Sunday, June 29, 2008

Pilots sleep - plane misses destination

I almost thought this was a joke -- but two pilots in India fell asleep while flying a commercial plane with 100 passengers and overshot their destination by several hundred miles. They were allegedly exhausted by their work schedule.

Here's the link:

MUMBAI: An Air India Jaipur-Mumbai flight flew well past its destination with both its pilots fatigued and fast asleep in the cockpit. When the pilots were finally woken up by anxious Mumbai air traffic controllers, the plane was about half way to Goa. ( Watch )

This nap in the sky took place about a fortnight ago on the domestic leg of a Dubai-Jaipur-Mumbai flight — IC 612 — which had about 100 passengers on board. "The plane took off from Dubai at 1.35am IST and then from Jaipur at 7am. After operating an overnight flight, fatigue levels peak, and so the pilots dozed off after taking off from Jaipur," said a source.

The flight schedules of pilots prior to this flight is not known.

The aircraft was supposed to take the A 474 South route — a designated route to Mumbai — and since it was on autopilot, it headed in that direction. "It was only after the aircraft reached Mumbai airspace that air traffic controllers realized it was not responding to any instructions and was carrying on on its own course," said the source.

Said an air traffic controller: "The aircraft should have begun its descent about 100 miles from Mumbai, but here it was still at cruising altitude. We checked for hijack and when there was no response we made a SELCAL (selective calling)."

Every aircraft has its own exclusive code. When the ATC uses this high frequency communication system — which it does very rarely and only when other communication draws a blank — a buzzer sounds in the cockpit. Jolted by the sound of the SELCAL buzzer, the pilots woke up and brought the plane back to Mumbai safely.

Kanu Gohain, directorate general of civil aviation, was not available for comment. Contacted for its version on Wednesday evening, Jitendra Bhargava, director, public relations of Air India, said, "The director, operations, is getting information on the matter."

'Aircraft had communications failure'

General manager, Mumbai aerodrome, M G Junghare, denied that the pilots were asleep behind the control column. "The aircraft had a radio communications failure and so could not be contacted. It had gone only 10 or 15 miles off Mumbai and after we ascertained that it was not hijacked we made the SELCAL," he said.

Commanders, however, pooh-poohed this claim and said the lapse was being hushed up. "There is a strict procedure which is followed during a radio communications failure whereby the aircraft should have descended to a holding point. Instead, it flew over Mumbai. Also, every flight has an Expected Time of Arrival (ETA), so why did it not begin its descent even after crossing its ETA?" argued a check pilot.

For the last one month, airlines have been following an old set of pilot rest rules that has no scientific backing. This happened after DGCA issued a circular in May asking airlines to the old and outdated Flight Duty Time Limitation that essentially lengthened flight duty hours. DGCA withdrew the new timing schedule introduced in July last year and which was based on scientific studies by Nasa. The pilots protested this. A Joint Action Committee of Airlines Pilots' Association has recently moved the Bombay HC to quash the DGCA circular stating that shorter breaks between long-haul flights and even ultra-long haul flights could compromise safety.

"If you get home past midnight and then by noon the next day you are in a car back to the airport, and if this happens every other day and you do not even know your weekly off in advance, the buildup of exhaustion is huge," said a commander. The latest incident, an index of fatigue in the skies, could strengthen the pilots' case. "Had the aircraft flown over Hyderabad they would not have been able to contact the pilots since SELCAL is available only at old airports like Mumbai and Chennai since it is an obsolete technology and not used in newer airports. Moreover, a SELCAL cannot be made in certain weather conditions," the commander said.

A similar incident in the US in February suggests that pilots don't have it easy there either. The difference is that the US authorities were not only open about it, but initiated corrective measures. Two 'go!' airline pilots fell asleep while flying from Honolulu to Hilo, cruising past their destination for 18 minutes before waking up and returning safely. The two pilots had been flying for three arduous days. Following the incident, the US's National Transportation Safety Board highlighted the need for new rules. It recommended working hour limits for flight crews, aviation mechanics, and air traffic controllers based on fatigue research.

"5 ways to get (and stay!) asleep tonight"

Here's an article from Yahoo/Shine urging people to "create a bedroom that seduces you into sleep". How? "Keeping your room cool and dark, choosing pillows and bedding that are comfortable and you enjoy settling in to and adding black-out curtains behind your window treatments will help set the stage."

Here's the link:

Here's the article:

5 ways to get (and stay!) asleep tonight

We've all been there in the heart-pounding moments at 3 a.m., when we desperately want to be asleep but somehow cannot get there, when we are racking our brains for what is in our medicine cabinet that might help us along or what soothing things mothers and grandmothers did to help lull us back into sweet dreams. While our sleep can be easily interrupted by a wide variety of factors, the stress that comes in getting and staying asleep doesn't make any night more restful. Before you pop a pill or crank up the late late late show or melt down in a fit of insomnia, consider these five things that might just be the sheep you should be counting:

1. Identify the insomnia issue. Americans average seven hours of sleep a night and 60% of us report difficulty sleeping at least several nights a week. The bigger problem is, many people leave it at that, never examining why they are awake long before the alarm clock goes off or everyone else is sound asleep.

Where do I begin?
The first thing you need to do to cure your sleep struggles is determining if you have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or both. If you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep all night, you're experiencing insomnia. If you can fall asleep with ease but wake up in the middle of the night regularly, you may have the more-specific issue of "sleep maintenance insomnia". Most of us have short-term sleep issues like these at some point, but a solid 10-15% of people suffer from chronic insomnia.

Insomnia often occurs during periods of stress and may be impacted by depression, sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome. Rather than focusing on the irritation of being sleep-deprived, try to take a look at both the patterns of insomnia and things going on in your waking life that could be preventing your rest.

2. Take note. Consider keeping an informal sleep journal next to your bed. There's no need to make a journal another stresser but logging some simple information - the date, the time you woke up, how long you stayed awake before you felt sleepy again, your stress level on a one to ten scale - might offer you some helpful information in addressing the insomnia yourself or with a doctor. Although you might know, for example, that you have a high-stress job, it might take a little journaling to connect midnight wakings with Thursday staff meetings or an upcoming deadline.

How will this help? Taking note of how often you have sleep problems and exactly when may also strip away any of those tendencies to say "I NEVER sleep" or "I'm an AWFUL sleeper." Instead, you'll have some more concrete information that will move you from "I often am awake from 3 a.m. to 5 a.m." or "When bills are due, it takes me longer to fall asleep." This kind of real understanding will lead you to a solution much easier than sitting (or laying or pacing) in your frustration).

3. Use your daytime activity to support your nighttime rest. It probably isn't a surprise that even small amounts of exercise will help you rest easier at night. Adding in a walk after lunch or some yoga at your desk will pay off when it is time to turn in.

What about food? Avoid drinking and eating things that will affect your ability to relax or stay in bed. If spicy food gives you heartburn, try not to eat it at a late dinner. If drinking all your water for the day sends you to the bathroom four times before dawn, make a commitment to do most of your hydrating before lunch. Caffeine, sugar and alcohol are also common thieves of sleep, so be aware of when you are consuming them, in what quantities and how the impact your personal sleep patterns. If you must eat close to bedtime, choose a small amount of carbs paired with a protein (oatmeal with skim milk, yogurt with granola, whole grain crackers with soy butter, sliced apple with cheese are all healthy choices to late night snacking).

4. Really prepare for bed.
As a mother, I don't know a single parent who doesn't have a well-established bedtime routine for their children. As a mother, I also find myself falling into bed with barely any transition time or closure on the day. At what point do we forget why the songs-stories-snuggles end of the day is so critical to the beginning of our night?

There's no need to ask your husband to read you Goodnight Moon and rub your back while singing Frere Jacques (but if that works, hey, why not?). Do weave some soothing rituals into the half-hour before you want to fall asleep by reading a few pages, stretching, meditating, listening to calm music or just breathing deeply. Releasing the day in these ways will help you let go of those nagging to-do lists and anxieties and prompt your brain and body that it is time to relax.

What are some other routines I can do?
Setting a cell phone or watch alarm may cue you to keep a regular bedtime. Lavender essential oils or pillow sprays may soothe you as you settle in and counteract the chaos of the day. Finally, turn off the television, laptop and any other gadgets that make you unnecessarily accessible to life and work outside your bedroom. Finally, there's one thing from your childhood that may still work like a charm when you are having trouble sleeping. Warm milk may really help you drift off because it contains tryptophan, an amino acid that converts melatonin and seratonin and could induce sleepiness.

5. Create a bedroom that seduces you into sleep. Do you notice on cable home make-over shows how often couples ask for a renovation that will make their bedroom into a haven? Our frenetic schedules, cluttered homes and tight spaces may mean we stack up so much in our bedrooms that there's no way to escape, even to sleep! Taking a weekend to clear all that out will help you make a healthy sleep environment and may have an immediate impact on how restful you feel in that space.

Many experts say that your bedroom should be a place reserved only for sleeping and sexual intimacy (see? once again, it comes back to the snuggling). Keep this in mind as you are moving your desk, filing cabinets, sewing machines, mountainous laundry piles and kids' toys out of your room and into places where no one needs to sleep.

How can I dial down the action and dial up the allure? Keeping your room cool and dark, choosing pillows and bedding that are comfortable and you enjoy settling in to and adding black-out curtains behind your window treatments will help set the stage. Remove the television. If this pains you or your partner, consider moving it out for a month to see if it helps. If it must stay, keep it in a cabinet or armoire that closes or cover it with a scarf so you have one more marker for turning off when you turn in.

If the stress of your days still seeps in, keep a worry book by your bed where you can write down what (literally) could keep you awake that night. Or if the to-dos are what's nagging at you all night, keep a stack of sticky notes and pen next to the bed so you can transcribe them right away, knowing you can pick them up in the morning.

Still wide awake? No! These posts won't put you to sleep but they might help you out if you need some ZZZZs:

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Sleep: A Necessity, Not a Luxury

An interesting excerpt from the article below:

"Before Thomas Edison invented the light bulb in 1880, people slept an average of 10 hours a night. These days, Americans average 6.9 hours of sleep on weeknights and 7.5 hours a night on weekends, according to the National Sleep Foundation."


Here's the link:

And the article:

Sleep: A Necessity, Not a Luxury

By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter
Sunday, June 8, 2008; 12:00 AM

Copyright © 2008 ScoutNews LLC. All rights reserved.

SUNDAY, June 8 (HealthDay News) -- The pace of life gets faster and faster, and people try to cram more and more into every minute of the day.

As things get more hectic, sleep tends to get short shrift. It's seen as wasted time, lost forever.

"For healthy people, there's a big temptation to voluntarily restrict sleep, to stay up an hour or two or get up an hour or two earlier," said Dr. Greg Belenky, director of the Sleep and Performance Research Center at Washington State University Spokane.
"But you're really reducing your productivity and exposing yourself to risk," Belenky added.

That's a message doctors are trying to spread to Americans, including the estimated 40 million people who struggle with some type of sleep disorder each year.

Before Thomas Edison invented the light bulb in 1880, people slept an average of 10 hours a night. These days, Americans average 6.9 hours of sleep on weeknights and 7.5 hours a night on weekends, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

"The group of people getting optimal sleep is getting smaller and smaller," said Dr. Chris Drake, senior scientist at the Henry Ford Hospital Sleep Disorders and Research Center in Detroit. "When a person's sleep drops to six hours or less, that's when a lot of things become very problematic."

While experts recommend seven to eight hours of sleep each night, the amount needed for an individual can vary.

But lack of sleep affects a person in one of two ways, Belenky said. First, sleeplessness influences the day-to-day performance of tasks.

"The performance effects are seen immediately," he said. "You short-change yourself of sleep, and you see the effects immediately. You can make a bad decision. You can miss something. Have a moment's inattention, and you're off the road."

The longer-term effects of sleep deprivation involve a person's health. Doctors have linked lack of sleep to weight gain, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart problems, depression and substance abuse.

"Hormones that process appetite begin to get disorganized," said Drake, who's also an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience at the Wayne State University School of Medicine. There's a decrease in the amount of leptin, an appetite-suppressing hormone, when a person gets too little sleep. At the same time, ghrelin -- a hormone that stimulates appetite -- increases with a lack of sleep.

Too little sleep also interferes with the body's ability to regulate glucose and can cause inflammation leading to heart problems and a rise in blood pressure. "There's a stress response to being in a sleep loss," Belenky said.

The types of people not getting enough sleep also break down into two groups. First, there are those who make the conscious choice to go without enough sleep.

"It's sort of part of the culture," Belenky said. "People pride themselves on getting little sleep. You'll hear people bragging, 'I only need six hours a night.' So there's a macho element here."

On the other hand, there are people who are suffering from sleep disorders. These disorders include:

* Insomnia, an inability to go to sleep or stay asleep.
* Sleep apnea, or breathing interruptions during sleep that cause people to wake up repeatedly.
* Restless legs syndrome, a tingling or prickly sensation in the legs that causes a person to need to move them, interrupting sleep.

Someone suffering from any of these problems should visit their doctor or see a sleep specialist, Belenky said.

Sleep apnea, the most prevalent sleep disorder, can have particularly serious long-term effects if left untreated. "You're waking up out of sleep to breathe. You can't sleep and breathe at the same time," Drake said. "It's a risk factor for developing major cardiovascular health effects."

Some people who have trouble sleeping will resort to mild sedatives like Ambien and Lunesta.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently asked the makers of these sedative-hypnotic drugs to strengthen their warning labels. This action followed reports of dangerous allergic reactions, as well as a host of bizarre behavioral side effects that include sleep-driving, making phone calls, and preparing and eating food or having sex while asleep.

Drake and Belenky both consider sleeping pills to be fine for the short term if taken properly.

"Sleeping pills are a temporary solution," Belenky said. "If you're upset about something or have situational insomnia, or you're trying to sleep at the wrong time of day because you've traveled across time zones, they are effective."

But, both doctors noted the pills will do nothing to help a chronic sleep problem. "They don't address the pathology of their sleeplessness," Drake said.

The U.S. National Institutes of Health offers these tips for getting a good night's sleep:

* Stick to a regular sleep schedule.
* Avoid exercising closer than five or six hours before bedtime.
* Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol before bed.
* Avoid large meals and beverages late at night.
* Don't take naps after 3 p.m.
* Relax before bed, taking time to unwind with a hot bath, a good book or soothing music.
* If you're still awake after more than 20 minutes in bed, get up and do something relaxing until you feel sleepy. Anxiety over not being able to sleep can make it harder to fall asleep.

More information

To learn more, visit the National Sleep Foundation.