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WSU Spokane grad helps Navy identify better watch schedules | News

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WSU Spokane grad helps Navy identify better watch schedules
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WSU Spokane grad helps Navy identify better watch schedules

A WSU Spokane grad is doing research aboard a U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer in the Arabian Sea to help figure out better sailor watch schedules.

According to WSU News, Lauren Waggoner boarded the USS Jason Dunham in December to study the effects of different watch-standing schedules on the sleep and performance of sailors. She is analyzing the data collected.

Her goal is to find ways to keep sailors healthy and safe in a demanding 24-hour-a-day work environment where they are required to stand watches in addition to fulfilling their normal work responsibilities.

"Often times, on bigger vessels—and even the mid-size destroyer we were on—sailors don’t get adequate sleep. They also don’t get outside much, so they don’t get much exposure to environmental factors that would help them regulate their sleep and wake cycles,” Waggoner said. "Based on earlier research, we can assume that, in combination with other factors, this can lead to performance deficits.”

Waggoner has collected data for three weeks on the sleep and performance of 122 sailors working a variety of watch schedules.

"The new schedules allow the sailors to structure their work and rest in a way that is consistent each day,” Waggoner said. "It makes their sleep and wake more predictable, and the same should be true for their performance. Once we’ve analyzed the data, we’ll know whether we can confirm this.”

According to WSU, Waggoner’s interest in shift work and sleep was first piqued when she worked as a graduate research assistant in the WSU Sleep and Performance Research Center. Waggoner said the lab experiences at WSU have made her a better researcher in the field.

"In my dissertation research, I learned to apply techniques that are normally used in the lab in a controlled manner in the field,” she said. "My education at WSU really prepared me for going into these messy environments that require you to do a little flying-by-the-seat-of-your pants - but do it in a way that ensures that the outcome measurements are going to be controlled enough to compare and use.”

Waggoner wants to continue working with shift workers to help them better schedule their time to balance sleep, work and other daily activities. She is specifically interested in refining existing mathematical models that can predict levels of fatigue and performance, making it possible to prevent fatigue-related errors and accidents.

"It was very eye-opening,” Waggoner said. "Once the ship leaves port, it’s like a microcosm out there—working 24 hours a day with the same people living on top of each other. They are making a lot of sacrifices, and the work out there is very difficult.”

WSU News and Judith Van Dongen provided the information and quotes for this report.

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