Expert: Naps can fix for sleepy controllers problem


Making deadline deliveries can be grueling. Chris Campbell spends six hours a day behind the wheel.

"If I felt tired though, I'd probably just call my supervisor and tell her I'm tired, and I'd just try to get 20 minutes of sleep," he said.

That's a luxury sleep experts feel should be a necessity. Dr. Alon Avidan says we'd hear less about air traffic controllers falling asleep on the job if they were only allowed to take nap breaks.

"The only way to counteract sleepiness is to get sleep," he said.

The director of UCLA's sleep disorders program says short naps would improve productivity and decision making.

This week, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says the FAA is going to crack down on controllers sleeping on the job, but Avidan says the only way to do that is to actually promote more sleep. It's a program he's starting with his own residents.

Working nights goes against the body's natural sleep cycle. But day workers have similar issues.

"Even if you work from 9 to 5, all of us around 3 to 4 p.m., we have a dip in our alertness curve, and most of us go and have a cup of coffee," Avidan said.

If you're fortunate enough to be able to take a nap at work, Avidan says you have to be careful about how long of a nap you take.

"Fifteen minutes is usually recommended, 15 or 20 minutes, because it's just enough to get rid of the sleep deprivation without making us too groggy," he said.

Catnapping is part of the work culture in other countries. Campbell believes it's something Americans should be doing, too.

"I'm quite sure that would be better and more productive than getting into an accident and totaling your truck or van," he said.

Copyright © 2022 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.