Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Snooze Control: Fatigue, Air Traffic and Safety

It is safe to say that we are all guilty of these at some point in our day – stifling a yawn in the middle of the work day, eyelids growing heavy and having the strong urge for caffeine when 3pm rolls around. While most of us have experienced fatigue and lethargy on the job, spare a thought for those who hold the fate of people’s lives in their hands.

A day in the life of an air traffic controller is not easy. You might think the task of giving directions to planes carrying hundreds of passengers lies with a team of people. In reality, this daunting task is often handled by a mere two people. Each controller has his specific set of responsibilities, but all too often exhaustion gets the best of one of them, forcing the remaining controller to carry out additional duties.

The length of their shifts in not necessarily the problem; instead it is the irregular shifts that lead to extreme fatigue. Though the Federal Aviation Administration requires air traffic controllers to have at least 8 hours of time between shifts, the controllers may not be able to use these 8 hours solely for sleep. It is not uncommon for a controller to work from 7am until 3pm then report back to work at 11 pm to work the midnight shift until 7am the next morning.

In recent weeks, there have been reports of air traffic controllers falling asleep on the job, from Miami to Knoxville to Washington, DC. There is even speculation that staff shortage and a lack of attention may have contributed to a close-call with a plane carrying First Lady Michelle Obama. Thus, increased media attention on these incidents has highlighted the need for drastic change to improve safety. Changes include an extra hour between shifts and a greater availability of managers during late night and early morning shifts. The new rules would also prohibit air traffic controllers from switching shifts without the mandatory nine-hour rest period.

Dr. Richard Bootzin, a Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Arizona who also serves as Director of the Insomnia Clinic at the University Medical Center said, “The relatively short time between shifts puts pressure on people to sleep and there are consequences when people are overly sleepy or fatigued.” According to Bootzin, this problem is not unique to air traffic controllers as many other occupations also involve around the clock shifts.

Bootzin believes that the solution is not to punish air traffic controllers, but to make changes that will create a more conducive working environment. “There is a lot of literature on this very problem and several ways to remedy the situation,” he said.

Michael Scullin, a doctoral candidate at Washington University’s Department of Psychology in St. Louis, recognizes the important role that proper sleep plays in a cognitively demanding job, such as that of an air traffic controller. “One of the things we know about sleep deprivation is that it affects your ability to use your cognitive resources in an efficient manner,” said Scullin.”

“Air traffic controllers have a lot of prospective memory demands; they may be working on the evaluation of locations of planes and at the same time have to re-route an airplane. This is very cognitively demanding,” said Scullin who also stresses the importance of proper sleep as opposed to quick-fixes such as caffeine, which does not eliminate the problem of fatigue.

Dr. Richard Bootzin will be presenting his paper entitled, “If Sleep Is So Important, Why Do We Get So Little of It? Advances in Understanding and Treating Insomnia,” at the APS 23rd Annual Convention in Washington, DC .

For more information on the effects of sleep deprivation and fatigue, and for the opportunity to speak with renowned speakers and leading specialists in other fields of psychology, register now to attend the APS 23rd Annual Convention from May 26-29, 2011 in Washington, DC.

Divya Menon | EurekAlert!
Further information:

Further reports about: Ambient Air Control Fatigue Snooze insomnia sleep deprivation traffic control

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Advanced analysis of brain structure shape may track progression to Alzheimer's disease
26.10.2016 | Massachusetts General Hospital

nachricht Indian roadside refuse fires produce toxic rainbow
26.10.2016 | Duke University

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

How nanoscience will improve our health and lives in the coming years

27.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

OU-led team discovers rare, newborn tri-star system using ALMA

27.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

'Neighbor maps' reveal the genome's 3-D shape

27.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>