Cassie Hilditch

Cassie Hilditch's picture
Associate Student - PhD

Cassie is a Bushfire CRC Associate Student, and is completing her PhD through the University of South Australia. Her specific research focus is 'The impact of sleep inertia on fatigue and performance during sustained operations'. She is also part of the Bushfire CRC project FireFighter Health and Safety (Beyond Endurance Sustaining Operations).

Sleep inertia is the term used to describe the brief period of grogginess, disorientation and impaired cognitive performance after waking from sleep. This period of impaired performance and low subjective alertness typically dissipates within 30 minutes to pre-sleep levels, although some studies have observed asymptotic recovery lasting 2 to 4 hours. This is of obvious consequence to emergency service personnel (both firefighters and incident management teams) who, due to the nature of operations, may be required to perform safety-critical tasks, make important decisions, or simply drive to/for work, soon after waking.

It is crucial that both operators and employees are aware of the specific risk they are exposed to with regards to sleep inertia so that they can manage it effectively to protect safety margins, whilst maintaining operational efficiency. The data gathered from the sustained operations study will not only directly inform the Bushfire CRC of this risk across the shift schedules currently being trialed, it will also provide key information for strengthening fatigue models (which currently lack a sophisticated understanding of sleep inertia) to better predict performance across a variety of schedules.

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