleep and Biological Rhythms, 2018. 16(2): p. 239-251.

 

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