Sleep Disorders

Most sleep disorders are occult and unknown to the individual. In fact, 85 percent of adult men and 92 percent of adult women are unaware that they may be suffering from a sleep disorder. Insomnia, Restless Leg Syndrome, Narcolepsy, Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Central Sleep Apnea are some of the more common sleep problems. These disorders will all increase fatigue and daytime sleepiness. They will also result in decreased attention, concentration, memory, and performance. Proper identification and treatment of these issues will not only help the individual’s health and prevent other co-morbid conditions, but will also improve workplace performance, decrease error rates and reduce accidents.

Sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, insomnia, hypersomnia, and narcolepsy are associated with sleep deprivation and are known contributors to fatigue. Human performance and flight safety are adversely affected by fatigue and sleep deprivation. The neurocognitive deficits associated with sleep deprivation have a direct negative impact on psychomotor skills, communication ability and error creation. Closer assessment of aircrew, maintenance workers and fabrication personnel is warranted to improve flight safety.

Sleep disorders affect as much as 25% of the population. That translates to over 150,000 pilots in the United States alone that could be afflicted with a sleep disturbance. Countless individuals in the allied aerospace industries would be equally affected.

Insomnia affects everyone from time to time, but is clinically present in 15-20% of the population. The effect of insomnia is to reduce the total sleep time and create a sleep-deprived state. The level of sleep deprivation is commensurate with the amount of sleep loss.

Obstructive sleep apnea is a disorder where people actually stop breathing for a period of time with ensuing blood oxygen desaturations and cardiovascular physiological changes. These apneic episodes can occur multiple times per night and will interfere with entering the deeper stages of sleep. In turn, this will prevent the body from repairing cellular damage essential for many bodily processes.

Narcolepsy is a central disorder, with its origin located within the orexin system in the hypothalamus within the brain. This disorder is associated with a sleep consolidation problem. Those afflicted with this issue will fall asleep and wake up abruptly, even in the middle of conversations. It can be a major risk factor when driving, flying or operating hazardous machinery.

Hypersomnia is a disease causing one to have excessive daytime sleepiness despite sleeping for 8 or more hours. This disorder will create a sustained feeling of fatigue throughout the time of wakefulness.

Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorder, otherwise known as Shift Work Disorder, usually affects between 5 and 10% of shift workers. Many of these employees have reported falling asleep either at work or during the commute to and from the workplace. More than half of all long-haul commercial truckers have experienced episodes of drowsy driving. These startling numbers can be readily correlated to other attention-intensive fields such as aviation.

The sequelae of undiagnosed and untreated sleep disorders are extensive. These include increased risk of hypertension, diabetes, cerebrovascular accident, myocardial infarction, cancer, depression, motor vehicle accidents, work related injuries and death.

Sleep deprivation is associated with sleep disorders, in fact, those suffering from Insufficient Sleep Syndrome have many of the same risks and problems as those with clinically documented sleep disorders. 

Sleep deprivation has the neurocognitive consequences tantamount to drinking alcohol over the legal limit. Human automation interactions are also reduced with sleep deprivation. Aviation crew performance is directly tied with wakefulness and adequate amount and quality of sleep. Flight safety is directly related to fatigue, prolonged response times, error production and communication impairment. Reduction of information processing and an increase in poor decision-making are noted with sleep reduction. Closer assessment of aircrew and aerospace workers for sleep deprivation and underlying sleep disorders is warranted to improve flight safety.

Sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, insomnia, hypersomnia, and narcolepsy are associated with sleep deprivation and are known contributors to fatigue. Human performance and flight safety are adversely affected by fatigue and sleep deprivation. The neurocognitive deficits associated with sleep deprivation have a direct negative impact on psychomotor skills, communication ability and error creation. Closer assessment of aircrew, maintenance workers and fabrication personnel is warranted to improve flight safety. Sleep disorders affect as much as 25% of the population. That translates to over 150,000 pilots in the United States alone that could be afflicted with a sleep disturbance. Countless individuals in the allied aerospace industries would be equally affected. Insomnia affects everyone from time to time, but is clinically present in 15-20% of the population. The effect of insomnia is to reduce the total sleep time and create a sleep-deprived state. The level of sleep deprivation is commensurate with the amount of sleep loss.

Human performance and flight safety have close ties with fatigue. There is a strong negative correlation between fatigue and sleep deprivation with reaction time. Human performance degradation noted in pilots, aircrew and air traffic controllers with fatigue and sleep disorders. The risk is even higher during night operations. Sleep deprivation has the neurocognitive consequences tantamount to drinking alcohol over the legal limit. Human automation interactions are also reduced with sleep deprivation. Aviation crew performance is directly tied with wakefulness and adequate amount and quality of sleep. Crew Resource Management (CRM) is adversely affected by fatigue and sleep disorders. Flight safety is directly related to fatigue, prolonged response times, error production and communication impairment. Reduction of information processing and an increase in poor-decision making are noted with sleep reduction. Closer assessment of aircrew and aerospace workers for sleep deprivation and underlying sleep disorders is warranted to improve flight safety. We focus on sleep disorders and treatment, medical and psychological management, reducing life stressors, training in sleep and fatigue disorders and ultimately improving the quality and duration of sleep for everyone.