Athena GTX is developing a very unique, miniature, wearable monitoring platform to measure the “state” of the user. In the applications envisioned, one of considerable note is the idea that when “cognitive abilities” of the user decline, that user is less likely to be successful completing the tasks at hand. This correlation may seem obvious and one of the truly interesting parts of the program is how we can determine the thresholds of “state” as they measure decline in performance and increases in errors. However, that relationship is clearly not binary.
Not surprisingly, there are significant studies showing that operator fatigue impairs performance. Similarly, sleep deprivation while performing a tracking task has been shown to be equivalent to the effect of drinking excessive alcohol. In one study, the decline in performance after 24 hours of sustained wakefulness was shown to be equivalent to performing with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.10 percent. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that operator fatigue is the primary cause of about 100,000 motor vehicle crashes each year. There are now emerging multiple studies on the use of cell phones while driving causing the distraction of operators, a form of cognitive dysfunction, leading to measurable errors (accidents). Unfortunately, no one thinks that this will ever happen to them.
Sleep deprivation is a serious hazard in aviation, aerospace, trucking, medical and military operations, among many other professions. Given this awareness, it is difficult to rationalize that medical care professionals continue to work hours that far exceed guidelines that were first proposed decades ago. Sleep deprivation may be potentially dangerous for patients and unhealthy for physicians. The health care industry needs to consider current human sleep requirements, the consequences of sleep deprivation in patient care, the regulations presently in force, avoiding costly malpractice litigation and derive significantly more modern solution.