Sleep is one of the most important issues at sea. Tired, fatigued, stressed and distracted people make mistakes. So ensuring there is enough time to rest, and that you can get quality sleep is all important. Is enough done at sea to aid restful sleep?
HOURS OF SLEEP
Much has been made of the need to ensure that hours of rest legislation is complied with, but often that doesn’t tell the whole, or indeed the real story. According to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), work hours are defined as the number of hours for which a seafarer is required to be on duty.
Conversely, hours of rest are defined as the time outside these hours of work. So far, so sensible. The legal limit on how many hours can be worked at sea is enshrined within the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC2006).
The MLC2006 states that normal working hours are based on an eight-hour day, with one day of rest per week. Further to that, the following applies:
Vessels must keep records of hours of work and hours of rest, and seafarers must receive an endorsed copy of the hours of work/rest. Indeed a log recording the number of hours of work and rest for each crew member must be maintained at all times.
When it comes to what actually constitutes “rest”, well then things become a little less cut and dried. It is one thing to assume that seafarers are not working, that much is obvious. However, some rest is clearly more restful them others.
So what is rest? What does it really mean, and does it naturally allow seafarers to recharge their batteries merely by taking off their boiler suits and slumping in a chair in front of the TV? Or is there more to it, and is rest almost as complicated as work?
The dictionary defines “rest” as to cease work or movement in order to relax, sleep, or recover strength. So while it seems the stopping work bit is agreed, there doesn’t appear to be an easy answer to relaxing, sleeping and recovering strength onboard a ship.
NICE AND EASY DOES IT
Sleep seems pivotal to all this. How though can seafarers ensure a good restful period of shut eye when there may be noise, vibration and all manner of other distractions to contend with?
Healthy sleep habits make a big difference in quality of life. Having healthy sleep habits is often referred to as having good sleep hygiene by experts. While that might sound a bit, well, wrong…they have a point.
The most basic key is in the word sleep pattern – it is important to somehow try to start and maintain some consistent basis for sleeping. On some ships the watch pattern itself can help with that, but on other ships with lots of port calls it can be a real challenge.
Whatever the reality onboard, it is important to somehow find a pattern and to develop a rhythm which the brain can latch on to and understand the times of sleep as opposed to being wired for work.
A SLEEPING PATTERN
So what are the six top tips for developing a sleeping pattern, and being able to get that quality rest which makes such as difference to performance and to safety, and even quality of life at sea? Well, here are some rules that can help:
What do you think? Do you have any secrets to getting off to sleep? We’d love to hear your thoughts, let us know.