PACIFIC OCEAN (NNS) -- How does the opportunity to get more sleep sound? Most people would say great. Well, that is exactly what Lt. Cmdr. Christine Fletcher and Dr. Panagiotis Matsangas are offering Sailors aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Kidd (DDG 100).
Fletcher and Matsangas both come from the Operations Research Department of the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. Under the guidance of Dr. Nita Shattuck, a professor in the Operations Research Department, the pair are one of four teams conducting sleep studies aboard deployed ships. Matsangas says that while the study may just seem to be about sleep patterns, it is focused on how Sailors operate.
"The base of the study is to improve Sailor's performance by optimizing their watch standing schedules," said Matsangas, a retired commander in the Hellenic Navy. "In order to do that, it is important to understand the environment the Sailors live and work in. So, yes, we call it the sleep study, but it is much more than that."
Another focus of the study is to identify and document the requirements that affect Sailors' workload. Fletcher examines the difference between the actual working hours of deployed Sailors and the expected working hours.
According to the Navy Availability Factor, the model the Navy uses to determine manning requirements, afloat Sailors should work an average of 81 hours per week. Fletcher's study is focused on the amount of time Sailors spend performing their duties and where those working hours are used.
"We know that the average Sailor works more than what the model assumes," said Fletcher. "Our goal is to identify what a Sailor's workload is and what the sources of that workload are. Think about all the duties Sailors perform now. Some of these tasks can be considered additional and beyond what Sailors would do at war. Those additional tasks are extending Sailors' working hours."
Another source that causes the difference between Sailors' expected working hours and real working hours comes from a ship's manning.
"There are many factors that prevent a ship filling all its billets," said Fletcher. "Whether those factors are medically related or there is simply a difference in rotation, it is rare for a ship to be 100 percent manned. All these things add up and individual Sailors have to pick up the slack for those missing personnel."
Fletcher and Matsangas gather data from Sailors wearing actiwatches, which are wrist-worn accelerometers. Using data from the actiwatches, the research team will determine how much Sailors rest and sleep. The Sailors also perform a simple reaction time task embedded in the actiwatches to determine their fatigue levels. Combined with earlier findings, results from this study will lead to the team's recommendations for improved Sailor schedules.
"At the heart of it, we are trying to improve a Sailor's performance," said Matsangas. "We want them to be more efficient and productive in their job, be less prone to accidents, and improve their quality of life at sea."
The study has received significant support from senior Navy leaders. In a message to the surface fleet, Vice Adm. Thomas S. Rowden said, "Fatigue has measurable negative effects on readiness, effectiveness and safety."
The study includes collecting data in three phases; the beginning, midpoint and end of the deployment. While Fletcher and Matsangas may not see all three phases unfold aboard the Kidd, the ship's reception to the study has made an impact. The crew of the Kidd has shown a high interest in the study with more than 45% of the Sailors participating.
"The Kidd's triad and crew have been more than helpful and supportive throughout our time onboard," said Fletcher.
Fletcher and Matsangas strive to have some preliminary results available to the ship even before the end of the first phase.
"We believe that the final recommendations will prove immediately useful to leadership, whether the changes are big or small," said Matsangas.
Kidd is currently on an underway period in the 7th fleet area of operations. The U.S. Navy has patrolled the Indo-Asia-Pacific routinely for more than 70 years promoting regional peace and security.
For more information on the study, visit http://my.nps.edu/web/crewendurance.
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