BEACON TRANSCRIPT – Intoxication isn’t your only enemy, as researchers found that driving after a night shift is as bad as drunk driving and may be life-threatening. It appears that night driving will not only damage your health, but it will also put your safety at risk. Even shorter distances could prove to be perilous.
Researchers conducted a study on night shift workers and day workers by placing them in a closed driving track for 2 hours. Prior to the session, the day workers slept an average of 7.6 hours, while the other group worked, as implied, nights. This tested out their coordination, reflexes, and state of attention after long hours spent at work.
The results spoke for themselves. Nearly half of the participants who worked nights needed to end the test early because they could not maintain control of the testing vehicle. These impairments were clear after just 15 minutes into the trial. According to Charles Czeisler, from the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders, the difficulties were similar to touching the illegal limit of drunk driving.
Furthermore, the longer the drivers continued, the more it enhanced their risk of accident. In fact, 37.5% of the night shift workers were forced to use the emergency breaks in situations due to inattention. The same percentage also experienced one or several near-crash incidents during the testing period. No such thing occurred in drivers who worked during the day.
The numbers were reportedly double than what the researchers were expecting. This draws attention to a very important issue that could actually be prevented.
It’s estimated that 9.5 million people in the U.S. work night shifts, which amounts for 15% of the workforce. Drowsy driving, or driving after a night shift, has been linked to 20% of motor vehicle accidents that end in serious injuries. This includes hospitalization and death. It’s a major and preventable public health hazard.
According to the researchers, even the most experienced night shift worker is vulnerable to these increased risks. The reactions are similar to having illegal amounts of alcohol in their blood. And the longer the drive, the higher the risk.
It’s advised that night shift workers look for an alternative mode of transportation going home. If one is not available, Dr. Cathy Goldstein suggested a few alternate methods to lower the risk. This includes bright lights, specifically to stay under artificial light for the first half of your shift, at the very least. It will help keep your system alert for the coming hours.
Another suggestion is to take melatonin before going to sleep to increase drowsiness, and for better rest. And, last, it’s advised that night shift workers keep to their schedule even in their days off. That way, their internal clock will become better regulated. It’s important to their health and safety.
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