Daniela Algranati, Idan Nakdimon, Anna Levkovsky, Barak Gordon, Oded Ben‐Ari

Cognitive performance of air personnel following sleep deprivation

  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • General Medicine

SummaryAir forces have developed several methods for reducing fatigue‐related accidents. In the Israeli Air Force, the “Dead Tired” workshop was developed with the purpose of presenting aircrew with their objective performance under sleep deprivation conditions. The aim of this study was to examine the cognitive abilities of both aircrew and unmanned aerial vehicle operators, both objectively and subjectively. All Israeli aircrew and unmanned aerial vehicle operators participated in a “Dead Tired” workshop. During the workshop, the participants performed the Psychomotor Vigilance Task, a task that tests their attention abilities, while gathering information on their subjective sleepiness in the form of a Karolinska Sleepiness Scale. Data of 366 participants (25 females), of whom 187 were unmanned aerial vehicle operators and 179 were aircrew, were obtained; and the mean age was 21.8 ± 1.2 years (range 19–26 years). A significant decline in task performance was seen following 20 hr of wakefulness in both unmanned aerial vehicle operators and aircrew (p < 0.001). Unmanned aerial vehicle operators' performance was significantly better throughout the majority of the workshop (p < 0.001). Recovery after the full‐night's sleep was seen for unmanned aerial vehicle operators, but not for aircrew (p = 0.008). A high correlation was seen between Psychomotor Vigilance Task performance and Karolinska Sleepiness Scale responses (correlation coefficient = 0.93). Sleep deprivation negatively impacted the performance of both groups of participants. Unmanned aerial vehicle operators were found to be more resilient to the effects of sleep deprivation and were quicker to recover in comparison to aircrew.

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