The Random Comic Strip

The Random Comic Strip

Words to live by...

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."

[Spanish Proverb]

Ius luxuriae publice datum est

(The right to looseness has been officially given)

"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."

Apparently, the crossword puzzle that disappeared from the blog, came back.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Asleep at the screen

Sleeping is an art form. To me, at least. I can function well enough on just four hours but only if it's once in awhile. When I was younger (much younger), I could get by with just 4 hours every night. Now, maybe one or two nights a week won't kill me. When I was in my teens, I either slept a lot or very, very little. Some nights, not at all. But I am older now and sleep is sometimes the highlight of my day.

Why do I bring this up? Are you joking? We are reading and hearing about air traffic controllers (ATCs) sleeping on the job in various places around the country. All of a sudden, sleep is an important subject. But I noticed some reports not so long ago (a few weeks at most) about how much sleep people need.

No one seems to know what the human body needs. Most who pay attention to the studies, or study the subject, realize we are all different but we fall into groups. Some need more, some need less, than the "recommended" eight hours.

When I slept more than 8 hours, I was sluggish for a longer period after getting up. I have more energy, I am more alert, quicker when I get 6 hours of sleep. That's been a constant for as long as I can remember. I guess I fall into this category:

Eight Is Too Much For 'Short Sleepers'

While in the Navy, I learned to function with very little sleep but also to sleep whenever an opportunity arose. I could sleep on a steel deck with a life jacket as a pillow. Five or ten minutes would refresh me. While on "gunline" in the Tonkin Gulf, we operated on "port and starboard" watch schedules. That meant six hour watches with six hour breaks between. During the break time, we ate, cleaned up our quarters, did some light work, socialized, and slept. Generally, you got three to five hours sleep a day. We performed equipment maintenance and routines during our watches. After 6 days of this, you would head off for a re-supply (mostly taking on ammunition and fuel but some food stores) but you'd stay on the "port and starboard" for the two days that often took. By the time you got off the gunline, you really needed a good stretch of sleep.

After I got out and went to work for the phone company, I pretty quickly got into shift work. At Southern Bell, we bid shifts every three months. Having no seniority, I got bumped onto the Night shift (midnight to 8 AM) pretty quickly. I spent most of that year on Nights, maybe 7 months. Over my 34 years with the Bell System, I was probably on Nights for 20 of them. I liked it.

I was angry, at first, about the ATCs being caught sleeping. Then I learned they generally had shift changes twice a week. Two days on Day shift, two days on Evening shift, and one day on Night shift. This mean "turn-arounds" where you go off duty, try to get some food and rest in and then come back to a different shift. I suspect the schedule works like this two Evening shifts (2 PM to 10 PM), two Day shifts (6 AM to 2 PM), followed by one Night shift (10 PM to 6 AM). Or it may be two weeks of each followed by one week on the Night shift. Changing shifts often is disruptive to your sleep cycles and you end up feeling exhausted all the time. Not a good thing for an air traffic controller.

I read some magazine article back in the 70's about shift work and how it is much better to stay on a shift for a few months than to change even weekly. It also recommended staying in a sleep pattern regardless of whether you are working or not. For example, even though I had most weekends off, it would have been healthier and safer for me to sleep days and be awake nights even on my days off. In a perfect world, yes, but that kept you out of synch with the real world.

So, don't be too hard on those ATCs. Be hard on the FAA for not enforcing sensible shift changes.


T.C. said...

I did shift work too when I worked on the phone as a mutual fund specialist for the bank around 1999. My favorite was 3-11pm. The 7am shift meant I had to get up at 5am every two weeks. It wasn't bad but I agree it's better to do a shift for longer periods than the two week cycle we were on.

Before that, I did the Midnight to 8am shift stocking shelves at Toys 'R' Us. We were a team of four guys...four boyhood buddies. In the immortal words of my friend in response to the manager who was freaking out at our madness: What did you expect putting four best friends together in a toy store?

Let's just say Toys 'R' Us at that branch never recovered.

Douglas4517 said...

I didn't work with boyhood friends in a toy store but I did work with some
folks who had warped sense of humors. You get a bit silly around 4 AM. You
also lay out practical jokes out for the day shift.