Safety Topic: The Hazards of Sleeplessness
Our bodies have a natural rhythm that follows the cycle of day and night. This is called the circadian rhythm. In the old days before artificial lighting, people would go to bed at sunset, and rise at dawn.
We now have more and more to stimulate ourselves at night, and less and less sleep. It's not just work that affects our sleep; it is also the demands and stimuli of modern living.
No direct statistics are available for workplace injuries caused by drowsiness, but there is some evidence to indicate that it is a serious problem.
Shift lag, that is, the beginning of a new shift schedule, when workers' bodies have not had time to adjust, has been associated with quality problems, production errors, and by inference, with increased lost time injuries.
Adjusting your body to shift work
- Sleep a minimum of 8 hours every day.
- Strive for quality sleep. Most of us sleep best on a cool, dark night without external noise or distractions. Make sure your bedroom is within a comfortable 65° to 70° temperature range. Shut out noise and light, especially if you must sleep during daylight hours. Consider using a blindfold and ear plugs. Disconnect your bedside phone.
- Explain your needs to your family and win their cooperation to help you get the sleep you need. You can perform your family responsibilities much more effectively if you are rested and have energy to spare during your off-work hours.
- Exercise regularly every day. Often, the best exercise is a brisk walk, beginning with a warm-up period, and ending with a cool down.
- Eat regular meals. For most people, going to bed on an empty stomach interferes with the ability to sleep.
- Avoid alcohol and smoking or drinks containing caffeine in the last 2 hours before going to bed. All of these will prevent you from enjoying a good 8 hours sleep.
- Clear your mind as you go to sleep.
There is no perfect solution to shift lag, but everyone can work to alleviate the disruption to natural body rhythms, by experimentation, sharing experiences with co-workers, and learning what works best for you.