Author: Gemma Maisey, Senior Consultant at Sleep4Performance 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 . 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 .
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 Sleep4Performance, is currently undertaking her PhD with an industry-funded scholarship with Edith Cowan University and Sleep4Performance. 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.firstname.lastname@example.org
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