Aircrew Actual vs. Prescriptive Sleep Schedules and Resulting Fatigue Estimates.Aerosp Med Hum Perform. 2021 Oct 01; 92(10):806-814.AM
BACKGROUND: Fatigue is an insidious and costly occurrence in the aviation community, commonly a consequence of insufficient sleep. Some organizations use scheduling tools to generate prescriptive sleep schedules to help aircrew manage their fatigue. It is important to examine whether aircrew follow these prescriptive schedules, especially in very dynamic environments. The current study compares aircrew sleep during missions to prescriptive sleep schedules generated by a mission scheduling tool. METHODS: Participating in the study were 44 volunteers (Mage= 28.23, SDage= 4.23; Proportionmale= 77.27%) from a C-17 mobility squadron providing 25 instances of sleep and mission data (80 flights total). Aircrew wore actigraph watches to measure sleep during missions and prescriptive sleep schedules were collected. Actual and prescriptive sleep was compared with calculated performance effectiveness values per minute across mission flights. RESULTS: Prescriptive schedules generally overestimated effectiveness during missions relative to estimated actual sleep, potentially causing shifts in effectiveness to ranges of increased risk requiring elevated fatigue mitigation efforts. Actual and prescriptive effectiveness estimates tended to increasingly diverge over the course of missions, which magnifies differences on longer missions. DISCUSSION: The current study suggests that aircrew sleep during missions often does not align with prescriptive sleep schedules generated by mission planning software, resulting in effectiveness estimates that are generally lower than predicted. This might discourage aircrew from using mission effectiveness graphs as a fatigue mitigation tool. Additionally, because fatigue estimates factor into overall operational risk management processes, these schedules might underestimate risks to safety, performance, and health. Morris MB, Veksler BZ, Krusmark MA, Gaines AR, Jantscher HL, Gunzelmann G. Aircrew actual vs. prescriptive sleep schedules and resulting fatigue estimates. Aerosp Med Hum Perform. 2021; 92(10):806814.