Technology’s Handshake for a Safety Net in Sleep Management


Imagine a helping hand from technology to alert us of fatigue and inform us of the need of recovery sleep. In an article titled “Sleepiness and safety: Where biology needs technology“, two emerging areas of technology seem to promise support in managing fatigue risk – especially in safety-sensitive occupations.


One involves optimizing work schedules using biomathematical models of performance changes associated with sleep and circadian dynamics. The current use of simple linear fatigue models is acknowledged as grossly inadequate given the non-linear interaction of sleep homeostatic drive and circadian regulation.


The other involves detecting transient fatigue from drowsiness. The Psychomotor Vigilance Test (PVT), developed for evaluating behavioral alertness prior to or during work, seems to have been extensively validated for its sensitivity to deficits in attention from sleep loss and circadian misalignment.

An online tracking of the ‘percent of slow eyelid closures’ (PERCLOS) to reflect momentary fluctuations of vigilance is another example.


Such fatigue management technologies show potential to predict and prevent operator errors and accidents in safety-sensitive areas of work. They are also expected to help monitor the onset of physiological and mental diseases due to inadequate sleep and circadian misalignment – hypertension, diabetes, obesity, depression and cancer to name a few.


Certainly there is need to establish their validity, safety value, acceptance, use adherence, and abuse potential. If done right, use of technology may minimize safety risks arising out of reliance on self-reported fatigue sleepiness given our inability to subjectively estimate the degree of impairment in alertness and performance due to inadequate sleep.


More importantly, they could allow use of countermeasures to mitigate sleepiness and fatigue and provide timely alerts for the need for recovery sleep. This may significantly contribute to prevent various diseases associated with inadequate sleep.


Source: Sleep and Biological Rhythms

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