Researchers have developed a ground-breaking app supporting better sleep for shift workers.
Created by scientists from Monash University, SleepSync is the new app that offers personalised advice to improve the sleep and mood of vital shift workers across the country. By improving sleep outcomes, the app aims to increase workers’ physical and mental health, allowing them to continue providing essential services.
The science of sleep
Sleep plays a vital role in maintaining health and wellbeing. Without proper sleep over a long period of time, individuals can increase their risk of chronic health problems. Sleep also impacts your circulatory system, metabolism, respiratory system, and immune system.
According to Dr Jade Murray, lead scientist in the recent study, employees who work outside of the regular 9 to 5 often have disrupted circadian clocks.
“Shift workers report an increased functional impact of sleep disturbance and misalignment, including impaired alertness and increased sleepiness during wakefulness compared to the general population,” she says.
“Shift workers are also at a greater risk of a range of long-term adverse health consequences such as gastrointestinal problems, cardiovascular disease, mood disorders and cancer, as well as the short term increase in the risk of errors, accidents and injuries.”
Disrupted sleep is leading to significantly worse health outcomes for these individuals. Luckily, the new app aims to help them improve their sleeping goals.
SleepSync is the app targeting better sleep outcomes in shift workers by offering personalised sleep-wake cycles for users. It was built on the back of research led by Dr Jade Murray, which followed 27 shift workers as they used Sleepsync over a two-week period. Primarily, participants were emergency department nurses, but the study also included others at risk of shift work disorder.
According to the study, when using the app these participants were able to increase their sleep time and quality, as well as improving their sense of recovery on days off. 70 percent of users believed the app made it easier to fall asleep, and over 80 percent reported a higher quality of sleep
“SleepSync aims to aid behavioral change and provide practical advice to shift workers by providing personalised sleep scheduling recommendations and education,” says Dr. Jade Murray
“This has the potential to improve shift workers’ health and wellbeing and how they function day to day. It also has the potential for development and integration with wearable devices, such as smartwatches, to further help minimise the health costs associated with shift work to society.”
Working alongside Dr. Murray is Dr Tracey Sletten. She suggests “each person has a different underlying biology and specific work patterns, which need to be accommodated in a personalised schedule to help them sleep better.”
So, how does SleepSync actually work?
A powerful program
SleepSync works by completely tailoring its advice to each individual. Users simply input their work and personal commitments into a calendar, and the app provides biologically informed recommendations for sleep timing. It also offers daily logging of actual sleep times and mood, which factor into continued advice and programs.
82 percent of participants in the study found that the app was easy to use within their daily routines. Many also suggested it helped modify their perception and habits when it came to prioritising quality sleep. While the program is still being developed and honed, it has many excited that shift workers will receive the support they need for stronger overall health. Shift workers play a highly important role in the functioning of Aussie society, and SleepSync is designed to be right there beside them. With an easy-to-use interface and hopes for modifications to include wearable devices, it won’t be long before the app is available for everyone.
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