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Sleeping giant: Fatigue Science sets sights on expansion, new markets for wearable tech and fatigue monitoring

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

When Fatigue Science signed its first contract with a professional sports team in 2008-2009, understanding of wearable technology was in its infancy. And the idea that sleep was a key factor in professional sports was just starting to surface. Now the use of wearable tech is exploding across professional sports and well beyond. And sleep? Sleep is widely recognized as amongst the most important factors in elite human performance.

Fatigue Science’s early combination of scientifically validated sleep monitoring and wearable technology is not only continuing to push what is possible for professional athletes. Now it can predict fatigue across large industrial workforces. And that, could save lives.

“Our first NFL engagement, for example, was with the Seattle Seahawks,” says Fatigue Science CEO Sean Kerklaan. “At that point, capturing meaningful, accurate sleep and fatigue data on ten professional football players using wearable technology was difficult, to say the least. But we’ve come a long, long way and that early experience is translating into innovation.“

 

New markets for wearable tech and fatigue monitoring

 

Those early learnings came from joining professional sports teams like the Seahawks, the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks and the MLB’s Seattle Mariners. Fatigue Science travelled across North America for practices and training seminars, going to great lengths to analyze individual player’s sleep data, model travel and time zone impacts on performance and most importantly, to develop deep relationships with the people impacted by fatigue and its consequences.

However, large scale deployments remained a challenge because the technology, while exceptionally accurate, used to involve much more manual work. Many obstacles, solutions, friendships and a couple of Super Bowl appearances later, and Fatigue Science has refined a winning system; a much more automated, predictive one that promises to lead the future of wearable technology’s use for both professional teams and large industrial workforces in areas like mining and transportation.

“As we get set to launch a new version of our platform, I can say those early difficulties were definitely worth the effort,” says Kerklaan. “Deep engagements, shared determination and curiosity, working collaboratively through pain points with our clients, that’s the backbone of our business model. People remain our focus, even in the emerging tech sector, and always will. That’s why we continue to be so successful.

“The latest update to our product means we’ll not only be capable of serving our professional sports clients more effectively, but that we’re able to move into much larger engagements. And most important, we’re capable of predicting and preventing fatigue-related accidents in the industrial workplace, which is an enormous, often tragic issue.”

 

Nearly 65% of industrial accidents in surface mining alone are related to fatigue.

 

In the US alone, 100,000 crashes are the direct result of driver fatigue each year, resulting in an estimated 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries, and a cost of $12.5 billion. The Sleep, Activity, Fatigue, Effectiveness (SAFTE) model, licensed exclusively to Fatigue Science is scientifically validated and considered the most reliable predictor of fatigue by the US Department of Defense.

 

Risk Management for wearable tech

 

Advances in the Fatigue Science platform now allow exponentially more data to be gathered and processed. Fatigue Science can then provide predictive SAFTE scores for at-risk workforces in the thousands. These scores then prompt difference making decisions about fatigue impairment and danger at a glance, on a personal or company-wide mobile dashboard. And this, says Kerklaan, benefits elite teams in every industry.

“We continue to work closely with professional sports teams to improve elite human performance,” says Kerklaan. “Now we’re also helping organizations champion improved health and safety by quantifying something that has never been quantifiable. Something that happens to be among the most important indicators of industry’s biggest safety dangers: Fatigue.”

As the Fatigue Science platform continues to evolve and grow in order to serve larger, more complex organizations, so too does the company.

Recent changes to the Fatigue Science Board of Directors include the addition of Laurie Wallace as Chairman (Chairman of the Board, QuickMobile) and Dan Eisenhardt (Founder & CEO of Recon Instruments, GM of Intel New Devices Group). Both have been instrumental in helping guide the company through Series A financing, which is expected to complete shortly.

“We couldn’t dream of a better board than the one we have in place,” says Kerklaan. “Fatigue Science is well positioned and ready to lead further innovation in the wearable technology sector.”

To learn more about the Fatigue Science story, contact us.

It’s not just physical: The difference between mental and physical fatigue

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We know athletes are exhausted in more ways than one, but it’s not just physical fatigue that’s affecting their performance. At Fatigue Science, when we talk about fatigue, we’re talking about reduced alertness, reaction time, and effectiveness—all of which manifest in the form of sub-optimal athletic performance. This mental fatigue results from inadequate sleep or when sleep and activities fall outside of our biological need to consistently sleep at night and be active in the day—it’s not the same as fatigue resulting from physical exertion.

Mental fatigue

Those who routinely obtain less than 7-9 hours of interrupted sleep per 24-hour period will have a high homeostatic drive for sleep as the body struggles to restore balance. In addition, scheduling inconsistencies often lead to a high circadian drive for sleep at exactly the wrong times of day as well as to sleep-initiation problems at night.

So, when athletes lose sleep due to any number of factors, when they’re unable to stick to a consistent bedtime due to travel or social engagements, and when they have to train or play at the “wrong” times in a new time zone, they’ll be faced with both a high homeostatic and a high circadian drive for sleep. The result will be impaired judgment, reaction time, and situational awareness—the hallmarks of poor mental effectiveness.

Physical fatigue

Physical effectiveness, or energy, is different. It’s a function of non-sleep and circadian-related factors such as the type, intensity and volume of exercise (or physical labor) as well as muscle fiber composition, neuromuscular characteristics, high energy metabolite stores, buffering capacity, ionic regulation, capillarization, and mitochondrial density. Physical energy can be viewed as the capacity to perform a certain amount and intensity of physical activity for a given period of time. Elite athletes, who routinely engage in high-intensity training, are far less susceptible to physical fatigue than those who are sedentary. They run faster, lift more weight, and perform for longer periods of time due to their enhanced physical conditioning.

The difference between mental and physical fatigue

Mental and physical energy are governed by very different underlying processes—they’re separate biological functions. Having said that, they can coexist.

If one’s physically exhausted due to high-intensity physical activity, they may struggle to run, lift, or play, but their alertness and concentration will remain intact. In fact, most research concludes that physical activity has either a positive effect or more often, little or no impact on mental performance.

However, when a person’s mentally exhausted due to sleep deprivation, their alertness will suffer while most aspects critical for physical performance will be preserved. And while sleep loss affects mood, motivation, judgement, situational-awareness, memory, and alertness, it doesn’t directly affect cardiovascular and respiratory responses to exercise of varying intensity, aerobic and anaerobic performance capability, or muscle strength and electromechanical responses. But, time-to-physical-exhaustion is shorter and their perception of exertion and endurance is distorted.

Even though physical fatigue has little to no impact on mental alertness, the reverse is true—the psychological realm has a great deal of impact on the physical. This is how a competitive decline takes root under conditions of sleep loss.

Learn more about the differences between mental and physical fatigue in this comprehensive eBook, The Science of Sleep. DOWNLOAD NOW.


References

Effects of physical activity and inactivity on muscle fatigue
Bogdanis G.C. (2012)

Neurocognitive Consequences of Sleep Deprivation
Durmer J.S., Dinges D.F. (2005)

The Effects of Physical Exertion on Cognitive Performance
Krausman A.S., Crowell III H.P., Wilson R.M. (2002)

Cognitive methods for assessing mental energy
Lieberman H.R. (2007)

Sleep deprivation and cardiorespiratory function. Influence of intermittent submaximal exercise
Plyley M.J., Shephard R.J., Davis G.M., Goode R.C. (1987)

Investigating the interaction between the homeostatic and circadian processes of sleep–wake regulation for the prediction of waking neurobehavioural performance
Van Dongen H.P.A., Dinges D.F. (2002)

Sleep deprivation and the effect on exercise performance
VanHelder T., Radomski M.W. (1989)

Global BC News: What effect does daylight savings time have on your body?

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Global BC news visited with Fatigue Science CEO, Sean Kerklaan, to learn more about the effects of daylight savings and why everyone should take advantage of the extra hour of sleep during the Fall time change.

There’s well-established evidence to suggest that when we set our clocks forward in the spring, that lost hour of sleep increases the number of car accidents even heart attacks the next day. But, the fall time change makes things more dangerous for pedestrians who are now leaving work in the dark. An American study found pedestrians were three times more likely to be fatally struck than prior to the fall time change. Daylight Saving Time can actually have an effect on our sleep patterns for up to a week. So when the clocks roll back tonight, don’t stay up late even if tempted – instead do the opposite take advantage of the extra sleep and do your body a favour.

Are fatigued referees hurting your favourite team’s shot at a championship?

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The life of a professional referee in the NHL, NBA or world premiere soccer may sound glamorous and fun (the travel! the games!) but the reality is, their schedules can be even more demanding than those of the athletes themselves and may contribute to game refereeing errors and stress.

In 2008 Mike Leggo wrote about a week in the life of an NHL referee. On day one, he leaves his home on the West Coast for a next day game in Washington. “The trip is a demanding four games in five days,” he says, “encompassing Washington, Montreal, Philadelphia, and Columbus…Six nights, seven flights, two countries, thousands of air miles…all in a week in the life of an NHL referee”.

Hockeybuzz.com blog recently interviewed NHL referee, Paul Devorski: “There’s actually quite a bit of travel,” Paul confirms, “It’s hard to do, but they try to travel you around so you get to see every team X amount of times, so that keeps you busy. Our road trips are anywhere from a week to 10 days.” He enjoys the actual experience of game officiating, but admits “Honesty, the travel gets wear and tear on you.”

Fatiguing schedules aren’t just a problem for referees in the NHL. The NBA’s Pat Fraher told RefereeMindset.com that the life of an NBA ref is busy: “Travel is hectic…a different city every 2 days for about 25 days a month.” Last year Dallas Maverick’s owner, Mark Cuban, pointed out that the “stressful travel schedule of the condensed season” might have contributed to the “poor quality of officiating”.  And in UK Premiership soccer, West Ham United manager, Sam Allardyce, stressed that their “referees are travelling all over the country and out in Europe” for the duration of their seasons. He has famously blamed referee fatigue for decision errors during games, “Fatigue is everything in terms of decision making,” he said back in December, “Once it kicks in you lose the ability to make those decisions correctly…They need to ease the load on the referees we have.”

Professional sport teams are starting to take a more analytical look at the ways that training and travel schedules affect their athletes’ fatigue and game time effectiveness, but who is addressing those of the referees when the wrong call can make the difference in a team’s league standing?

Our own Pat Byrne recently spoke to Vancouver’s Team 1040 radio about fatigue management and professional sports, acknowledging the frustrations that team management and players must face when the wrong calls change their game momentum, “You’re doing all the training, you’re doing all the coaching, you’re doing everything you possibly can and then you get a tired official making a dumb mistake…you miss a hand ball, you miss a penalty and you lose a game….It’s fixable” he says.

Do you know how tired you are?

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In a recent Psychology Today article, Mark Wolverton, suggests that when it comes to sleep deprivation, the gravest danger is “that we no longer realize just how tired we are”.

Mark has a point. Our own sleep and fatigue expert, Pat Byrne, often talks about the unfortunate realities of habitual sleep deprivation – pointing out that getting four to six hours of sleep a night may start to feel normal, but it doesn’t change the biological need to sleep eight. The accumulating deficit of sleep is evident in reaction and performance tests, even though participants might think they feel fine. Pat often sees professional athletes with whom he works confuse how they feel with how they perform. There is a difference.

In a society that would never consider getting behind the wheel of car after a few drinks, people are driving their cars with impaired levels of fatigue. In the US, fatigued driving is estimated to be responsible for 6,000 fatal road accidents annually. The problem is an international one – in the UK, it is estimated that 1 in every 5 road accidents is fatigue related. Southern Australia also reports  30% of fatal crashes and 15% of serious injury crashes are caused by fatigued drivers. The problem? Fatigue impairs not only our reaction time, but our “ability to judge our own level of tiredness”.

On a much less dangerous level, college and university students who stay up late to study are doing themselves an academic disservice. Multiple studies, including one from Harvard, have demonstrated that fatigue negatively affects the brain’s cortex – which is where information is stored. ‘Night owls’ and students who routinely deprive themselves of eight hours of sleep may think they are functioning well, but studies show that those who are staying up late to study or getting less than eight hours of sleep have lower GPA’s than those who sleep when and how biology dictates they should.

If you’re sitting down to tackle a thesis paper, researching for your next corporate presentation, driving home from work or heading out on a road trip, don’t think about how you’re currently feeling, think about how much sleep you’ve been getting lately. If it’s less than eight hours nightly for the last week, chances are it’s not enough to function at your most effective.

Finally, consider this: Drowsiness is actually the ‘brain’s last step before falling asleep‘, so waiting for the feeling of tiredness is both counter-productive and downright dangerous. Drinking a coffee or opening a window for fresh air may seem like a good way to battle the onset of fatigue, but research shows that if you close your laptop to get some shut eye, you’re likely to perform better and if you park your car and get some sleep, you may actually save a life.

Siliconangle.com: Self-trackers to keep fatigue at bay

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Fatigue Science’s Readiband was recently covered in siliconangle.com‘s Quantified Self roundup featuring self-trackers that can help improve performance and health.

Melissa Tolentino writes:

Fatigue Science delivers a few different products that help us understand how fatigue is affecting our lives, with its Fatigue Management Technology. One of its offerings is the Readiband, a smartwatch that tracks micro 3D movements of your wrist 16 times per second. It then uses a sophisticated algorithm to determine the quality and quantity of your sleep.

The technology is based on a model developed by the US Military to convert fatigue levels into performance data. The point of this smartwatch is to reiterate the importance of getting enough sleep in order to function well throughout the day. Getting enough sleep is vital to person’s well-being as it keeps people focused and maintains normal levels of reaction time.

The Readiband is lightweight, waterproof, and practically indestructible, so you can wear it no matter what field of work you are in.

Read the full article