Yes, we all know that night shifts can be bothersome, to say the least, and scientists say they are outright damaging to your health, with night shift workers being at greater risk of depression, stroke, diabetes and heart disease. But according to a new study led by Dr. Charles A. Czeisler, driving after a night shift increases risk of road fatalities.
The study was the first of its kind – sort of
Led by Dr. Charles A. Czeisler from the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, the study focused on a sample of 16 workers who had just gotten off their night shift.
The study employed the use of multiple pieces of technology, like EEG electrodes attached to the subjects’ heads, and special glasses designed for recording the speed of the participants’ eye movements.
The researchers had the participants take two driving tests, one after a full night of sleep, and the other after getting off their night shift and not sleeping for an average of 13 hours.
What made the study so innovative was the fact that it was the first study of its kind to actually employ real driving tests, instead of simulations.
There is a number of limitations to the accuracy of the tests though, as even if the test was legitimately performed, it was in an enclosed area, a driving track.
This means that usual stimuli, like other cars, street lights, and pedestrians were missing, so the participants might have been affected by that. Also, the number of pieces of equipment used to monitor the participants might have also limited the accuracy of the results.
Results and suggestions
The researchers find the results very troubling, and suggest that either the companies or the employees working night shifts employ a different way of getting home after a night shift.
Throughout the two hour long driving test, 6 of the sixteen participants had 11 near-crashes, requiring the supervisors to employ the help of the emergency brakes. Seven of the participants had the test interrupted early by the researchers because of safety concerns.
All of the near crashes occurred within 45 minutes of the beginning of the test, which is bad, seeing as 15% of employees in America work more than 45 minutes away from home.
Due to facts like 4% of Americans admitting to falling asleep while driving and that in 2013 800 deaths were caused by sleepy driving in the States, the researchers suggest avoiding methods like blasting the radio, opening the window, or drinking coffee in order to stay awake, and instead recommend finding other ways to make it home safe.
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