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Fatigue Management in Aircrew

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Human Factors and Medicine

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Aviation, cardiovascular morbidity and mortality, Depression, Fatigue, Sleep, Stimulant use


Sleep is an essential life function that when poorly impacted has a myriad of adverse physical and mental outcomes to include increased risk of accidents, injuries, cardiovascular morbidity and mortality, depression and even suicide. Proper sleep is critical to our aviators whose job is physically and mentally demanding requiring constant higher executive function to perform their tasks. The stress on service members during deployment operations to Iraq and Afghanistan is a known trigger for sleep disturbances with these effects then in turn lasting months or years after a deployments end. Unfortunately, many service members have resorted to self-medicating with supplements and energy drinks which are even readily available in deployed environments to maintain alertness to perform their duties. Interestingly research has recently shown that such interventions actually increase fatigue and emotional lability. It is therefore critical in our multinational operations to develop a consensus regarding fatigue management policy, training models, fatigue countermeasures and crew scheduling. Multinational missions are also being performed in austere environments such as Antarctica or high altitudes with poor sleep resulting from disturbance of circadian rhythms and high altitude resulting in central apneas disruptive to sleep. Means of improving sleep in austere and deployed conditions such as these is critical to successful aviation operations.


It is proposed that an RTG is formed in order to collaborate to identify, collate, share and provide a critical review of existing literature and ongoing research in the areas of 1) Crew scheduling 2) Use of stimulant and wakefulness promoting agents 3) Aircrew fatigue assessment tools to include biomathematical modeling and use of commercial off the shelf products (ex. Fitbit, Garmin) in assessing sleep habits 4) Circadian rhythm disturbances 5) Sleep in austere environments to include adverse impact of altitude, and possible mitigation strategies to apply current knowledge to operational environment.


1. Compare policy regarding fatigue management, training models, fatigue countermeasures and crew scheduling between nations. 2. Identify knowledge gaps and a strategy for follow-on RTG. 3. Aeromedical assessment/ treatment and disposition of OSA, insomnia etc. 4. Management of sleep in austere environments (ie. Antarctica mission, high altitude)

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