WSU sleep researchers say Santa at risk of crashing sleigh over North America due to fatigue - WSU Insider

WSU sleep researchers say Santa at risk of crashing sleigh over North America due to fatigue – WSU Insider

SPOKANE, Wash. — Santa’s sleepless night delivering holiday gifts around the world could put him at increased risk for fatigue-related sledding accidents in North America, researchers at the Elson S. Floyd say. Washington State University College of Medicine and University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.

The case study, published in Sleep Health earlier this year, identified the safety impacts of a late December 11 p.m. night shift on an overweight older male seasonal worker and his global distribution team powered by reindeer, as well as strategies to mitigate impacts for safer flight.

Using 2020 data from Santa’s duty schedule and his North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) package delivery route, researchers identified the time window in the night shift of the Santa Claus where a high wake accumulation of hours of service would coincide with a low circadian rhythm. They found that Santa Claus would be at his most sleepy in North America, primarily in the United States and Mexico, on his annual route.

“Like other night and long-term workers, Santa Claus faces several fatigue-related risks that can have a significant impact on workplace safety and, unfortunately, his highest level of risk occurs just as it delivers packages here in the United States,” said study co-author Hans Van Dongen, professor at WSU Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine and director of the WSU Sleep and Performance Research Center. “Out of concern for Santa, his reindeer and our communities, we wanted to share this analysis to ensure that every precaution could be taken for a safe flight.”

Although the researchers noted that a sleigh accident would be rare, they identified several strategies to reduce Santa’s overall risk.

The most powerful countermeasure is to shift the biological clock by a phase delay of three hours, which would increase alertness during the latter parts of Santa’s duty period. This change could be achieved with the administration of melatonin immediately before the start of its journey; however, reindeer could not participate in this method. Alternatively, exposure to bright light could be used in the evening to delay the biological clock. Although blue light is the most effective, the researchers recommended white light because of the potential washout of blue light from the red clothes of seasonal workers and the noses of reindeer.

Probability of accident related to fatigue from seasonal night work involving sled delivery of packages with extended hours and trans-meridian travel.

Additional methods include changing the sleep schedule to 10 hours a day before the extended night shift to eliminate previous sleep debt and protect against sleep deprivation, screening for obesity-related sleep disorders such as sleep apnea and caffeine consumption.

“Each of these fatigue-reducing countermeasures alone produces better alertness, but taken together they could significantly reduce the likelihood of a sledding accident,” said Mathias Basner, MD, PhD, professor of sleep and of Chronobiology at Penn’s Department of Psychiatry. and lead author of the study. “By Santa Claus, his reindeer and the North Pole team implementing these measures until December 24, we would have greater assurance that he could safely carry out his gift distribution duties for the duration of his shift.”

Although little research has been done to determine the fatigue-related effects of cookies and milk or hay and water, researchers recommend that Santa Claus and this reindeer refrain from consuming eggnog or other alcoholic beverages that synergistically induce fatigue and general impairment.

“Regardless of your belief in Santa Claus, fatigue-related risks are a real challenge for those who work nights and extended hours, whether in package delivery like Santa Claus or in healthcare, retail, hospitality, trucking and other 24/7 operations,” Van Dongen said. “Adopting behaviors and countermeasures to mitigate the effects of sleep loss reduces the risk of fatigue-related accidents, which ultimately creates safer workplaces and communities.”

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