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Shift Work Can Wreak Havoc on Sleep

shift work sleep disorderAnd the effects of poor sleep can do more harm than you might realize.

  • Drowsy driving alone is related to at least 100,000 motor-vehicle accidents and more than 1,500 deaths per year in the U.S. according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
  • According to National Sleep Foundation surveys, half of American adults consistently report that they have driven drowsy and approximately 20% admit that they have actually fallen asleep at the wheel in the previous year.
  • Studies also show that 43% of Americans between the ages of 13 and 64 RARELY OR NEVER GET A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP on weeknights.

Shift work is particularly problematic as people working outside the typical 9:00 am to 5:00 pm workday may struggle with trying to sleep during daylight hours. They also may have less time to sleep as they handle day-to-day tasks (school, shopping, medical appointments) during regular hours. In fact, people who work night shifts, rotating shifts, double shifts or work more than one job have a six-fold increase in drowsy driving crashes alone. The impact on everyone’s health and safety cannot be ignored.

When you are not getting enough rest, the resulting sleepiness or fatigue can dramatically affect skills you need to operate a motor vehicle safely, such as

  • Impaired reaction time, judgment and vision
  • Problems with information processing and short-term memory
  • Decreased performance, vigilance and motivation
  • Increased moodiness and aggressive behaviors

Watch Out for Signs of Sleepiness

Most people are simply not very good at predicting when they are about to fall asleep. But there are warning signs to tell you when you are too tired to drive, including…

  • Trouble focusing, keeping your eyes open or your head up
  • Yawning or rubbing your eyes repeatedly
  • Daydreaming and wandering thoughts
  • Drifting from your lane, tailgating and missing signs or exits
  • Feeling restless, irritable or aggressive
  • Turning up the radio or rolling down the window
  • Slower reaction time, poor judgment

These signs could indicate that you may be at risk of falling asleep behind the wheel. If you experience any of these behaviors, pull over immediately at a safe place, switch drivers, take a short nap, consume caffeine or find a place to sleep for the night.

Learn more about the pitfalls and prevention tips from Drowsy Driving Prevention Week.

Our sleep doctors and the team at Northshore Sleep Medicine can assess your sleep situation to diagnose possible sleep disorders and provide recommendations for sleep health. Call 847.674.3600 and get to sleep.

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