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Pinnacle Keynote Speaker Discusses the Effects of Sleep Deprivation & Fatigue

The 2014 Pinnacle conference began Tuesday night at the Westin Kierland Resort in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Following a warm welcome to attendees by Program Chair Jay Fitch, former Navy commander Scott Shappell, PhD, from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University delivered a keynote address on decision making and the effects of sleep deprivation.

Shappell’s powerful talk covered fatigue, alternating shiftwork, nightshifts and jet lag, and how these result in slow reaction times, poor memory and errors in computation.

Shappell discussed how our sleep cycles are closely tied to our circadian body temperature, and he described the “circadian desynchronization” countermeasures of eating well and avoiding sunlight during the day for those who work at night. He said responders need to get 8 hours of good sleep to be at peak efficiency and able to make good decisions.

The four sleep stages were a key component of Shappell’s speech. He said most make it to the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) phase (dream sleep, where we consolidate our memories), but that stages three and four (a.k.a. “drool sleep”) are most important. He pointed out the importance of receiving maximum stage 3 and 4 sleep, and how an obnoxious alarm clock can interrupt those important phases. Instead, Shapell recommended a smartphone app called “Sleep Cycle” that helps train users to wake up during the lighter, less important stages of sleep.

Shappell shared a few tips to help attain stage 3 and 4 sleep:

  1. Maintain a routine of going to sleep;
  2. Exercise regularly;
  3. Take warm baths; and
  4. Eat something that contains tryptophan, such as turkey.
     

Shappell also discussed the benefits of strategic napping. Short, 15-minute naps can be very valuable. Strategic napping can be used at almost any time of the day to help you feel refreshed and relaxed. He shared military data that exhibited how performance can be improved with just one 30-minute nap per day.