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2014 Sleep health index: Is your room set up for a healthy sleep?

The National Sleep Foundation recently released its 2014 Sleep Health Index, which reports the findings of a survey conducted with over 1250 Americans.

The survey found that people, in general, don’t appear to be setting themselves up for a healthy sleep!

Only 47% of people reported that their bedrooms were ‘very quiet’, 36% reported their rooms were ‘very dark’, and 56% reported their mattresses were ‘very comfortable’.

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If you haven’t prioritized all three of these, you could improve the quality and quantity of the sleep you’re getting with a few small changes:

1.  Shhhh…. – The sounds of urban living and noise from roommates or partners with different work/sleep schedules can interrupt an otherwise restful and restorative sleep. You can make your sleep environment appear quieter (without moving to the rural countryside) by hanging heavy drapery on your windows and turning on a fan or other white noise machine while sleeping. Good quality, comfortable ear plugs can also be purchased inexpensively and can help dampen the sounds of a snoring partner or unexpected thunderstorm.

2. Create a cave – Before the light bulb was invented and the world started operating 24 hours a day, people went to sleep at night when it got dark – the way biology intended for us. Even if your eyes are shut, small amounts of light from a flickering television or poorly shaded window can impact your sleep quality. Creating a ‘very dark’ sleep environment is pretty easy. Start with black-out drapery (like they have in hotel rooms) for your window, then keep glowing devices (like TV’s and mobile phones) out of your bedroom. Still not dark enough? Purchase an eye shade to block out unavoidable light sources at home or while traveling.

3. Build a better bed – If your sleep is restless or you’re waking up with muscle stiffness or aches, it might be time for a new bed. Replacing an older or uncomfortable mattress isn’t a small expenditure, but budgeting to acquire a good quality mattress is an investment that will pay dividends in improving the quality of your sleep and how you feel for the rest of the day.

If you’ve already set yourself up for a good sleep, and still not feeling rested after 7 or 8 hours of rest, you may want to speak with your doctor about sleep health. How does your sleep environment currently compare to those surveyed for the Sleep Health Index?

What’s behind the Readiband? How we measure and predict fatigue

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The Readiband

When we talk about our technology, you’ll hear us say that Readiband can measure both sleep and fatigue.

The sleep analysis is usually easier to understand – Quite simply, Readiband provides really accurate insight into how your team sleeps. Things like how well they sleep after games, how long they sleep on average, and what time they fall asleep when traveling to a different time zone.

The fatigue analysis is where Fatigue Science really makes its name. Measuring fatigue is not as simple as asking someone how tired they feel today, and predicting fatigue is not as simple as asking someone how tired they’ll be two weeks from now. Scientists identify fatigue by measuring an individual’s sustained attention and reaction time. To do this, they use a psychomotor vigilance task (or PVT) test. A PVT is a small electronic box with buttons and lights – When a light flashes, the individual must push a button, the faster they push the button, the faster their reaction time measurement and the higher the PVT score. Sounds simple enough, but PVT tests are impractical to use in the real world, and can only provide a fatigue measurement for the exact moment in time that the test is taken.  The Readiband, however, provides a continuous measurement of fatigue based on the sleep data it collects and something called the SAFTE (Sleep, Activity, Fatigue, Task and Effectiveness) model, which predicts the wearer’s PVT score.

What is SAFTE?

Federal Aviation Administration - SAFTE Validation StudyOver twenty years ago, the US Army started to invest in research to understand how long periods of wakefulness during critical operations were affecting their soldiers ability to react quickly and make effective, split-second decisions. From this research, a biomathematical model called SAFTE was developed. The SAFTE model is an algorithm, which processes information about sleep history and time of day, to predict PVT test scores. The model was built into a software used in schedule planning, to both understand and limit the dangerous effects of fatigue in military operations.

The ability of the SAFTE model to accurately predict PVT scores and therefore, predict performance and fatigue, was proven through a number of studies including those conducted by the US Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration and the Federal Aviation Administration. This means the SAFTE model is scientifically proven to provide accurate measurements and predictions of reaction time for your athletes without the need to coordinate PVT or other timed tests.

The SAFTE model is licensed exclusively by Fatigue Science for use in the Readiband. By using Readiband to monitor your athletes’ sleep quality, you can harness the power of 20 years of military fatigue research and development to understand how that sleep affects their athletic performance and reaction time.

For deeper reading, please refer to the following papers:

Comparison of Mathematical Model Predictions to Experimental Data of Fatigue and Performance
Journal of Aviation, Space and Environmental Medicine (2004)

Fatigue Models for Applied Research in Warfighting
Journal of Aviation, Space and Environmental Medicine (2004)

Schedule variability linked to fatigue and human factors incidents

Working-Schedule

Schedule variability linked to fatigue and human factors incidents in new US Department of Transportation, Federal Railroad Association study.

In April 2014, the US Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Association (FRA) released a new report which examines a link between work shift start time variability and an increased risk of human factors accidents.

Their research concluded that in fact, the greater the inconsistency in the time of day works shifts are scheduled to start, the greater the level of worker fatigue and associated accident risk.

To assist in reaching these conclusions, Fatigue Science’s Fatigue Avoidance Scheduling Tool (FAST) was used to measure the level of fatigue in various work schedule scenarios. The FRA researchers used a FAST score below 90 [1] to determine if fatigue was present, and then measured the amount of time workers spent below that criterion during their working hours.

Where schedules (during which an accident had occurred) exhibited a high rate of start time variability, FAST demonstrated the workers were spending as much as 50-60% of their time below the fatigue score criterion that was set for this study.

The report concludes:

Fatigue, as measured by the FAST score, was also shown to be a function of start time variability. While it was previously demonstrated that fatigue was a general function of sleep and work schedules (Raslear et al., 2011), this report extends that finding to specify start time variability as a critical aspect of work schedules when considering fatigue and the probability of an accident.

Key takeaways:

  • FAST technology is trusted by the US Department of Transportation, Federal Railroad Administration as a tool for accurately predicting fatigue and levels of fatigue in their work schedules
  • Fatigue is not only a factor for night shift or rotating shift workers
  • Day shift workers can be subject to increased levels of fatigue if their work shift start times are inconsistent.
  • Evidence-based decisions can be made that effectively reduce fatigue without adversely affecting operations.

1. The Fatigue Avoidance Scheduling Tool (FAST) uses scientifically-valid modelling algorithms to measure potential fatigue in work schedules – retrospectively for incident analysis, or in future schedules to optimize planning. FAST identifies that a score of 90 is associated with a 10% reduction in reaction time and 1.5x increased likelihood of a long lapse (or microsleep) – these associated performance changes increase as the FAST score for a schedule roster or worker lowers.

Sleep, football players, and the NFL Scouting Combine’s 40-yard dash

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In 2010, Stanford University sleep and performance researcher, Cheri Mah, studied the effects of sleep extension on collegiate football players and determined that after several weeks of extending their time in bed from 6-9 hours per night (average) to 10 hours per night, the group was able to complete their timed 40-yard dash 2.1% faster. Such a small percentage increase in performance for an event that is mere seconds long may not seem like a significant improvement, but we were curious what it might mean for the college athletes participating in this week’s NFL Scouting Combine:

At the 2013 Combine, the fastest recorded 40-yard dash was completed by Marquise Goodwin in 4.27 seconds.

What if Marquise Goodwin ordinarily spent 6-9 hours in bed and maintained that same routine right up to the 2013 NFL Combine?

And what if every other participating college football player also routinely spent 6-9 hours in bed and in the 6 weeks leading up to the 2013 combine, changed nothing about their training or routines other than extending their time in bed to 10 hours per night?

What would a 2.1% increase in sprint performance mean to this group of the NFL hopefuls? For the top competitors, this improvement would potentially knock Goodwin from 1st for 7th place in the 40-yard dash. But, even more significantly, for the players sitting lower in the rankings, a 2.1% increase in performance for the 40-yard dash could mean a jump from 100th place to 45th place.

As for first place Marquise Goodwin, if we were to let him enjoy the same extended sleep period as the rest of his competitors, a 2.1% increase in performance would not only allow him to maintain his first place finish, but potentially give him a record breaking performance as well. The 40-yard dash record at the combine is 4.24 seconds (since electronic timing was introduced in 1999) held by Rondel Menedez (1999) and Chris Johnson (2008) – Marquise’s 2.1% increase would set his time at 4.18 seconds.

We know very well that successful athletic performance results from a number of factors – not limited to coaching, nutrition, training, and personal motivation – but all things considered, if consistent and quality sleep can help provide an edge in short sprint performance, then sleep or lack of sleep could potentially mean the difference between a record-breaking or sub-optimal finish at events like the NFL Scouting Combine.

Interested in learning more? Check out this popular ‘Sleep to be an all-star‘ infographic.

Would your workers rather sleep than socialize?

A recent poll conducted by The Conference Board of Canada suggests most people would rather catch up on sleep than socialize.

The CBC reports on the survey’s findings citing that over a quarter of participants indicated that they go to work feeling tired, many of them on a daily basis. Two-thirds of the participants said, they’d pick a good night’s sleep over a fun night on the town.

The results are not surprising – Studies show that people are not getting their biologically required 7-9 hours of shut-eye a night, the effects of which can have a real impact of an individual’s on the job productivity.

Dr. Orfeu Marcello Buxton, Neuroscientist in the Division of Sleep Medicine in the Department of Medicine at Bringham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, has said that “chronic sleep deprivation has the potential to impact nearly all of our physiologic systems” and “after a night or two of insufficient sleep, sleepiness increases, and mood, concentration, memory and attention are poor with a narrowing focus.” In the US, the costs of lost worker productivity due to insufficient sleep is estimated to be $63 billion annually.

Simply put, if employees aren’t getting the sleep they need, they can’t perform their best and yet The Conference Board reports that in the last year, “only 20% of individuals had received information from their employer about the importance of sleep.” The good news is, awareness is growing and Canadian employers are beginning to take a look at the issue of lack of sleep in their workforce.

Balancing social activities alongside work is part of maintaining a healthy life, but sleep should never be sacrificed for either. Managing worker schedules and promoting sleep as part of a company health and wellness program is crucial in safety sensitive work environments, but the benefits of doing so can be realized by any industry. If the majority of your workforce would prefer to hit the hay than hit the town, perhaps it is time to consider fatigue management and education in your organization.

Circadian factors in athletic performance

A new study published in the December issue of the Journal of Sleep has looked at the impact of circadian factors on athletic performance in NFL football players and concluded that those “playing close to the circadian peak in performance demonstrate a significant athletic advantage over those who are playing at other times.”

The researchers acknowledge that even small variations in performance can mean the difference between winning or losing in professional sports and concludes that applying the knowledge of circadian factors is an underused approach which “is likely to enhance human performance”

Fatigue Science Co-Founder, Pat Byrne, reviewed the study and discusses the results in this video:

 

 

Knowing that circadian factors may help your team achieve optimal performance is just part of the equation, how you apply this information is another. Using Readiband to understand a team or athlete’s actual sleep and FAST (Fatigue Avoidance Scheduling Tool) to model game-time performance, trainers and athletes can get the most out of, or more importantly, create their own ‘circadian advantage’.

 

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The study, which is titled: “The Impact of Circadian Misalignment on Athletic Performance in Professional Football Players” was published in the December 2013 Journal of SLEEP. You can view the abstract or download the full study.