Focus on Fatigue

Focus on Fatigue, Issue 31: The fine art of falling asleep

Welcome to Focus on Fatigue.

There’s nothing quite like sinking into bed at the end of a long day ready for a good night’s sleep. Those of us who work during the day, and sleep when the moon is high, can sometimes tend to take for granted those who are just leaving for work as the sun sets. These are the people who are faced with trying to get the sleep they need during the daylight hours, or the need to split their sleep into chunks. Such situations can make the simple act of falling asleep a lot more difficult to achieve.

This month we will look at the tips and tricks shift workers can use to increase the likelihood of falling asleep quickly when they do have the opportunity to slide beneath the covers.

The FRMS Team

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Views expressed in articles and links provided are those of the individual authors, and do not necessarily represent the views of InterDynamics (except where directly attributed).

Feature Article

The Fine Art of Falling Asleep

Who hasn’t experienced the feeling of lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, and wishing they could flip a switch and just be asleep already? Unfortunately, that longed-for ‘sleep switch’ is currently unavailable, though I’m sure someone somewhere is working on an app for that! In the meantime, what can we do to encourage our bodies to fall asleep, stay asleep and achieve good quality sleep?

It’s all about hygiene

Sleep hygiene is the term used to refer to a collection of behaviours that can be used to promote good sleep. The Sleep Health Foundation of Australia has listed the following practices as important for good sleep hygiene:

1. Try to go to bed at the same time each night
This one is not going to be possible for shift workers who are sleeping at night one week and during the day the next. However, if you are working a long block of consecutive shifts then it may be helpful to try to go to bed at the same time each day.

2. Have a relaxing pre-bedtime routine
This can include activities such as a warm bath or shower, reading a book (a paper book that is, not an electronic book) or having a cup of herbal tea.

3. Avoid caffeine for at least 4 hours before bed
One study found that caffeine consumed as much as six hours before bedtime can have a detrimental effect on sleep.

4. Avoid smoking and alcohol before bed
Cigarettes and alcohol have both been found to impair sleep quality. They can also make some sleep problems, like snoring and sleep apnoea, worse.

5. Avoid using electronic devices, especially computer tablets, smart phones, etc. in the hours before bedtime
Melatonin is a hormone that helps our bodies recognise when it’s time to go to sleep. Blue light, which is emitted by our favourite electronics, suppresses our secretion of melatonin. So, if you want to sleep you’ll have to kick that smart phone out of the bed.

6. Don’t go to bed on an overly full or overly empty stomach
Hunger can keep anyone awake, but then so can a stomach that is hard at work digesting a big meal. Be sure to eat a few hours before bedtime. If hunger does strike, a light snack or a glass of milk is better than something heavy.

7. Sleep in a room that is comfortable, including temperature, bedding, dark, and quiet
Get comfy! You’re most likely to be lulled to sleep with a warm blanket in a cool room. Ear plugs and block-out curtains can help keep out noise and light during the day.

8. Avoid clock-watching
Watching the minutes tick over can lead to anxiety or frustration over a person’s inability to fall asleep. The anxiety then makes it more difficult to get to sleep, creating a vicious cycle.

9. Keep the bedroom for sleep and intimacy only
Experts believe that going to bed should be a signal to the brain that it is time to go to sleep. Therefore, using the bedroom for activities other than sleeping and intimacy, such as watching television or eating, is discouraged.

10. If you can’t sleep within 20-30 minutes of going to bed, get up and do something relaxing until the next wave of sleepiness hits. Then go straight back to bed.
This comes back to that anxiety and frustration that can be experienced when you spend too long staring at the ceiling. If you are still awake after 20 minutes, it’s time to get up and do something relaxing (such as reading a book) before trying again. Be sure to keep the lights dim!


  • Drake, T., Roehrs, T., Shambroom, J. and Roth, T. (2013) Caffeine effects on sleep taken 0, 3, or 6 hours before going to bed. Journal of Clinical Sleep, 9(11), 1195-1200.
  • Harvard Medical School (2014) Blue light has a dark side. Harvard Health Publications. Accessed on: 08/05/2015 at
  • Jaehne, A., Unbehaun, T., Feige, B., Lutz, U. C., Batra, A. and Riemann, D. (2012) How smoking affects sleep: A polysomnographical analysis. Sleep Medicine, 12(10), 1286-1292.
  • Sleep Health Foundation (2013) Good sleep habits. Sleep Health Foundation website. Accessed on: 29/12/13 at
  • Suen, L. K. P., Tam, W. W. S. and Hon, K. L. (2010) Association of sleep hygiene-related factors and sleep quality among university students in Hong Kong. Hong Kong Medical Journal, 16, 180-185.

InterDynamics News

Conferences and Presentations

This section outlines recent and upcoming InterDynamics speaking engagements and/or conferences that we recommend and will be attending or have attended.

FRMS Forum Conference, Luxembourg, 6th-7th May 2015

The 2015 Conference took place in collaboration with the Ministry of Transport, CAA and the airlines & employee groups of Luxembourg at the Double Tree Hilton in Luxembourg on 6th and 7th May 2015.

The FRMS Forum were pleased to hold their next meeting in Luxembourg following the kind invitation from  a representative of all stakeholders in that country.

The agenda for this meeting covered:

  • Developments within the regulatory environment with specific focus on those from Europe
  • Experiences from operators who are implementing FRMS
  • Workshops to achieve a consensus on some of the issues facing regualtors, operators and employee groups that are emerging as FRMS is adopted.

On the 5th May, a short training session on the basics of FRMS was held for those new to FRMS to have a good basic understanding of the main principles for implementing FRMS within their organisations.

For more information please visit the FRMS Forum website.

Articles and Videos

Article: Blue light has a dark side

Havard Health Letter, Harvard Health Publications, ‘Blue light has a dark side’ (, May 2012.

Light at night is bad for your health, and exposure to blue light emitted by electronics and energy-efficient lightbulbs may be especially so.

Video: A life hack for sleep: The 4-7-8 breathing exercise will supposedly put you to sleep in just 60 seconds

Lizette Borreli, Medical Daily, ‘A life hack for sleep: The 4-7-8 breathing exercise will supposedly put you to sleep in just 60 seconds’ (, May 2015.

Dr. Andrew Weil, a Harvard trained medical doctor with a focus on holistic health, believes getting the best sleep ever is as simple as breathing in and breathing out. This video will show you how it’s done.

Article: How Gareth Bale and Real Madrid sleep their way to the top

Alec Fenn, BBC Sport, ‘How Gareth Bale and Real Madred sleep their way to the top’ (, May 2012.

For the sporting enthusiasts out there, this article explores the serious business of sleep in the world of soccer.


Though many behaviours are often listed as pertaining to good sleep hygiene, the evidence that backs these claims is greater for some behaviours than others. The following study, which was used the development of this month’s article, examined the association between a number of sleep hygiene behaviours and their actual sleep outcomes.

Suen, L. K. P., Tam, W. W. S. and Hon, K. L. (2010) Association of sleep hygiene-related factors and sleep quality among university students in Hong Kong. Hong Kong Medical Journal, 16, 180-185.

Objective: To examine whether sleep hygiene–related factors are associated with sleep quality among university students.

Design: Cross-sectional survey.

Setting: A university in Hong Kong.

Participants: Full-time university students recruited by convenience sampling.

Main outcome measures: Responses to a sleep questionnaire containing the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index and obtaining sleep hygiene knowledge and practice, as well as knowledge on caffeine were used for data collection.

Results: Regression analysis with stepwise selection procedure revealed that sleep hygiene practice was significantly associated with the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index score after adjusting for age, gender, year of study, and type of residence (b= –0.08, P<0.001).

Conclusions: Our study’s results indicated that sleep hygiene practice was significantly associated with sleep quality. Appropriate measures and sleep hygiene education need to be emphasised among university students in order to increase their awareness on the importance of adopting healthy sleep hygiene practices.

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