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Napping has been associated with a list of benefits including reduced feelings of sleepiness while improving concentration, the ability to process information and follow instructions, and regulating emotions when experiencing sleep debt. Additionally, after a successful recovery nap, the negative feelings of wakefulness may be restored. Other research confirms napping restores alertness, improves performance, memory, learning, and self-control for individuals who are sleep-deprived (Faraut et al., 2011, 2017, Halson, 2014, Mantua & Spencer, 2017).

Conversely, there appears to be an association with habitual napping, also known as essential napping, and negative health outcomes including depression, increased risk of obesity, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cognitive decline (Cheng et al., 2015, Faraut et al, 2017, Mantua & Spencer, 2017). Interestingly, distinctions are not always made on the type of nap an individual may take concerning the negative associations. Thus, indicating recovery naps may be more advantageous than appetitive naps. Additionally, the abovementioned associated poor health outcomes may be relative to excess wakefulness rather than excess sleep (Mantua & Spencer, 2017).

Fly in Fly Out (FIFO) workers, and in particular, FIFO shift workers experience a higher incidence of disrupted sleeping patterns that may lead to poor outcomes in mental health and wellbeing (Joyce et al., 2012).  A major contributor to sleep loss is work commitments, predominantly shift work. It is estimated shift workers sleep an hour less than individuals who work day shift (Faraut et al., 2016). Most FIFO shifts are long, consisting of 12 hours across extended days. This longer time spent working can lead to sleep restriction accumulating, resulting in an increased sleep debt (Paech et al., 2010). The end of night shift appears to be the most critical time in terms of performance amongst mining workers, demonstrating sleep is a crucial consideration for performance and safety (Ferguson et al., 2011).  Evidence suggests short, planned shift naps, known as recovery naps, of 10 – 30 minutes may reduce the effects of sleepiness and improve cognitive function, alertness, and performance (Faraut et al., 2017, Ruggiero & Redeker, 2014).

Other considerations to the effects of long-term napping in FIFO workers are individual lifestyle choices. Joyce et al. (2012) reports a higher incidence of FIFO workers are smokers, consume higher levels of alcohol, and a greater portion of the workforce is classified as overweight or obese compared to other industries. Physical activity, sedentary work versus physical labour, sleep apnoea, pre-existing health conditions, and medication use may also be contributing factors in an individual’s napping behaviour (Mantua & Spencer, 2017). These factors may need to be considered when determining the long-term consequences of napping.

The FIFO working environment is a unique industry with shift work adding additional sleep implications that may contribute to a FIFO shift worker experiencing accumulative sleep debt. To counteract the effects of sleep debt and improve cognitive function, alertness, safety, and performance, well-timed recovery naps during long shift breaks may be beneficial to individuals working shift work in FIFO settings. Moreover, to adequately determine the long-term consequences of regular napping in FIFO shift workers, it is important to consider the physical status of an individual, along with their lifestyle habits, pre-existing medical conditions, sleep patterns, and the type of work performed.

Tips to nap WELL

Keep naps short: Aim for 10 – 20 minutes to avoid sleep inertia, that groggy feeling experienced when waking from a long sleep during waking hours.

Try a Nap-a-latte: Research suggests enjoying a cup of coffee right before you take a 20-minute nap. The caffeine effects peak 20 minutes after consumption so when it is time to wake up, you feel restored and recharged.

Nap earlier in your shift: Avoid napping later in your shift as this may disrupt your ability to sleep at the end of your shift.

Tips to sleep WELL

The Mental Health Foundation has a simple and effective acronym, HEAL, to help those who experience difficulties in getting quality sleep:

Health: Take good care of your physical and mental health. Being physically active aids in achieving quality sleep. Conversely, anxiety and depression can be major contributors to poor quality sleep. If you are having trouble sleeping that may be related to mental health issues, it is important to discuss this with your doctor.

Environment: Camp environment can be a challenging place to get a good night’s sleep, there are a range of factors from noisy neighbours, movement at all different times of the day and night, different bedding and room set up, and sounds in the village that all contribute to the quality of sleep FIFO workers face. Some of these are uncontrollable; however, what you can control is the environment of your room. Create a bedtime routine to help relax and settle before sleep. The temperature of your room is important, each person is different; however, research suggests a guide of 19 degrees Celsius.

Attitude: Getting yourself into a calm and relaxed state is essential for quality sleep. Stressors from the day, worry, or events that loop through your mind can rob you from experiencing quality sleep. Having a warm shower before bed and learning to let go through meditation and mindfulness practices can help to unwind and relax.

Lifestyle: What you eat, drink, and do all play a vital role in the quality of your sleep. Being active and eating a diet rich in raw, fresh fruit and vegetables contribute to quality sleep and good health. Avoid caffeine, sugary foods, phones, and computer screens as they stimulate you, and alcohol because interferes with your circadian rhythm, these are your natural sleep cycles.

Where to from here?

Rebecca delivers a range of workplace wellness programs, leadership coaching, and self-care workshops, to help your people become leaders in life.

Rebecca Hannan is known as The Momentum Maker, your workplace wellness expert. Specialising in Mining and Construction, Rebecca helps FIFO workers and their families to stay connected, work safely, and manage stress. Rebecca has decades of experience as a FIFO wife, raising three children mostly on her own, she understands intimately the difficulties families face when FIFO relationships break down. Additionally, she has been a FIFO worker at many remote sites in Western Australia.

Rebecca’s lived experience, combined with tertiary studies in psychology equip her with the tools to help people in mining and construction live WELL, Work WELL, and Be WELL.

Rebeca’s passion and enthusiasm for living and working well are infectious. Her mission is to educate, inspire, and empower you to take back control of your life so you can live and lead a life of wellness.

She is the author of The 30 Day Momentum Maker Challenge workbook. A book crafted with love to help you get out of your funk and into your flow.

Wife, mother, entrepreneur, runner, yoga lover, salad queen, chaos buster………The Momentum Maker