This study aims to investigate (1) the relationship between restricted sleep and Heightened Emotional Activity (HEA) during normal flight operations, and (2) whether sleep patterns influence the strength of the HEA as a response to threats. Accident investigation reports continue to highlight the relationship between restricted sleep and poor safety outcomes. However, to date we have a limited understanding of how sleep and HEA interact. A total of 302 sectors of normal airline flight operations were observed by trained observers, and instances of heightened emotional activity were recorded. During the cruise phase of each of these sectors, crew members were asked to calculate the amount of sleep they had obtained in previous 24 and 48 h. In the 302 sectors of normal flight operations, 535 instances of HEA were observed. Descriptive analyses of instances of HEA and sleep in the prior 24 and 48 h showed a significant relationship between the occurrence of HEA and recent sleep. The relationship between restricted sleep and HEA suggests that there may well be further implications with respect to operational safety.
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