Are Night Shift Workers More Likely to Have Car Accidents?

Night Shift Workers

Night shift work is a term that can apply to any non-traditional shift. A typical night shift starts at 11:00 p.m. and continues to 7:00 a.m. A common non-traditional shift is one that lasts 12 hours. Workers on a 12-hour shift will work four rather than five days per week. Nurses and factory workers are among those who commonly work these longer non-traditional shifts. A less common non-traditional shift involves working on a rotating schedule, in which different hours and/or days are worked from week to week.

How Does the Body Regulate Sleep?

The body relies on a combination of light, activity cues, and the hormone melatonin to regulate the wake-sleep cycle. The hypothalamus is sometimes called the circadian clock. It is a part of the brain that helps regulate the wake-sleep cycle, the circadian rhythm. The body needs maintain its circadian rhythm to get adequate rest and remain alert while awake.

Disruptions in the circadian rhythm can cause circadian rhythm sleep disorders (CRSD). These include difficulty getting to sleep and/or staying asleep and disrupted rhythms such as non-24-hour sleep-wake disorder, irregular sleep-wake rhythm disorder, shift work sleep disorder, and jet lag disorder.

What is Shift Work Sleep Disorder?

Night shift workers often suffer from shift work sleep disorder (SWSD). It causes difficulties adjusting to a non-regular wake-sleep schedule and can result in various symptoms, including difficulty with falling asleep, staying asleep, and sleeping when desired. The Cleveland Clinic has found that approximately 20 percent of full-time workers in the United States perform shift work. Among these shift workers, from 10 to 40 percent may suffer from a sleep disorder. This means that there are likely over 2.5 million people suffering from SWSD.

Are Those with SWSD More Prone to Being in Car Accidents?

A driving study performed by a Strategic Highway Research Program found that drivers with known sleep disorders such as insomnia, sleep apnea, and SWSD are at higher risk of being involved in car accidents.

Researchers at the University of Missouri performed a meta-data study on car accidents and their causes. They found that drivers with SWSD were 300 percent more likely to be involved in car accidents or near-misses than other motorists. Those with other sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, were 30 percent more at risk.

Similar research at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston tested night shift workers’ driving skills on a closed track. The majority of the workers tested displayed drowsiness and poor driving performance. One-third of the tests were ended after the driver slammed on the brakes in an emergency stop. More than one-third came close to crashing their vehicles.

Inadequate sleep has real-world consequences. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently recorded 91,000 police-reported accidents involving drowsy drivers in a recent year. There were 50,000 injuries and almost 800 fatalities as a result of these accidents.

How can Shift Workers Avoid Drowsy Driving?

Shift workers need to prioritize getting adequate amounts of sleep. Shift workers should try to avoid switching between day and evening shifts or other irregular work hours and have a consistent sleep schedule. Bright lights should be avoided when sleeping. Shift workers should avoid using caffeine too close to bedtime. It is important to maintain healthy habits, including staying hydrated, eating a balanced diet, and getting enough exercise.

Washington DC Car Accident Lawyers at the Law Offices of Duane O. King Help Victims Recover

If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, reach out to the Washington DC car accident lawyers at the Law Offices of Duane O. King. You may be entitled to damages to cover medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and property loss. We fight hard to protect the welfare of our clients, and we will aggressively handle your case to ensure you receive the best possible compensation. Call us at 202-331-1963 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Washington, DC, we work with car accident victims in Prince George’s County, including Laurel, Beltsville, Adelphi, College Park, Greenbelt, Mitchellville, Woodmore, Greater Upper Marlboro, Springdale, Largo, Bowie, Capitol Heights, District Heights, Forestville, Suitland, and Seat Pleasant, Clinton, Oxon Hill, Temple Hills, and Fort Washington.