Scientists slap foreheads in amazement.
PON HEARING that the U. S. Transportation Department was about to add an entire hour to the breaks between shifts of air traffic controllers to alleviate sleepiness on the job, sleep researchers around the world have hailed the move as a "groundbreaking" development. One researcher has even said the notion of adding an hour between long job shifts "will require many of us to revise what we thought we knew about sleep."
Scientists who study sleep in humans have long thought that workers who frequently take less than sixteen hours between shifts would not unwind and sleep long enough to maintain alertness. However, Dr. Simon Sturgiss, a veteran in the field of sleep research, now admits, "our long-held assumptions must be reviewed in light of the Transportation department's ingenious addition of one entire hour to the break between shifts, from eight hours to nine. Clearly we had never considered the power of one additional hour of rest the way they have, and our field is in their debt."
Air traffic controllers are also enthusiastic about being given an entire nine hours between long shifts at computer screens that constantly display hundreds of flights holding thousands of lives in the air at any one time.
"We couldn't be happier, or more relieved," said one bleary eyed controller. "Now I know with total certainty that there is no possible way I could doze off with an entire extra hour between shifts. I'm feeling like a hopped-up caffeine addict just thinking about it!"
A spokesman for the Transportation department said the agency "poured several hours of research into the matter," and for awhile was debating "the relative merits of forty-five versus sixty minutes" before it settled on the extra fifteen minutes "because it was the right thing to do for our controllers and the flying public."
Other federal agencies are taking note of the Transportation department's findings, and those hoping to follow suit include Veterans Affairs hospitals, Homeland Security, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Said Dr. Sturgiss, "I, for one, am eager to see the Transportation department's break policies put into action around the U.S., particularly in our emergency rooms and nuclear command centers. Knowing that extra hour is in place should help us all sleep a little easier, unless we have to get back to work."
© 4.20.11 Kate Heidel