On Sunday, March 11, the beginning of daylight savings time, clocks will move forward an hour and everyone can enjoy additional sunlight at the end of the day. Unfortunately, this change also means that many sleep schedules will be affected – which can have health and safety consequences.
The transportation industry in particular faces serious safety concerns when lack of sleep is a factor. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is using the National Sleep Foundation's (NSF) National Sleep Awareness Week, held March 5-11, to remind transportation operators and the public to be aware of fatigue.
According to NSF's 2012 Sleep in America poll, nearly one-fourth of pilots and train operators admit that their performance is affected at least once a week by sleepiness. Moreover, one in five pilots acknowledge a serious error, and one in six train operators and truck drivers say that sleepiness has led to a near miss.
"The results of the NSF poll should serve as a literal wake-up call," said NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman. "Inadequate sleep puts lives at risk – we see this over and over in our accident investigations. Improving the quantity and quality of sleep can improve safety and ultimately save lives."
Sleepiness on the Move
Among all workers surveyed in the NSF poll, train operators and pilots reported the most workday sleep dissatisfaction. Almost two-thirds of train operators and one-half of pilots said they rarely or never get a good night’s sleep on work nights, compared to 44 percent of truck drivers and 42 percent of non-transportation workers. Bus, taxi and limo drivers reported the best work day sleep satisfaction, with about one-third saying they rarely or never get a good night’s sleep on work nights.
"The margin of error in these professions is extremely small. Transportation professionals need to manage sleep to perform at their best," said David Cloud, NSF CEO. "As individuals and employers, we need to know more about how sleep improves performance."
The poll also showed that sleepiness played a role in car accidents commuting to and from work. Pilots and train operators significantly are more likely than non-transportation workers (6 percent each, compared to 1 percent) to say that they have been involved in a car accident due to sleepiness while commuting.
"While alcohol is often associated with impairment, operating a vehicle while fatigued can be just as deadly," said Hersman. "As we move the clocks forward an hour this weekend, transportation operators need to plan for adequate sleep on Sunday night and every other night to safeguard the traveling public."
NSF offers the following advice for healthy sleeping:
· Go to sleep and wake at the same time every day, and avoid spending more time in bed than needed.
· Use bright light to help manage your "body clock." Avoid bright light in the evening and expose yourself to sunlight in the morning.
· Use your bedroom only for sleep to strengthen the association between your bed and sleep. It may help to remove work materials, computers and televisions from your bedroom.
· Establish a relaxing bedtime ritual, like a warm bath or listening to calming music.
· Create an environment that is conducive to sleep. It should be quiet, dark and cool with a comfortable mattress and pillows.
· Save your worries for the daytime. If concerns come to mind, write them down so you can address those issues the next day.
· If you can't sleep, go into another room and do something relaxing until you feel tired.
· Exercise regularly, but avoid vigorous workouts close to bedtime.
· If you are experiencing excessive daytime sleepiness, snoring or “stop breathing” episodes in your sleep, contact your health care professional for a sleep apnea screening.
For more information, visit http://www.sleepfoundation.org.