Do you want to reduce the amount of sick leave taken by workers, develop a safer work environment, and improve productivity? Then, think about sleep.

In order to maximize productivity and get the most out of capital costs, many mines are 24 hour a day operations. The problem is that although equipment can operate any time of the day, workers can't. Despite what mine managers want to believe and some workers like to brag about, people are daytime creatures and they do not operate as well at night. Mine management that recognizes sleep induced problems can improve productivity, reduce sick leave, and improve safety.

Unfortunately, the human is a daytime creature, who naturally becomes less efficient when forced to work at night. Our bodies are designed to function in tune with the circadian cycle, the 24 hour pattern of day and night. Our bodies want to be awake during the day and they want to sleep at night. When we try to change that cycle the body undergoes many physiological changes that affects everything from attentiveness to a less effective immune system.

Workers who aren't getting enough sleep are a triple threat to your operation. They are less attentive and productive on the job because their body and minds aren't working at 100%. Since their immune system is compromised, they are more likely to get sick and infect other workers with colds and the flu. And, they are an accident waiting to happen.

We can't change nature, but we can make some changes that help the body operate more effectively at night. Here are some suggestions from experts:
DEVELOP BEDTIME HABITS. Have you ever heard someone say that something, like reading a book, makes them sleepy? It may not be that the book is boring. The body recognizes patterns that you may use before going to sleep; listening to music, reading a book, having a snack, taking a shower, or having a cup of tea. This puts your body into a "shutdown" mode even before going to bed and makes it that much easier to go to sleep.

If you work irregular hours, try developing some bedtime habits that work with your lifestyle. That will give your body a signal that it's time to go to sleep, even if everyone else is awake.

WHAT NOT TO DO. What you consume can inhibit a good sleep that restores you. Caffeine obviously is one chemical that disturbs your sleep pattern, but there are others. Many use alcohol to get sleepy and it does make you drowsy. The problem is that it does not produce the normal sleep patterns that produce the best results. The same thing applies to sleeping pills.

FOODS THAT CAN HELP YOU SLEEP. As mentioned earlier, a light snack or cup of tea can become part of your bedtime habits. And, some drinks can actually help you become sleepy. Warm milk is a traditional sleep aid. And, for those who aren't into warm milk, there are several types of decaffeinated herbal teas that can help.

A GOOD SLEEPING ENVIRONMENT. Where you sleep is just as important as anything else. Obviously the darker the room, the better because the body recognizes darkness as a sign that it is time to sleep. However, even small amounts of light can destroy that. If your drapes aren't cutting out enough light, consider getting heavier drapes, an eye mask, or putting something over the windows when you sleep.

Noise is also a problem, especially if you are trying to sleep while everyone else in the house is awake. Obviously, getting family members to be as quiet as possible during your sleep is important. However, as there are bound to be noises you can't silence, experts recommend some sort of "white noise" that will mask these other noises. Although there are white noise generators available, a fan, air filter, or air conditioner can also do the job.

Fans and air conditioners may help with the third environmental factor; temperature and ventilation. A good sleeping environment is cool (65 - 68 degrees) and well ventilated. Sleeping with a blanket also helps.

These recommendations should help you sleep better during the day. However, keep in mind that since daytime sleep is out of sync with our body's biological clock and is more likely to be disturbed, there will probably be less deep sleep and REM cycles that make sleep more restorative. The result is that you may still be tired and you may start to develop a sleep deficit. If that happens, a couple of good sleep cycles during your weekend (whenever that it) can help considerably.