About Shift Workers

Safety and Performance

The old-school approach of toughing it out is completely bogus, not to mention counterproductive, maintains Charles Czeisler, director of the division of sleep medicine at Harvard Medical School. Traditional sports and professional environments are changing to improve sleep habits and enhance performance. Research links sleep deprivation to serious health and performance consequences. In safety-sensitive environments, sleep needs to be part of what’s called operational fatigue risk management.

Czeisler known around the National Basketball Association (NBA) as the “sleep doctor” recommends something simple for maximizing elite athletic skills: More Sleep. Czeisler, who is also a consultant to NASA and the Secret Service, offers generally accepted advice: naps before games or shifts and 7 to 9 hours of hours each night. It’s the sleep after an event or lesson, however that is most important. “Interestingly, if you don’t sleep the next night or the next night you never learn”.

 Company Promotions

Dr. Charles Czeisler opines “Companies can do other things to promote healthy sleep practices among employees. Educational programs about sleep, health, and safety should be mandatory. Employees should learn to set aside an adequate amount of time for sleep each night and to keep their bedrooms dark and quiet and free of all electronic devices—televisions, BlackBerries, and so on. They should learn about the ways alcohol and caffeine interfere with sleep. When someone is sleep deprived, drinking alcohol only makes things worse, further eroding performance and increasing the propensity to fall asleep while also interfering with the ability to stay asleep. Additionally, companies should provide annual screening for sleep disorders in order to identify those who might be at risk. For example, this past year our team launched a Web-based screening survey that any law enforcement officer in the U.S. can take to help identify whether he or she is suffering from sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, narcolepsy, or other sleep disorders.

Many executives already realize that the immediate effect of sleep loss on individuals and on overall corporate performance is just as important. A good sleep policy is smart business strategy. People think they’re saving time and being more productive by not sleeping, but in fact they are cutting their productivity drastically. Someone who has adequate sleep doesn’t nod off in an important meeting with a customer. She can pay attention to her task for longer periods of time and bring her whole intelligence and creativity to bear on the project at hand.

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