Shift work sleep disorder increases risk of car crashes

Drivers in Maryland who work the night shift may be at a significantly greater risk of being involved in car accidents, according to recent university research. Those who work the overnight shift at their jobs, also called the graveyard shift, may suffer from shift work sleep disorder, SWSD, which is a chronic condition arising from keeping overnight waking hours. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 91,000 crashes reported to police that involved drowsy drivers. These crashes resulted in 50,000 injuries and nearly 800 fatalities.

University study focuses on drowsy drivers

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Missouri focused on what happens to drivers who are suffering from the effects of SWSD. The study found that people who have SWSD are 300% more likely to be involved in a car accident or a near-accident circumstance than people who do not have SWSD. The study compared this to other sleep conditions, like insomnia and sleep apnea, and found that these other conditions increased the likelihood of car accidents by 30%.

Medical study focuses on prevalence of SWSD

The Cleveland Clinic performed a study of shift work sleep disorder among workers in the United States. In it, researchers found that approximately 20% of full time workers do some sort of night shift work. Of that group, between 10% and 40% may be suffering from SWSD. This means that, on the low end of the estimates, around 2.5 million people nationwide are effected by SWSD.

Exact causes of driving problems uncertain

The studies did not establish why shift work sleep disorder presents a greater risk of car accidents than other sleep conditions. There are some things that drivers who have SWSD can do to reduce their risk. Among the actions they can take are to get rest or sleep when they can and to avoid driving when they are too tired. Employing this advice could help drivers avoid car accidents in the future.

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