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Tired driving, know before you go!

Kirk Clark, 341st Medical Operations Squadron health promotion coordinator, briefs Airmen Nov. 7, 2018, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont.

Kirk Clark, 341st Medical Operations Squadron health promotion coordinator, briefs Airmen Nov. 7, 2018, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. As a missile operations base, some Airmen can spend more than 10 hours on duty, which requires staying alert and utilizing fatigue management. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Tristan Truesdell)

MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. -- Some jobs require multiple hours of alertness, and to stay awake, some Airmen rely on energy drinks, which can mask a person's tiredness.

With the holiday season coming up, Airmen travelling on the roads to visit family and friends might not realize they need proper sleep to function if they are driving with an energy drink in hand.

"What we do a lot of here at Malmstrom is shift work. We Band-Aid it with energy drinks of all sorts," said Kirk Clark, 341st Medical Operations Squadron health promotion coordinator. "And we use alcohol to induce sleep. Any of these behaviors reduce the quality of sleep we can get."

"Now, take an Airman who has been doing this for the last 60 days and they’re driving home for Thanksgiving," he continued. "You pulled a pin out of a grenade, put it in a car and said, Go!"

Getting proper sleep before a trip reduces fatigue. Proper nutrition, planning and exercise help, too.

Because it's not convenient, we won't set our environment up for proper sleep. That's the problem," said Clark.

The sleep environment plays a major role. It can be the TV being on for white noise, a specific pillow or blanket, anything promoting sleep promotes health, too.

Rest - the Airman's perspective
At Malmstrom, a majority of personnel include security forces and maintainers, who both pull shifts longer than the average eight-hour work day.

Although maintainers recently reduced their work shifts to 12 hours, Airmen still monitor themselves and their wingmen to ensure the mission continues safely.

"As a team chief, I usually tell anyone on my team that if they’re tired, let people know and don’t push it," said Staff Sgt. Taylor Steinbarth, 341st Missile Maintenance Squadron electromechanical team chief.

Maintainers, just like defenders, post out to missile alert facilities and launch facilities for their duties, which means they stay overnight in the missile complex.

"When we’re out at a MAF or LF, there are certain amount of steps you need to do before you can actually touch something," said Senior Airman Dimitri McDuffie, 341st MMXS technician. "If you are tired or overlooking something, that mistake could potentially injure somebody.

Real sleep is non-REM
We have two types of sleep: rapid eye movement and non-REM," said Clark. "A nap refreshes us after being zonked out for 15 minutes, but we’re not fully recovered."

"The non-REM is what we need. It's a true deep, deep sleep to help us fully recover," he continued. If you're relying on naps to restore you, that's not going to do it for human performance."

Whether used to prevent or induce sleep, factors such as caffeine, alcohol, nicotine and tobacco negate the benefits of both non-REM and REM sleep, according to Clark.

At work or at home, fatigue mitigation plays a critical role in how the body functions. Remember with the holiday season and travelling on the road to practice proper sleeping habits to get to your destination safely.

A fatigue mitigation brief is offered on base and required for Airmen who drive on Malmstrom. Each class starts at 3 p.m. Sign ups are not required.

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