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How Night Became Day in the 20th Century

Fatigue management has become such a significant issue in many workplaces and yet the challenge for managers is to persuade their staff to take the issue seriously. The research is sound, the evidence compelling, but the conviction needed to translate good intention into behaviour change needs a change in both attitudes and habits. People need coaching to make those changes.

You might find this information from research by L.P. Hartley at Murdoch University, WA, interesting and helpful in understanding the complex aspects of the whole issue.

No wonder we're always sleepy.

How night became day in the 20th Century

In the 19th Century statistics show that people slept up to nine and a half hours each night, even though many worked long hours. Workers timed their sleep to coincide with the hours of darkness in Australia because illumination was costly and inefficient, being limited to candles and gas lamps. Lack of electricity meant that the only entertainment at night was limited to sitting around a fire and entertaining oneself. In the late 19th Century electric light was born; cities were lit up and the 24 hour society had arrived. Suddenly it was possible to work, read, enjoy entertainment or, simply find ones way around the environment during darkness. The possibilities for work and play during darkness expanded limitlessly.

Early in the 20th Century movies were introduced, powered by electricity; radio came next and by the 1930s television was introduced. Good illumination made it possible to run industry for 24 hours a day and to permit trucks to travel at night carrying resources, components and products. In 1997, the information age, we can use electronic mail and the world wide web to communicate 24 hours a day with people around the world, organise pick up and delivery and manage stock holdings on a just in time delivery basis.

Transport has been the industry which has felt these developments most. Now in the latter part of the 20th Century statistics show people are averaging seven hours of sleep, and we know that transportation workers average less than this – a big drop in the amount of sleep in 70 years.

Hartley,L.R. 1998. Managing alertness. A guide for schedulers and managers. Institute for Research in Safety & Transport. Murdoch University. Western Australia