Managing Sleep Deprived Workers


Sleep deprivation is pervasive in modern society. Many occupations require people to work effectively for long hours, often performing monotonous tasks. As a result individuals demonstrate poorer performance which not only affects individuals' physical and mental wellbeing but also puts productivity and safety at risk which can result in significant costs. Sleep deprivation among workers, whether chronic or acute, whether from disorders, lifestyle or shift works, poses severe issues for engineering managers. Micro sleeps, sleep attacks, and lapses in cognition can be common for individuals suffering from sleep loss. These human behaviors can lead to increased risk of human error, accidents, and performance losses. Research has shown that sleep related fatigue influences a wide range of human abilities such as vigilance, communication, information integration, and reasoning abilities that can impair safety in operational settings were workers are often involved with critical decision making and problem solving skills. This paper summarizes biological factors associated with sleep and sleep loss (i.e. common performance decrements, sleep cycles, circadian rhythms, and sleep apnea). It describes how managerial decision such as scheduling policies, task design, and working conditions can be used to minimize fatigue and sleepiness in workplace. In addition a variety of countermeasure strategies including caffeine, healthy diet, bright light, exercise, and good sleep habits are discussed as potential measures to maintain workers' alertness and performance. A preliminary survey of individual's perception of these countermeasures is also presented. This information can help engineering managers improve worker performance and reduce job dissatisfaction caused by sleep deprivation and improve organizational productivity, performance, and safety.

Meeting Name

International Annual Conference of the American Society for Engineering Management (2013: Oct. 3-5; Minneapolis, MN)


Engineering Management and Systems Engineering

Second Department

Psychological Science


Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Missouri University of Science and Technology
St. Cloud State University
University of Arkansas

Keywords and Phrases

Human resource management; Management; Managers; Occupational risks; Productivity; Safety engineering; Alertness; Fatigue countermeasures; Sleep deprivation; Sleepiness; Work performance; Work schedules; Sleep research

International Standard Book Number (ISBN)


Document Type

Article - Conference proceedings

Document Version


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© 2013 American Society for Engineering Management, All rights reserved.

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