A recent study published by Dutch researchers in Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment, & Health, the MORE Energy mHealth intervention effectively reduced fatigue and improved health-related behavior and sleep in 502 pilots of an international airline, likely increasing pilot performance capability and aircraft safety. The 6-month study compared minimal intervention with actionable and tailored advice through the MORE Energy App. The authors of the study concluded that the app’s customized advice may be a successful strategy for helping employees cope with irregular working hours that disrupt normal circadian rhythms.
The device dispensed through the MORE Energy App was tailored to pilot’s flight schedules and personal characteristics, including flight haul type, flight direction, departure and arrival times, number of time zones crossed, job title, and chronotype (morning versus evening-type). The advice included optimal timing of exposure to daylight, timing and duration of sleep (including naps), physical activity, and nutrition (including optimal timing of meals and caffeine intake).
The study’s results explained that the app was “ “effective in reducing fatigue: three out of four subscales of the primary outcome measure showed a statistically significant improvement, while the effect was marginally significant for need for recovery; …an improvement in sleep quality but not sleep latency, sleep duration, and sleep medication; …a significant reduction of snacking behavior and an improvement in the amount of strenuous physical activity.”
Though the study was limited in its reliance on self-reporting as outcome measures (versus objectively quantified changes in pilot behaviors), the results are still encouraging for the development of connected health apps and devices aimed to improve the health and lives of many men and women that work irregular hours.