“Sleep is greatly undervalued but of vital importance for wellbeing and health“
In April it´s time for the course Associations Between Work Environment, Sleep, Health, and Safety. We asked professors and course leaders Dagfinn Matre and Bjørn Bjorvatn about their research careers and interests in the course subject.
Dagfinn Matre holds a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from Aalborg University, Denmark, and has experience in occupational health research since 2000. Currently he is serving as Lead Research Professor at the National Institute of Occupational Health (STAMI) in Oslo, Norway. He has been involved in various projects focusing on the impact of factors like night work, sleep, and working hours on health. Besides studies on sleep and shiftwork, his publication record includes studies on pain perception and pain mechanisms.
Matre has managed several projects and is currently appointed as the Head of the Working Time Research Network at STAMI. He has also supervised several master and PhD students, participated in scientific advisory boards, and contributed to editorial roles. He says that his way into the research was more a coincidence, than as result of a specific plan. By discovering that he enjoyed research, he stayed in academia.
Bjørn Bjorvatn, MD PhD, is a professor in the Department of Global Public Health and Primary Care at the University of Bergen and Director of the Norwegian Competence Center for Sleep Disorders at Haukeland University Hospital, Bergen, Norway. He is a certified sleep medicine specialist (European Sleep Research Society) and specialist in general practice. His main research interests are in circadian rhythm sleep-wake disorders and insomnia.
Bjorvatns interest in research started early, already as a second-year medical student. Now he has authored more than 300 peer-reviewed scientific articles and several chapters in English textbooks. Ha has also written four books on sleep-related topics in Norwegian (one self-help book on insomnia and one self-help book on how to cope with night work and irregular working hours, and two textbooks on sleep medicine). He is working clinically with patients one day per week at Bergen Sleep Disorders Center, which he founded in 1996.
The importance of sleep
Sleep is greatly undervalued but of vital importance for wellbeing and health. Lack of sleep influences performance but also increases risk of disorders/diseases. For shift workers, to get sufficient sleep is crucial for alertness and optimal performance.
“There has been a lack of focus on sleep”
In occupational health research, there has been a lack of focus on sleep. Both how the work environment may affect future sleep disturbances, how these disturbances in turn may increase the risk of disease, and how disturbed sleep may affect the work environment are key topics that will be addressed during the course, says Matre. It is meaningful to contribute to closing knowledge gaps on associations between the work environment, health, and safety. Understanding the multifactorial nature of various work environmental factors on health is also challenging and inspiring.
About the upcoming course
The course focuses on the association between the work environment (working hours and psychosocial factors), sleep, health, and safety. It will cover present knowledge and preventive factors on how the work environment affects sleep and vice versa. Both short-term and long-term consequences of adverse sleep will be addressed. The course will increase the participants’ knowledge about biological sleep mechanisms, how the work environment affects sleep, and how poor or disturbed sleep increases the risk for safety incidents, health complaints and disease.