Alertness management strategies for operational contexts.

Research paper by John A JA Caldwell, J Lynn JL Caldwell, Regina M RM Schmidt

Indexed on: 25 Mar '08Published on: 25 Mar '08Published in: Sleep Medicine Reviews


This review addresses the problem of fatigue (on-the-job-sleepiness) attributable to sleep loss in modern society and the scientifically proven strategies useful for reducing fatigue-related risks. Fatigue has become pervasive because many people work non-standard schedules, and/or they consistently fail to obtain sufficient sleep. Sleep restriction, sleep deprivation, and circadian desynchronization produce a variety of decrements in cognitive performance as well as an array of occupational and health risks. A number of real-world mishaps have resulted from performance failures associated with operator sleepiness. In some cases, fatigue/sleepiness is unavoidable, at least temporarily, due to job-related or other factors, but in other cases, fatigue/sleepiness results from poor personal choices. Furthermore, some individuals are more vulnerable to the effects of sleep loss than others. Fortunately, fatigue-related risks can be mitigated with scientifically valid alertness-management strategies. Proper work/rest scheduling and good sleep hygiene are of primary importance. If sleep time is available but sleep is difficult to obtain, sleep-inducing medications and behavioral circadian-adjustment strategies are key. In fatiguing situations such as when sleep opportunities are temporarily inadequate, limiting time on tasks, strategic napping, and the potential use of alertness-enhancing compounds must be considered. To optimize any alertness-management program, everyone must first be educated about the nature of the problem and the manner in which accepted remedies should be implemented. In the near future, objective fatigue-detection technologies may contribute substantially to the alleviation of fatigue-related risks in real-world operations.