Sleep advice for industrial workers

Sleep affects every aspect of our lives. For an industrial worker, the stakes are even higher. Sleep interruptions cause fatigue, which impacts both safety and performance on the job during mission-critical tasks. In this article, you’ll learn about how the body’s circadian rhythm affects your sleep and gain some tips on how to sleep better when working in industrial environments.

The world’s best performance enhancer: 10 sleep strategies for peak athletic performance

Although the science of sleep is a relatively new field (most of what we know about sleep has been learned in just the past 50 years), studies continue to show that failure to obtain adequate and consistent restful sleep is associated with attention deficits, memory problems, mood disturbances, and impaired mental performance. In fact, chronic sleep loss of 2-4 hours per day for 2 weeks has been found to degrade performance to the same extent as 24-48 hours of total sleep deprivation!

Unfortunately, 40% of Americans get less than the recommended 7 hours per night. This, of course, includes professional athletes whose insufficient sleep leads to alterations in carbohydrate metabolism, appetite, food intake, and protein synthesis—all of which stand to reduce athletic performance, particularly during events that require prolonged physical endurance. Peak competitive performance can only occur when an athlete’s sleep is optimal.

And yet, recently published data on Australian elite athletes suggest that a majority of team sport athletes have no strategy in place to overcome poor sleep. While coping with stress, jet lag, and demanding schedules can present challenges for even the most dedicated athletes, sleep in almost any circumstance can be improved by following these 10 steps toward better sleep hygiene.

1. Stick to a consistent wake-up and bedtime every day of the week

While many believe sleeping in on the weekends is a luxury that should not be missed, this habit creates body-clock disruptions that can turn into chronic sleep problems.

Someone who wakes up at 5:00 am on most days, but sleeps until 9:00 am on weekends, is readjusting their body’s internal clock for 2 days every week.

The delayed wakeup time leads to later daylight exposure and an alteration in one’s sleep drive, which will ultimately push back the next sleep period. Come Sunday night, sleep initiation at the proper time is difficult to achieve, and when the alarm clock sounds early Monday morning, the body is determined to sleep another hour or two. As a result, you fall ‘out of synch,’ and fatigue-related moods, lack of alertness, and performance problems arrive.

2. Use the bedroom only for sleep and sex

The bedroom should only be used for activities that are compatible with sleep. Even during travel periods, it is possible to create better sleep-conducive mental associations with your sleep arrangements. While certain sleep-environment and game-timing factors may be beyond your control, everyone can avoid playing computer games and using mobile devices in the bedroom.

Athletes need to be particularly wary of using technology within an hour of going to bed. Research suggests that electronic media exposure enhances alertness due to the bright light emitted by phones and computers, melatonin levels suppressed by TVs, and because the content presented on these devices is engaging and exciting. Bottom line, sleep and technology in the bedroom don’t mix!

3. Resolve daily dilemmas outside of the bedroom

Dealing with ‘worry issues’ outside of the bedroom can be tough for anyone who is striving to excel in sports. However, there are some simple techniques that can help minimize the time spent lying awake in bed thinking about tomorrow or worrying about what happened earlier today.

First of all, it’s important to be honest with yourself and recognize whether you are a worrier. If so, before going to bed, make a ‘worry list,’ and write a brief action item beside each concern. This can eliminate the temptation to make important decisions or plan new activities when your focus should be on falling asleep. Allow yourself a sense of closure each night by writing down your concerns and possible solutions, and then physically lay them aside.

4. Establish a bedtime routine

Engaging in a pre-bedtime routine is beneficial for several reasons. Remember, humans are creatures of habit, and once well-learned sequences of behaviors are established, one action usually automatically stimulates the next. Because of this, it is important to adhere to a consistent nightly routine whenever possible.

An example would be to turn off the TV at 9:00 pm, take a hot shower, lay out workout clothes for the next day, read a relaxing book for 30 minutes, set the alarm clock, and go to bed by 10:30 pm. This sequence will prepare the body and brain to fall asleep at the desired time each night. Keep in mind that habits are relatively easy to establish, but difficult to break. Thus, if your bedtime practices have involved behaviors not conducive to sleep, it will take some time to break these connections and reestablish a positive routine.

5. Create a quiet and comfortable sleep environment

A quiet, cool, dark, and comfortable sleep environment is crucial for the best possible sleep. Although complete environmental control is difficult to accomplish, especially when traveling, everything that can be controlled should be controlled. Make sure the room is dark with a comfortable temperature (around 67 degrees F is best). It’s better to have the room slightly cooler than normal with enough bed covers to stay warm.

Unwanted noise can be masked with a fan or other noise-cancelling device. Aim to keep surrounding sound levels steady, low, and consistent. Earplugs are also helpful for attenuating outside noises, although it may take up to a week to get used to sleeping with these. Finally, make sure the mattress and pillow are firm and supportive. If not, replace them.

6. Don’t be a clock-watcher

This caution is especially vital for someone who is already worried about their sleep. Watching the clock sets up a maladaptive pattern of thinking: You wake up for a few seconds, but instead of just going back to sleep, you look at the clock thinking, ‘it’s already midnight and I’m still not sound asleep!’ Then you start to worry, ‘what if I don’t fall asleep again soon’, and so on. This can rapidly escalate into a full-scale waste of time in futile worry.

Knowing what time it is will not improve the quality of sleep, it will not make it easier to go back to sleep, and it will not increase the amount of available sleep time. So, don’t do it!

If necessary, place your alarm clock on a table that is out of reach, and make sure it is facing away from you. Resolve to just go back to sleep whenever brief awakenings occur. Even if it’s only 15 minutes before your alarm will go off, 15 extra minutes of sleep is better than 15 minutes of worrying, any day!

7. Don’t consume caffeine within 4 hours of bedtime

Caffeine is no-doubt the primary energy booster among athletes because it works and most of the time there are no prohibitions against its use. However, we know that caffeine exerts a negative effect on sleep quality if taken too close to bedtime. While the advice is to avoid any caffeine within 4 hours of bedtime, a recent scientific paper indicated that even morning caffeine consumption can negatively impact nighttime sleep.

Be sure to consider the possibility that you may be consuming caffeine in unassuming products. For instance, certain brands of orange soda, varieties of tea, chocolate, and many over-the-counter pain-relieving medications contain caffeine. In order to avoid stimulant-induced sleep problems, take the time to understand caffeine’s effects and carefully review all food, drink, and medicine labels that could potentially contain this compound.

8. Don’t use alcohol as a sleep aid

Though many athletes avoid alcohol altogether, some are tempted to use it from time to time as a ‘sleep promoter.’ While it is true that alcohol makes most people sleepy, and therefore increases the speed of sleep onset, the problem with beer, wine, and cocktails is that they disrupt the foundational structure of sleep, particularly during the second part of the night.

The negative impact of alcohol on sleep quality combined with its effects on next-day blood-sugar levels makes it a bad choice for anyone seeking optimal competitive performance. So, if you do choose to drink, avoid consuming alcohol within 4 hours of bedtime.

9. Don’t take naps during the day (if you have trouble sleeping at night)

Daytime napping can be a wonderful way to compensate for inadequate nightly sleep opportunities. However, if there are chronic sleep problems due to poor sleep habits, napping during the day should be avoided for one simple reason: Napping is sleep, and sleep of any length decreases the body’s drive for sleepiness. This means that a nap during the day will inevitably make it harder to fall asleep at night. Thus, someone who is already experiencing nighttime sleep problems should avoid this added complication by foregoing daytime naps and opting for an earlier bedtime instead.

10. Get out of bed and go to another room if sleep does not arrive in 30 minutes

Just as it takes time to build strength, endurance, and athletic skill, it should come as no surprise that overcoming years of poor sleep conditioning requires patience, adaptability and a positive attitude. As you wait for noticeable improvements to occur, it’s important to avoid lying in bed awake for more than 30 minutes each night waiting to fall asleep. This advice also holds true for those who normally sleep soundly, but occasionally experience problems.

When sleep does not come readily, get out of bed, go into another room, and engage in some type of quiet activity (like reading or listening to music) until feelings of sleepiness return. At this point, go back into the bedroom and try again. If, for some reason, a second or third attempt does not work, try sleeping on the couch in another room.

Although there will be bumps along the road, remember that following these steps toward better sleep hygiene will eventually produce desired results. As the saying goes, anything worth having is worth waiting for, and quality sleep is no exception.

Interested in learning more about data-driven fatigue management?

or for a comprehensive overview of the scientific link between sleep and athletic performance, download our free Science of Sleep eBook.

Springing forward: How to deal with the daylight savings time change


This weekend we are springing forward and ‘losing’ an hour of sleep.

Adjusting to a one-hour time change shouldn’t take more than a day or so to an otherwise sufficiently rested person. But, since studies show that as a society we are already sleep deprived, an hour of our time in bed is not really a sacrifice many of us can afford to make. Those who routinely sleep six hours a night, have very early wake up times for work (6:00 AM or earlier), and teenagers already battling their biological tendency to sleep late will be hardest hit by this weekend’s time change.

Unfortunately, there is no quick magic solution for adjusting to this time change, but there are a few things you can do to make sure the effects of this circadian disruption are minimized for Monday morning:

  • Start early! Set all your clocks forward one hour early on Saturday evening, and have dinner and go to bed based on those clocks.
  • Avoid incurring any or additional sleep debt caused by staying up late on the weekend.
  • Wake up on Sunday morning, get some exercise, and get outside early in the day for some daylight exposure.
  • On Sunday evening, dim the lights and close the blinds to send signals to your brain that night time is coming. Grab a warm shower before bed and relax with a book (don’t stare at your TV or mobile device) or listen to music or podcast.

For those having a harder time with the adjustment, keep up with these tips for a few days and:

  • Be cautious about performing any safety sensitive work and while driving or cycling
  • Even if you don’t do dangerous work, fatigue may affect your cognitive ability – be extra diligent in your work projects and decision making

If you prioritize getting adjusted quickly, the effects of the time change should be short lived. In the meantime, grab that extra cup of coffee on Monday – but be sure to cut it out after noon – you don’t want any caffeine running through your system when you are trying to fall asleep a little earlier than you are used to.

Tips for sleeping well while on the road

This edition of Sleep school is all about hitting the hay while you’re hitting the road. As we previously introduced, our new friends at Traction on Demand are going to be driving their Smokey and the Bandit themed convoy from Vancouver, BC to San Francisco, CA to attend Dreamforce this month. We know that sleeping can be a challenge while on the road – you’re away from the comforts of home, spending long days sitting in a car, and out of your routine. Since we want to make sure the Readibandits are getting most out of their sleep opportunities we thought we would share some tips on how to get the best sleep while traveling on the road.

Take driving breaks

Long drives are tiring – plan to take breaks every couple of hours and switch off with your travel companions. Get out of the car and walk around to stretch the legs and breathe in some fresh air. We know the Traction Bandits aren’t doing any overnight driving, which is great planning on their part as it is not a good idea to be driving when your body would normally be sleeping.

Considering a nap

If your driving shift is in the evening, consider a nap.

Keep it short

10-20 minutes should be enough to see increased alertness 30-90 minutes later and don’t take over the wheel until you have had some time to wake up. For the best results, take the short nap between 3-5PM when your body is at a ‘circadian low’.

Checking in

When you are checking into your roadside motel for the night, request a room away from potential noise – conference rooms, ice rooms and elevators within close proximity provide opportunity for extra noise that might interrupt your sleep. The quietest rooms are usually on the top floor and at the end of the hall.

Wind down

After your long day on the road, take time to lay out some plans for the next day’s trip, shower or bathe to relax and help reset your body temperature for sleep and instead of turning on the TV, opt for a book or do some stretches.

Setting the room for sleep

Most hotels and motels have black out curtains on the windows – use them! Even if it’s dark when you go to bed, the sun may be up earlier than you would like to be. The heavy drapery will also help block out extra outside noise. If there’s a fan in the room, it’s also a good idea to turn it on low – it will keep the room cool for sleeping and also help filter out extra outside and hallway noises. If there is a glowing digital alarm clock near the bed, turn it to face the wall or cover it up, the light from the clock can actually disturb sleep.

Unpack your personal sleep kit

Personal sleep kit? We recommend an eye mask, earplugs and a night light – especially if you are sharing hotel rooms with your travel mates. You may be a great sleeper and have the room set up to maximize silence from the outside, but what if your travel buddy snores and is prone to getting up in the night to go to the bathroom? An eye mask and ear plugs will help limit the potential disturbances of your restless roomie. A night light in the bathroom can provide enough light to navigate during late night bathroom visits without turning on the bright hotel room lights and tricking your brain into thinking it’s morning time.

Wake up time!

Arrange for a wake up call with plenty of time to get ready for the days driving. Morning grogginess (or sleep inertia) can be just as dangerous as fatigue at the end of a long day – give yourself time to wake up and enjoy your breakfast and coffee before hitting the road.

These tips will help you make the most out of your less-than-ideal sleeping conditions while on the road. Always aim for your 7-9 hours of sleep and if you’re feeling fatigued while driving, take a break, switch off at the wheel or plan to pack it in and end the driving day early.

Happy travels, Bandits!

Interested in learning more about data-driven fatigue management?

or download our free eBook on the Science of Sleep for industrial workforces

Sleep advice for shift workers

Last week we wrote about circadian rhythm, a 24 hour natural cycle of changes that the body goes through, and it’s effect on sleep and fatigue. We know that our circadian rhythm dictates that we should be sleeping at night and awake during the day – In an ideal world that would be the case, but the reality is many people work in 24/7 environments which require them to challenge their body’s natural sleep and wake inclinations.

We work with a variety of industries and organizations who operate these 24/7 environments, to make sure workers are being scheduled in a manner that minimizes on the job fatigue and provides sufficient opportunity to sleep – so they can work as efficiently and safely as possible, regardless of what shift they are on.

The companies we work with do their part to reduce on the job fatigue, but to this end, it is also important that individual employees take advantage of the sleep opportunities provided to them. While it is not always easy to go to sleep during the day when your body wants to be awake, there are steps you can take to help get the best sleep possible:

Communicate with family and roommates – Talk to them about your schedule and what your needs are. Post a calendar in the house with both your work and sleep schedule, so that everyone will understand when you will be away and more importantly, when you will need to sleep.

Be consistent with your sleep – If you are always working the same shift, be consistent with your sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time, regardless of whether it’s your day off or not.

Plan for change – If you work rotating shifts, plan ahead to change your sleep schedule by gradually delaying or advancing your sleep and wake up times towards the new shift for a few days. If you’re starting on a series of night shifts, try to take an afternoon nap before the first night shift.

Stick to daytime eating schedules – Have your heaviest meal during the day time, but don’t drink or eat too much within three hours of going to sleep. If you are working nights and need a snack, stay away from heavy, fatty foods which your body will have trouble digesting. Choose lighter options including fruit, vegetables, whole grains, low fat dairy and lean proteins, but don’t eat after 3 AM.

Get ready for sleep – Spend some time winding down and sending your body signals that it is time to go to sleep. Do relaxing activities, like reading or stretching, limit your exposure to sunlight and take a shower or bath. Don’t watch TV or spend time on the computer or smartphone. Avoid both coffee and alcohol.

Create a sleep zone – Making sure you limit outside noise and stimulation is particularly important if you are trying to sleep during the day. Use black out curtains on windows to eliminate natural light and use earplugs or turn on a fan in the room to mask outside noise.

We can’t change our biological predisposition to want to sleep at night and be awake during the day, but we can certainly apply our scientific understanding of it to reduce the impact of shift work on the quantity and quality of sleep we get in our 24/7 lives.

Interested in learning more about data-driven fatigue management?

or download our free eBook on the Science of Sleep for industrial workforces