Focus on Fatigue

Getting Enough Sleep

By November 10, 2019 No Comments

Issue #62 – November/December 2019

Welcome to Focus on Fatigue!

As the year comes to an end, the staff of InterDynamics would like to wish you and your family a joyful festive season and a safe, well-rested start to the new year.

The FRMS Team



InterDynamics Pty Ltd
320 Adelaide Street Brisbane Qld 4000
Tel +61 7 3229 8300

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).

Working Nights: Getting Enough Sleep

Getting enough sleep is one of the greatest challenges faced by night shift workers. The human body is designed, through the circadian rhythm, to sleep during the night and be awake during the day. Flipping this rhythm on its head comes with all sorts of negative consequences. However, in a recent article, researchers McKenna and Wilkes (2018) provided some guidelines shift workers can follow in order to maximise the amount of sleep they achieve while working night shifts.

Minimise sleep debt before night shifts

Shift workers should aim to get plenty of sleep before their night shifts begin, to ensure they aren’t going in already burdened by a sleep debt. This could include sleeping in on the morning before the first night shift and taking an afternoon nap before work begins.

Improving performance while on shift

Performance at work can be temporarily improved in a number of ways. A short nap (less than 30 minutes) improves alertness without inducing sleep inertia (the groggy feeling upon waking). The consumption of caffeine has been shown to improve several aspects of cognitive performance such as attention and reasoning. Exposure to bright light during night shifts can reduce sleepiness, but possibly comes with its own negative consequences. Risk can also be reduced by adding extra checks during critical tasks, especially in the early hours of the morning.

Meal timing

So far, research evidence suggests that it’s best to eat a main meal before starting a night shift. Limiting food consumption during shifts to small, healthy snacks can help stave off hunger and increase comfort levels.

Sleep between shifts

Employing sleep hygiene principles to eliminate factors that disrupt sleep can help keep sleep debt to a minimum between shifts. These include avoiding bright daylight during the commute home, creating a cool, dark, quiet sleep environment, wearing an eye mask, and maintaining a regular bedtime routine. Caffeine should be avoided in the six hours leading up to sleep.

Resetting the system

It’s important to get back to sleeping during the night after night shifts are finished. Further research on the best way to do this is still required. However, one approach suggests napping for one or two full sleep cycles after the last night shift is finished (90 minutes or 180 minutes) and then getting some bright daylight before returning to a normal sleep rhythm.

Other thoughts

It has also been suggested that chronotype and social jetlag should be taken into account when discussing the challenges posed by night shift work. Chronotype refers to an individual’s natural sleeping pattern (e.g. early birds versus night owls). Social jetlag refers to the disruption caused to the circadian rhythm by societal commitments (e.g. getting up early on weekdays but sleeping in on weekends). One study used chronotype to match workers to shift times and found this significantly reduced social jetlag and improved sleep duration between shifts.


  • McKenna, H. and Wilkes, M. (2018) Optimising sleep for night shifts. BMJ, 360:j5637, doi: 10.1136/bmj.j5637.
  • Uzoigwe, C. E. (2018) Night shifts: Chronotype and social jetlag. BMJ, 360:j5637, doi: 10.1136/bmj.j5637.


InterDynamics News

Conferences and presentations

11th International Conference on Managing Fatigue

The ‘Managing Fatigue’ conference series is now an established and respected forum for research updates and discussion in the fatigue management community. First convened in 1992 by Professor Laurence Hartley, each conference has primarily focused on the effects of fatigue in the transportation sector . Over the years the meeting focus has also evolved to encompass a wider arena including sectors such as Aviation, Maritime, Industrial, Resources and Health.

When: 16-19 March 2020
Where: Fremantle, Western Australia

Not only will InterDynamics be presenting at the Conference, but we’re also sponsoring a coffee cart! Be sure to grab a cup of coffee and come for a chat with us at the conference.

More details can be found here.


In the News

Provided below are a selection of articles from around the web on the issues associated with fatigue. We hope you find them useful and interesting.

Video: Fatigue rules finalised 2019
CASABriefing, YouTube, 15 September 2019
‘Fatigue rules finalised’ explains how the 2019 fatigue rules have been developed drawing on contemporary scientific data, and features interviews with internationally renowned fatigue specialists. It discusses the importance of implementing systems and processes to support safety critical roles – how building strategic fatigue risk mitigations reduce the probability of an individual becoming fatigued to a degree that impairs their performance and results in an increased risk to flight safety.

Article: Australians cite lack of sleep as leading barrier to a healthy life
Melissa Cunningham, Sydney Morning Herald, 29 September 2019
Researchers examined the effects that social determinants such unstable housing, poverty and isolation have on overall health outcomes, finding more than a third of Australian respondents (35 per cent) cited sleep deprivation as their top concern, followed closely by mental health worries (26 per cent).

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