A new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences revealed that night shift workers are at higher risk of causing accidents while going home.
9,5 million Americans work in night shifts or rotating shifts and 20% of the car accidents that occurred in America this year were caused by drowsy driving.
Apparently, four out of ten people who work at night are at risk of having a car crash. The explanation is that at night, the body is not as alert as it is during the day.
The sixteen study volunteers were asked to take part of a two-hour test drive on a closed track one time after their shift and one time after sleeping approximately seven hours. Six (37,5%) of them almost had an accident and seven of the volunteers asked the researchers to stop because of safety reasons. No such thing happened when they participated in the test drive after sleeping enough hours and having no night shift.
The lack of sleep was the most evident during the first 15 minutes, even at the people who worked a long time in night shifts. Surprisingly, they had very similar reactions to drunk or narcoleptic drivers. This explains the high number of car accidents caused by the night shift workers while commuting home.
Professor assistant Cathy Goldstein, who works in the neurological department at a sleep disorder center said that the results of the study didn’t surprise her at all. She also said that even though the night shift workers sleep during the day, they don’t sleep as much as people who go to sleep at night and work during the day.
Professor Goldstein has some tips in case you’re a doctor, an air traffic controller, a bartender, a nurse or you have a job that only starts when everybody is going to sleep.
If you stay near a bright light during half of your shift, you will help your body keep its alertness. Also, having the same sleeping schedule during the day and staying up at night every night, even when you are not working. Taking melatonin also helps you sleep during the day.
As the study conducted in the United States concluded that night shift workers are at higher risk of causing accidents, people who use their cars to get home after night shifts are advised to find other ways of transportation. The drowsy driving puts at risk not only the driver but the lives of innocent people as well.
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