Nurses will appreciate the acknowledgment they get during Nurses Week, but instead of chocolates and flowers, consider a gesture that would enable a nurse to take a nap or get a full 7 -8 hours of sleep. You will be a hero and the nurse in question will be healthier and happier.
In our ‘mad-rush’ world, we are always trying to find more time, more hours in a day. This has led to earlier and earlier start times for work. It is now quite common for those working regular day jobs to come to work at 6 or 7 o’clock in the morning.
Radio and television stations, aware of this migration to earlier and earlier starts to our work day, are advancing their morning programming. Newscasts are now starting as early as 4 and 4:30 a.m.
Though we live in a society that values early morning rising, even the early birds of the world are not designed to rise this early. Very early morning waking results in sleep deprivation and leads to high levels of sleepiness and fatigue. Though the goal of early rising is supposed to be more time to get more done, the truth of the matter is that productivity and performance suffer in these circumstances. We are also more likely to succumb to colds, flus, stress and depression and this leads to increases in absenteeism and sick time.
What are we really gaining with these very early mornings? Is it worth it or is it just an illusion that contributes further to the ‘mad-rush’ lifestyle?
What looks like an employee with a bad attitude may be an employee who is sleepy and/or fatigued. Providing great customer service relies on employees who are willing to go
Sleepy and fatigued employees:
• can’t muster the physical and emotional energy to provide customer service. They know what they are required to do, but they are “too tired to care.”
• have little patience when interacting with customers. Their communication and relationship skills suffer and they are ineffective in interpersonal interactions.
• make more mistakes. This can create unnecessary customer-service problems.
• are absent more often, which overextends other employees who then become too tired to provide good customer service.
Here are steps that managers can take to ensure that efforts to provide great customer service are not sabotaged by tired employees:
• implement shift schedules that reflect best practice.
• reduce the amount of overtime required.
• ensure employees receive adequate rest breaks.
• develop a napping policy that allows for short naps.
• screen employees for sleep disorders that cause sleepiness and fatigue.
• provide employees with information on sleep disorders which can cause sleepiness and fatigue, and urge them to seek diagnosis and treatment if appropriate.
The Saskatoon (Canada) Star Phoenix recently reported that two nurses working in the local health system were among the highest paid employees in the organization. They achieved this ranking by working not only the full-time hours associated with their regular position, but also enough overtime hours, at double pay, to constitute another full-time job.
Though few workers would want to put in that many hours, excessive overtime is not uncommon. There are many reasons for this - not enough qualified employees, inclement weather, special projects, work delays and more.
It’s often difficult, however, to get a handle on overtime. Employers expect that employees will work a certain amount of extra hours, but they also use this as a strategy for maintaining workforce flexibility and reducing benefits costs. Employees, on the other hand, become addicted to the money that’s associated with overtime. It affords vacations, bigger homes, boats and vehicles and pays for college. Immigrant workers, on the other hand, can achieve their goals of supporting their families back home much more quickly.
Whatever the circumstance, when workers are working more than 12 hours at a time or more than 40 hours a week and have less than 10 hours between shifts, fatigue and safety become of the utmost concern.
Strategies for Health and Wellness
Educate workers and managers about the symptoms, hazards and solutions for fatigue and sleepiness.
Develop an organizational protocol for managing worker fatigue and sleepiness.
At the start of any overtime, assess the worker for symptoms of fatigue and/or sleepiness.
Develop a napping protocol and make napping rooms or chairs available close to the workstation.
Assess organizational staffing, scheduling and work processes to determine how excessive overtime could be eliminated.
If the organization has a “Safety First” or “People First” value, put it into practise.
National Safe Driving Week, Dec. 1 – 7, draws attention to the special circumstances involved with winter driving conditions. However, it is also an opportunity to think about all aspects of safe driving.
One thing to consider is that in the winter, the interior of a vehicle is usually quite warm. Due to shorter days, drivers may also be driving in the dark both on their way to and from work. This creates conditions that can induce sleepiness.
In normal circumstances, it would be advisable to pull over and have a short nap. However, winter conditions present a unique danger because if the vehicle is turned off, one can get very cold or freeze. On the other hand, keeping the vehicle running, can create a carbon monoxide danger.
If you are pulling over to have a roadside nap in the winter, ensure that the vehicle flashers are on and that one or more windows are open an inch or two to allow for fresh air. Also, consider calling someone, let them know you’ve stopped for a nap and request that they call you in 15 – 20 minutes. Don’t just set your own alarm because if you were to succumb to carbon monoxide, the alarm would be of no value.
Strategies for Health and Well-Being
Have a winter safety kit in your car.
Recognize conditions which can cause sleepiness.
Keep the interior of the vehicle cooler.
Listen to talk radio or lively music.
Learn more tips for managing sleepiness and fatigue while driving on our new CD,
Drive Alert: 38 Minutes That Could Save Your Life.
ZZZ… News January 7, 2009
Though there is an ever-increasing awareness about the dangers of driving while sleepy or fatigued, there are few reliable strategies for maintaining driver alertness. While this is often a concern for those in the transportation industry, automakers are also taking the issue to heart.
As reported in AutoWeek, Mercedes Benz has designed an in-car system that will alert drivers who appear to be failing in their ability to maintain alertness. Built into the E-class cars, the system is designed around a steering sensor and will provide a warning chime. For the complete story see http://www.autoweek.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2008812249991
The Mercedes Benz system is highly sophisticated, but you may be interested in the very simple over-the-ear devices which are also available. These are basically motion sensors that buzz when your head starts to fall forward. You can find an example of such a device at www.dozealert.com.
All alerting devices are meant to be that - alerting devices. The key to their effectiveness is that the driver actually stops and takes a rest break or nap. They are not intended to help you drive further or longer and can be very dangerous when used for such a purpose.
Strategies for Health and Well-Being
Take frequent breaks when driving. Stop every 3 or 4 hours when driving long distances.
Drink water as you drive. In addition to promoting alertness, it will promote the need to stop for a bathroom break. Drivers may find this annoying but it may be a very inexpensive life insurance policy.
Chew on crunchy snacks like carrot sticks, celery, apples and sunflowers.
Use aromatherapy such as peppermint or citrus to promote alertness.
Keep the interior of the vehicle cool.
Every year the National Sleep Foundation commissions a study on some aspect of sleep. This year the study examined market data on sleep products and services. The total industry was estimated to be $23.7 billion a year. There are obviously a lot of people looking for better sleep and they are looking at many different avenues for a fix. This includes everything from pillows and mattresses to medications and alternative therapies.
There is no one magic fix, however. The only way to know what will help you sleep better is to know what is causing your sleep problem. As logical as this may seem, most people never look beyond the symptoms of poor sleep - not being able to fall asleep or stay asleep and not feeling rested. Many people do not view sleep problems as health problems and so they never raise the issue with their physicians. As a result, they are perpetually looking for a fix for a problem they do not fully understand.
Those people who do talk to their physicians will often be prescribed a medication. For many of them, the medication will work. For many others, it won’t, and others do not wish to be dependent on medication if there are other alternatives. Unfortunately, these people are on their own, searching the internet and talking to friends, about other products or alternative health practitioners.
Those who do talk to their physicians about their sleep problem may be referred to a sleep clinic. This is useful to determine if one has a sleep disorder like sleep apnea or restless legs syndrome. Knowing this is the root of the sleep problem can then lead to an appropriate strategy for improving sleep and well-being. Unfortunately, many sleep clinics are not equipped to address insomnia and circadian rhythm disorders. These people are therefore often the most likely to be seeking ‘fixes’ for their poor sleep.
Strategies for Health and Well-Being
Before you spend money on something you think will fix your sleep problems, talk to your physician. If you are snoring, a referral to a sleep clinic may be necessary. If you are not snoring, a referral to a Behavioral Sleep Medicine specialist may be advisable.
Associated Sleep Services (www.associatedsleepservices) specializes in identifying the root causes of insomnia and can advise on strategies and therapies that are specific to the underlying cause of the insomnia.
Shift workers’ lives can only be improved by making schedule improvements.
Schedules are a major influence on shift worker well-being. Best practise schedules can greatly reduce the stress and fatigue associated with shift work. You can learn about schedule best practises in our on-sight Schedule Clinic or in our tele-seminar by the same name.
However, it is also critical that shift workers do what is necessary for their own self-care. This is particularly the case when it comes to getting sufficient quantity and quality of sleep. Shift workers often choose chores, and social or recreational activities or other employment during their time off instead of sleep. In this case, even the best schedule in the world won’t benefit the worker. Our publication “Working ‘Round the Clock: A Survival Guide for Shift and Night Workers” offers valuable tips on how to do self-care. Learn about sleep, diet and other strategies that we’ve gleaned from the latest research. For example, in our presentations for shift workers, we reveal how to time your sleep periods to ensure more sleep.
No one would do shift work or work at night if they had a choice.
This is the greatest fear of employers and a common perception of both the general public and shift workers themselves. BUT IT IS NOT TRUE! For a variety of reasons, many individuals enjoy both shift work and night work. Who are these people? Find out in our publication “Working ‘Round the Clock: A Survival Guide for Shift and Night Workers” or listen in on our seminar “Birds of a Different Feather at Work.”
Shift workers should try to maintain a lifestyle that is consistent with a ‘normal’ day work schedule.
This is advice that shift workers may have been given or which they try to adhere to because of personal belief. However, trying to maintain a ‘normal’ schedule while doing shift work is like having one foot in a pail of hot water and another in a pail of cold water. You get very confused! And you’ll probably feel more stressed and fatigued than you should.
Shift workers are healthiest when they maintain a lifestyle that is consistent with their work schedule. This takes some adjustment. Having said this, there is one schedule that, in fact, best meets shift worker needs when the shift worker maintains more of a regular day schedule. Do you know which schedule this is? Participants in our Schedule Clinic (on-site or tele-seminar) have already learned about this schedule.
Being successful with shift work is just a matter of common sense and doing what you have to do.
Certainly, those who agree with this statement reflect the fact that shift work requires something of the shift worker, that is, the shift worker must employ strategies to ensure sufficient sleep and good health. But if it was just a case of common sense, we wouldn’t see those shift workers who are, in fact, doing nothing to protect their sleep and those shift workers who are doing things which are counterproductive. We see this most often when talking about sleeping after the night shift. You may have heard the standard answer to this, but only in our Shiftworker presentations will you hear the RIGHT ANSWER FOR YOU.
Everyone could adapt to shift work if they needed or wanted to.
Even though there are individuals who do quite well with shift and night work, there are some (perhaps up to 20% of the population) who will never do well with shift and night work. Unfortunately, it is those who are doing well that are often least understanding of those who are having more difficulty. “If I can do it, why can’t you?” “You have to be tough to do shift work.” “Just suck it up and do it!” They may really want the job and they usually really need the job and the money that comes with it, but their sleep debt and health concerns become ever more severe. So if they’re motivated, why can’t they do it? Our publication “Working ‘Round the Clock” and our seminars provide the answer to this question. In addition, we have taken this information and developed proprietary tools to assist occupational health and human resource professionals.
Continuous mental or physical effort, long work periods and rotating shift schedules all can induce fatigue. Omissions, errors, accidents and extensive use of sick and disability time may be the result. Consider the following low-cost, no-cost strategies to reduce fatigue, promote alertness and increase efficiency and productivity.
1. Drink water - Water promotes oxygen flow to the brain and thereby promotes alertness. Provide water coolers or personal drinking bottles and encourage consumption every hour.
2. Breathe - When we are fatigued, our breathing becomes shallow. Encourage employees to take several deep, diaphragm breathes every 10 minutes through the time of greatest fatigue.
3. Stretch - Big muscle movements and stretches get blood flowing and that all-important oxygen moving to the brain. Brisk walking on the spot for even one or two minutes is ideal, but there are many sitting and standing movements which are equally effective.
4. Turn on the Light - Light signals our bodies to be awake and alert, but it must be high-intensity light. Modern technology has provided us with portable lighting systems which mimic this light and which can be installed in various workstations to promote alertness.
5. Nap - If you can overcome the “we pay you to work and not sleep” attitude, you will find that a controlled napping policy will result in measurable improvements in alertness.
6. Sniff - Both peppermint and lemon scents are known to promote alertness. There are several ways that the scents/oils may be used by individuals or you may want to consider a planned infusion program at a workstation.
7. Drink Tea - As simple as it may sound, having a cup of hot tea is a great pick-me-up. Choose one of the many non-caffeine varieties and enjoy!
-Understands shiftwork hazards, causes & consequences.
-Lifestyle ensures a healthy mind & body.
-Views shiftwork as a lifestyle choice.
-Finds a balance between disadvantages & advantages.
-Works with, not against, the body.
-Implements strategies to promote sleep quantity & quality.
-Implements strategies to reduce fatigue & promote alertness.
-Implements strategies to reduce stress.
-Has a good Physiological Profile.
-Manages risk factors.
-Influences work schedule and environment where possible.
-Gains cooperation of family & friends.
More information on each of these topics is provided in the publication ‘Working ‘Round the Clock: A Survival Guide for Shift and Night Workers.’