The dual curse of the modern workforce - sleepiness and sitting

Published:29 November 2018

A sleepy, seated night worker - image courtesy Deva Raj via Flickr creative commons

Over 10 million working Australians experience both prolonged sitting and inadequate sleep. Now, research will examine the effects of being sleepy and sitting on the health and performance of workers.

CQUniversity Professor Sally Ferguson leads a team which has secured $626 825 in Discovery Project funding from the Australian Research Council to progress the research titled 'Sleepy and sitting: the dual curse for the modern workforce?'.

Co-investigators on the project are Dr Grace Vincent, Dr Sarah Jay and Professor Corneel Vandelanotte from CQUniversity’s Appleton Institute, and Associate Professor Mitch Duncan (The University of Newcastle) and Associate Professor Philip Tucker (Swansea University).

The four-year laboratory study will investigate the combined health and performance impact of prolonged sitting.

Importantly, the research will also investigate whether breaking up periods of prolonged sitting with short bursts of physical activity is effective for shiftworkers.

Professor Ferguson says that “prolonged sitting and inadequate sleep both impact health and safety inside and outside of the workplace and contribute significantly to the public health burden but we actually know very little about how these factors jointly influence health and safety”.

“We also know that breaking up periods of prolonged sitting with short bursts of activity can be effective for those working during the day, but we do not know if it’s the same for people who haven’t had adequate sleep or work at night.

“The new research will contribute to the evidence-base for workplace policies and public health guidelines, but there is also opportunity to present personalised advice to workers about their health and well-being using individual sleep and sitting information.

“The benefits from this project do not lie solely with workers. One of the biggest challenges to sleep in today’s modern world is the widespread engagement with technology.

"Not only do we prioritise technology over sleep, we are invariably sitting down when we engage with technology.

"The dual curse of the modern workforce - sleepy and sitting - may also be the dual curse of the modern home."