Sleepy Pilots, Train Operators and Drivers

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National Sleep Foundation poll explores transportation workers' sleep.

Pilots and train operators are most likely to report sleep-related job performance and safety problems.

WASHINGTON, DC, March 3, 2012 - The people we trust to take us or our loved ones from place to place struggle with sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation's (NSF) 2012 Sleep in America® poll. It is the first poll to ask transportation professionals, including pilots, train operators,* truck, bus, taxi and limo drivers about their sleep habits and work performance.

Pilots and train operators are most likely to report sleep-related job performance and safety problems.

The results of the poll are striking. About one-fourth of train operators (26%) and pilots (23%) admit that sleepiness has affected their job performance at least once a week, compared to about one in six non-transportation workers (17%).
Perhaps more disturbingly, a significant number say that sleepiness has caused safety problems on the job. One in five pilots (20%) admit that they have made a serious error and one in six train operators (18%) and truck drivers (14%) say that they have had a "near miss" due to sleepiness.

Sleepiness has also played a role in car accidents commuting to and from work. Pilots and train operators are significantly more likely than non-transportation workers (6% each, compared to 1%) to say that they have been involved in a car accident due to sleepiness while commuting.

"Driving home from work after a long shift is associated with crashes due to sleepiness," says Dr. Sanjay Patel, a sleep researcher at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School. "We should all be concerned that pilots and train operators report car crashes due to sleepiness at a rate that is six times greater than that of other workers."

“Unfortunately, many in the transportation industry are afraid to seek help for their sleepiness issues for fear of punitive action from employers,” says David Slamowitz, MD, Medical Director of The SleepWell Center in Greenwood Village, CO. ”However, it is important they realize that sleep issues, if left unaddressed, may have consequences that are far worse.”
Train operators and pilots report most sleep dissatisfaction.

Among all workers surveyed, train operators and pilots report the most work day sleep dissatisfaction. Almost two-thirds of train operators (57%) and one-half of pilots (50%) say they rarely or never get a good night's sleep on work nights, compared to 44% of truck drivers and 42% of non-transportation workers. Bus, taxi, and limo drivers report the best work day sleep satisfaction, with about one-third (29%) saying they rarely or never get a good night's sleep on work nights.
"The margin of error in these professions is extremely small. Transportation professionals need to manage sleep to perform at their best," says David Cloud, CEO of the National Sleep Foundation. "As individuals and employers, we need to know more about how sleep improves performance."

Sleepiness is common for all workers.

Roughly one in ten Americans say they are likely to fall asleep at an inappropriate time and place, such as during a meeting or while driving. The poll included a validated assessment tool used by doctors to determine whether a person is "sleepy." Anyone who suffers from excessive sleepiness should seek professional help to identify underlying conditions. This study finds that 11% of pilots, train operators, bus, taxi, and limo drivers and 8% of truck drivers as well as 7% of non-transportation workers are "sleepy."

"We found that although pilots are especially focused on obtaining adequate sleep, one in ten can still be classified as 'sleepy.' This is not acceptable. Who among us wants to take a one in ten chance of flying on a plane with a sleepy pilot?" says CPT Edward Edens, PhD of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.

A sleepy transportation worker is far more prone to mistakes: sleepy transportation workers report job performance problems about three times more often and report averaging about 45 minutes less sleep per night than their non-sleepy peers.
Significant number of transportation workers say their schedules do not allow enough time for sleep.

Many transportation workers cite their schedule as a major contributor to sleep problems. Almost one-half of train operators (44%) and more than one-third of pilots (37%) report that their current work schedule does not allow adequate time for sleep, compared to about one-fourth of non-transportation workers and truck drivers (27% each) and one-fifth of bus, taxi and limo drivers (20%).

You can read the rest of the findings from the 2012 Sleep in America Poll at http://www.sleepwellcenter.com

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