Apparently it’s not just the Navy that has a sleep problem. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 41 million American workers aren’t getting enough Zzzzs. That’s nearly one in three workers.
“Not surprisingly, workers who work the night shift are more likely to not get enough sleep,” according to Dr. Sara Luckhaupt of the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, who authored the study.
Those workers pulling more than 40 hours on the job each week also are more apt to get less sleep than what medical experts say is needed to stay alert, avoid fatigue and remain mentally sharp. The study found that four in 10 night shift workers say they don’t get enough sleep, but that’s not surprising of course.
Lack of sleep is linked to all sorts of ailments, including diabetes and obesity. Sleep deprivation, and the inherent problems that come from it, is disconcerting to Navy officials seeing the rising popularity of sleep aids to make up for the deficit in sleep and supplements like “go pills” to help keep someone awake. Navy safety officials told a Combat Operational Stress Conference audience in San Diego last year that fatigue was the culprit in 85 percent of mishaps caused by human error, and lack of decent sleep was the main driver.
The worst community at avoiding the issue? The surface fleet, despite various efforts to try different watch sections to try to curb fatigue and get more alert watchstanders. Long days at sea, prolonged flight operations, and nontraditional workdays can lead to more disrupted sleep and more fatigue. Eight hours of sleep? Mission impossible. Short naps instead? Not always seen as professional, although there’s growing research of its value in keeping folks alert. This 2006 thesis by a student at Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., found big benefits of naps at least 20 minutes long.
But the 24/7 demands of naval service mean the mission continues, regardless. Still, you wonder sometimes why being a sailor (and actually, any military service member) isn’t among the best jobs.