Let Air Traffic Controllers Nap

Illustration for article titled Let Air Traffic Controllers Nap

In the wake of several high-profile incidents where air traffic controllers were caught falling asleep while working, the FAA has decided to change its work rules. But it still won't allow controllers to take naps. Why not?

"On my watch, controllers will not be paid to take naps," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says. Which means, in the end, that on his watch controllers will be paid to nod off accidentally. Sleep experts agree that the most effective way to keep workers alert and aware is to schedule on-shift naps; studies show that people who are allowed nap breaks during their night shifts are more awake—and better at their jobs.

But you don't have to take it from scientists, or their so-called "studies"! Take it from me: Staying awake at night is hard. I just ended a year of working three midnight shifts a week, and no amount of coffee and Excedrin (or, uh, other pills) can match the recuperative effects of even a ten-minute nap. And my job is just putting words together. These guys are making sure that 400-ton people-filled fire hazards aren't crashing in to one another. The worst-case scenario for me was writing something really stupid; if air traffic controllers working the same shift as me had the same failure rate, no one would ever survive a nighttime flight.


I appreciate that there are enough morons in this country to put Secretary LaHood in a tough spot. But this isn't really the best thing to seem like a money-saving hard-ass about. Let's pay air traffic controllers to take naps! Because I don't want to pay them to get planes into accidents.

[AP; image via Shutterstock]

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I agree - I worked night shift as one of those midnight law firm word processing wannabe writer lobster people, and I have never been so exhausted in my life. Better to have three people in the tower (three, not two) and allow naps one at a time. Money well spent.