Sleep Debt and Fatigue

Shift work is a system of work that is used throughout the world and in a variety of industries, such as healthcare and emergency services, retail, manufacturing and transport.A�The Health and Safety Executive advises that in excess of 3.5 million people in the UK are employed as shift workers.

The health concern is that the body has a natural rhythm which helps most people sleep at night and remain alert during the day.A�Therefore, most people who work night-shifts are struggling against their normal body clock so that they can function on a night.

Fatigue is a decline in a persona��s physical and mental performance caused by prolonged exertion, sleep loss and disruption to their normal body clock.A�Employers should treat fatigue like any other hazard in the workplace because it causes absent-mindedness, decreased awareness and underestimation of risk.A� Consequently, it can lead to errors and accidents.A�Safety studies conducted throughout the world have found that people working night-shifts suffer a higher number of accidents and injuries
than dayshift workers.A�Therefore shift patterns in workplaces should be properly planned, managed and implemented, and, for instance, shifts should rotate forwards; mornings, afternoons, then nights.A� It is accepted that people working dayshifts get much better quality sleep than their colleagues working nights.A�People can suffer and accumulate a sleep a�?debta�� putting them at risk of developing fatigue, however the human body cannot accumulate a sleep surplus.