The Impact of Sleep Deprivation on Shift Workers

sleepy driver

What are the effects of sleep deprivation?

While most know how dangerous and unsafe it is to get behind the wheel of a car after a few too many cocktails, many are unaware that driving while sleepy is just as bad as drunk driving. In fact, a 2001 study titled “How Do Prolonged Wakefulness and Alcohol Compare in the Decrements They Produce on a Simulated Driving Task?” determined that sleepiness may impede driving abilities as much as alcohol. Additional research has also indicated that longer periods of wake time is equivalent to certain blood alcohol content (BAC) levels. For example, if a person remains awake for 17-19 hours, their drowsiness levels are similar to a BAC of .05. For 20-21 hours awake, their BAC equivalent is .08, which is considered legally drunk. Drowsy driving puts people at a higher risk for being involved or causing accidents because sleepiness—much like alcohol—impairs cognition and desensitizes reaction times. While a majority would never drive drunk, a recent National Sleep Foundation poll showed that approximately 60% of adults have driven drowsy within the past year.

While most know how dangerous and unsafe it is to get behind the wheel of a car after a few too many cocktails, many are unaware that driving while sleepy is just as bad as drunk driving. In fact, a 2001 study titled “How Do Prolonged Wakefulness and Alcohol Compare in the Decrements They Produce on a Simulated Driving Task?” determined that sleepiness may impede driving abilities as much as alcohol. Additional research has also indicated that longer periods of wake time is equivalent to certain blood alcohol content (BAC) levels. For example, if a person remains awake for 17-19 hours, their drowsiness levels are similar to a BAC of .05. For 20-21 hours awake, their BAC equivalent is .08, which is considered legally drunk. Drowsy driving puts people at a higher risk for being involved or causing accidents because sleepiness—much like alcohol—impairs cognition and desensitizes reaction times. While a majority would never drive drunk, a recent National Sleep Foundation poll showed that approximately 60% of adults have driven drowsy within the past year.

Shift Workers are More Likely to Experience Drowsy Driving

Shift workers and sleep fall into one particular group where drowsy driving is a significant problem. This is often due to varying work schedules and working at times their natural circadian rhythms tell them they should be sleeping. In the video below, sleep health expert, Dr. Jeffrey Durmer, highlights some of the challenges shift workers and their sleep patterns cause as well as some solutions to combat these problems.

More Sleep Means Fewer Accidents

By implementing some of these recommendations, shift workers can reduce levels of drowsiness while driving which can lead to safer driving conditions for themselves and others on the road. In fact, when these employees better manage their sleep schedules and get the daily recommended amount of sleep, companies often experience a 70% reduction in preventable accidents and a 40% reduction in defects.

To learn more, please visit www.fusionhealth.com/risk-safety

Sources:
Drowsy Driving Stats
National Sleep Foundation
Arnedt et al. 2001
NCBI

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