January 23rd, 2013
While the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration requires drivers to get eight hours of consecutive sleep, new research shows that split sleep schedules don’t reduce performance. Drivers have long said that they can operate their trucks safely with split sleep instead of the present eight hours required in one stretch.
How Does Split Sleep Compare to Consolidated Nighttime Sleep?
The study concerning split sleep versus consolidated sleep for truckers was performed at Washington State University. Dr. Greg Belenky, the university’s well-known sleep researcher, found that placing sleep into different time slots didn’t affect performance significantly. The study analyzed consolidated nighttime sleep, consolidated daytime sleep and split sleep. At the end of the study, results showed that when drivers can’t get consolidated nighttime sleep, split sleep is a better alternative than conolidated sleep in the daytime.
The study’s results could have implications for future Hours of Service rules. Many drivers had been hoping that the new rule, scheduled to become effective July 1st, would change sleeper berth regulations back to the way they were before 2005, when drivers could divide their sleep into two as long as both periods were longer than two hours. The FMCSA said that they would analyze the issue again, but it’s too early to tell whether the new study will stimulate the changes many drivers hope for.
Researchers were interested in finding out how split sleep compared to consolidated sleep schedules in terms of drivers’ performance and safety as well as long-term health. The study was performed at the Sleep and Performance Research Center between January, 2010, and May, 2011. 53 study participants were divided into three groups, each assigned one of the three sleep conditions being studied. The participants were observed for nine days, during which they had two days at baseline conditions, five days to simulate an average work week and two days to recover. All participants were given 10 total hours to sleep during each 24-hour period. The consolidated nighttime sleep participants could sleep between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m., the consolidated daytime sleep group could sleep between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. and the split sleep group able to sleep between 3 a.m. and 8 a.m. and then 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Eating, sleeping, performance testing and blood analysis was handled on site. Researchers created a controlled atmosphere by prohibiting the use of e-mail, cell phones, live television, Internet and radio during the study. All participants were healthy, non-obese men between the ages of 22 and 40 to prevent health factors from affecting results.
The researchers said they designed the study to be different from average commercial drivers and their environment. If the study had found differences between split and consolidated sleep, a field study might have followed. So far, the FMCSA says that they are not planning a field study. The lab study found that consolidated nighttime sleep resulted in the longest sleep time, followed by split sleep, then consolidated daytime sleep. In conclusion, researchers said that split sleep is bet