Your sleep really matters


Did you know that as a pilot, your risk-taking increases when you get less sleep?

The science behind this finding is absolutely clear—performance degrades with increased time awake, sleep deprivation and not being aligned with your circadian cycle.

Aviation industry experts discuss fatigue risk management in a video released by CASA to coincide with the recent announcement of new fatigue rules.

The video discusses the importance of cultural change to ensure pilot performance is optimised, while still maintaining operators’ abilities to conduct their operations.

Steve Nota, an Aviation Advisor with Woodside Energy, points to an incident when he was flying helicopters for the US Navy. On an early morning mission, he handed over the controls to his co-pilot, but the next thing he knew, he was waking up from a microsleep.

‘The worst part was that when I woke up, the guy who was supposed to be flying the aircraft was asleep as well and also my aircrewman was asleep,’ he says. ‘I didn’t know how long everyone had been asleep—fortunately it had just been a matter of seconds or minutes—but that scared us all and we made a beeline back to the ship.’

Professor Drew Dawson of the Appleton Institute at CQUniversity, who is recognised nationally and internationally for his work on sleep and fatigue research, says it’s widely known lack of sleep is a problem.

‘If I go into a workplace, everybody can tell me an example of something that nearly caused somebody to die as a result of fatigue,’ he says. ‘In professions such as healthcare and aviation, a number of stories are … challenging, to say the least.’

Associate Professor Matthew Thomas, also from the Appleton Institute, points to the implications of fatigue on the flight deck. ‘Where one or other of the crew members in a multicrew environment has had less than five hours sleep, we see about twice as much error,’ he says.

In Australia, fatigue rules for transport industries had once been based on the science of the 1940s and 50s. But science has come a long way since then and rules have been updated accordingly. Recently, CASA has amended flight duty periods to reflect the latest scientific studies on fatigue.

Further information on the new fatigue rules can be found at:

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  1. Nothing new here, fatigue is a normal human experience, it can never be removed!
    If the boffins wanna reduce its effects then they must attack the source, the grubby Airlines! LCC’s are the worst offenders especially with cabin crew, they get flogged & the Airlines push it right to the edge!
    You can make a 1000 airframes all identical to perform the same day in day out but the poor old human operating them is meant to be able to do the same, not ever gunna happen!
    All these feel good studies, fancy words, the so called science and the manipulation of the rules won’t change a thing!
    Get used to it!!

  2. Walter ! Walter ! There will always be people and organisations that waste more energy on trying to evade OH&S than they ever get back. They are short term thinkers who will ultimately come unstuck. Rational people managers understand that attending to the welfare of your workforce improves the “bottom line”. The negative impact of fatigue on workers’ productivity & safety is a well understood factor in all industrial environments, unfortunately some managers are still in the Jurassic on this. As I understand it sleep plays a very big role in fatigue management so it behooves us all to get a good “kip” on a regular basis.

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