About one-fourth of train operators and pilots say sleepiness affects their job performance at least once a week, compared to about one in six non-transportation workers, a new national survey has found.
The National Sleep Foundation said the organization’s “2012 Sleep in America” poll is the first to assess sleep habits and work performance in transportation workers -- including pilots, train operators, truck, bus, taxi and limo drivers.
Foundation pollsters called the results “striking,” noting a significant number of transportation workers said sleepiness has caused safety problems on the job. One in five pilots (20 percent) said they have made a serious error and one in six train operators (18 percent) and truck drivers (14 percent) said 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 percent each, compared to 1 perecent) to say that they have been involved in a car accident due to sleepiness while commuting.
"The margin of error in these professions is extremely small. Transportation professionals need to manage sleep to perform at their best," said David Cloud, CEO of the National Sleep Foundation. "As individuals and employers, we need to know more about how sleep improves performance."
"Driving home from work after a long shift is associated with crashes due to sleepiness," said 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."
Among the poll’s findings:
• Almost two-thirds of train operators (57 percent) and one-half of pilots said they “rarely or never” get a good night's sleep on work nights. That compared to 44 percent of truck drivers, 42 percent of non-transportation workers and 29 percent of bus, taxi, and limo drivers.
• One in 10 Americans said they are likely to fall asleep at an inappropriate time and place, such as during a meeting or while driving.
• 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.
• Almost one-half of train operators (44 percent) and more than one-third of pilots (37 percent) report that their work schedules do not allow adequate time for sleep, compared to about one-fourth of non-transportation workers and truck drivers (27 percent each) and one-fifth of bus, taxi and limo drivers.
The poll, conducted by WB&A Market Research, involved 1,087 adults, including 292 non-transportation workers, 202 pilots, 203 truck drivers, 180 rail transportation workers, and 210 bus, taxi and limo drivers.
The foundation advises the following sleep tips:
• Go to sleep and wake at the same time every day, and avoid spending more time in bed than needed.
• Use your bedroom only for sleep to strengthen the association between your bed and sleep. It may help to remove work materials, computers and televisions from your bedroom.
• Select a relaxing bedtime ritual, like a warm bath or listening to calming music.
• Create an environment that is conducive to sleep that is quiet, dark and cool with a comfortable mattress and pillows.
• Save your worries for the daytime. If concerns come to mind, write them in a "worry book" so you can address those issues the next day.
• Exercise regularly, but avoid vigorous workouts close to bedtime.