Numerous long-term stressors can negatively impact seafarers’ well-being, and the rigorous nature of their work does not usually embrace the necessity for getting enough sleep. However, it’s critical that crew members consistently make an effort to get enough sleep.
Contrary to our quiet physical state, the brain is very active during sleep, carrying out many important functions. Sleep is essential to every process in the body and for maintaining our baseline mental health. Lack of sleep for one night can have a significant impact on mood the following day. Poor sleep hygiene over an extended period of time has been linked to depression, anxiety, and other illnesses. Additionally, just like exercise and a healthy diet, getting enough sleep may help prevent a number of illnesses, including as depression and heart disease.
In today’s fast-paced world, our need for a good night’s sleep is more important–and elusive–than ever. In a New York Times bestseller book, co-founder and editor in chief of The Huffington Post Arianna Huffington has highlighted how our cultural dismissal of sleep as time wasted compromises our health and our decision-making and undermines both our work lives and our personal lives.
When it comes to people onboard, it is worth mentioning that seafarers work and live under a challenging environment with regards to their safety and health. Long voyage sailing, irregular working hours and navigation in harsh weather conditions are some of the difficulties of working on board of large vessels. Other challenges of working at sea include the inability to leave the workplace, living and working in the same environment, and restricted contact with family members for a long time. Therefore, seafaring has a legitimate risk to one’s mental health, and irregular working hours can interfere with sleep, may cause fatigue, and eventually result in some psychological issues. Fatigue can be described as a drowsy state of deprived sleep and extreme tiredness. Fatigued seafarers may have diminished cognitive function and lose interest in their profession, putting themselves, their coworkers, the ship they are running, and the larger marine environment in peril.
Hours of work and rest are important, but tiredness and fatigue management go beyond just recording hours. Although the risks cannot always be removed, the good news is that tiredness and fatigue can be managed. In that regard, it is important for ship operators focus on ways to manage fatigue, i.e. through ship design, crewing levels, workload, food provision, exercise facilities, sleeping arrangements and training the crew about dangers and mitigation. Furthermore, each crew member should be responsible for managing his/her time as best as possible, adjust watches when necessary, get support if needed, keep accurate accounts of work and rest and notify the DPA if required.
According to a recent study, the majority of sailors thought that their physical work environment and concerns presented by their families had an impact on the quality of their sleep. They cited the nature of the profession and the psychosocial work environment as contributing factors to stress at sea. The majority of participants noted that a lack of social interactions had an undesirable impact on both their personal and professional lives at home and on board.
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