SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --
Sometimes the long hours and stress of the job can cause Airmen to have irregular sleep patterns.
The 21st Aerospace Medicine Squadron instructed a “Sleep Smarts” class in an effort to provide Schriever Airmen information on ways to improve sleeping habits Jan. 16.
During the last class, Airmen discussed topics such as sleep hygiene, sleep cycles and tips to a healthier schedule.
“The purpose of this class is to enhance daily performance for Airmen,” said Senior Airman Benjamin Clark, 21st AMDS aerospace and operational physiological technician. “Many Airmen take care of aircraft and make sure they are in good condition. Our focus is on Airmen and making sure they have the tools to get the most out of their performance. We try to reduce sleep related mishaps. When someone gets fatigued, there is a higher risk of making mistakes on duty.”
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, approximately 50 to 70 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders affecting their health and productivity.
Studies show sleep deprivation may be associated with injuries, chronic diseases, mental illnesses, poor quality of life and well-being, increased health care costs and lost work productivity.
Clark also discussed the correlation between sleep deprivation and blood alcohol content.
“Not getting enough sleep degrades your reaction time in a similar way to being drunk,” he said. “Thirteen hours without sleep is equal to a blood alcohol concentration of 0.05. Depending on your body type, that’s equivalent to having a drink or two. Twenty-four hours without sleep is equivalent to a blood alcohol concentration of 0.1, which is legally drunk in almost every state.”
For shift workers, Clark recommended ways to help them stick to a healthy sleeping routine.
“They should focus on sleep hygiene to make sure their sleep environment is free from distractions,” he said. “I would say they need to make sure they sleep in a dark room, avoid artificial light before bedtime and stick to a normal sleep schedule."
Tech. Sgt. Michael Kennedy, First Term Airman Center lead and 50th Security Forces Squadron member, can relate to the issue of managing shift work while maintaining a healthy sleep schedule.
“In security forces, we have our own courses covering sleep hygiene and why it’s so important to be aware of the facts,” he said. “This is important since we work long shifts at times. I enjoyed being there and having the opportunity to ask a medical personnel questions. Something I learned about are sleep tracker apps you can get on your devices. For me, I have sleep apnea, so it’s beneficial for me to know what my sleep cycle looks like. From there I can only continue to improve my sleep schedule.”
Airmen in attendance also expressed how beneficial it was to be a part of the discussion.
“I thought the class was interesting and the graphics and statistics he provided were very informative,” said Airman 1st Class Michelle Hudson, 50th Force Support Squadron Military Personnel Section reenlistment and extensions technician. “Sometimes, I have sleep issues and when that happens again, I have all the pointers to fall back on. My favorite part about the class was the interaction and learning more about how the brain works.”
Kennedy adds he hopes to see more Airmen attend this class in the future.
“I would recommend this class to everyone,” he said. “The body is like a machine and we need to know the risks of sleep deprivation and how to take care of ourselves to be more successful every day.”
The next class is scheduled 8 a.m. – 12 p.m. June 28.
For more information about the Sleep Smarts class, call the 21st AMDS at 556-4185. To sign up, call FTAC at 567-5927.