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Night staff up to three times more likely to crash their car

Night shift staff are being warned that their nocturnal working patterns could be putting their health at risk.

A team of American researchers from the University of Missouri have found evidence to suggest that people who work at night are three times more likely to be involved in a car accident because they might have developed a chronic condition called ‘shift work sleep disorder’.

The two main symptoms associated with the condition are insomnia and excessive tiredness where people struggle to stay awake when they should be alert and working.

Study co-author Dr Praveen Edara said: “This discovery has many major implications, including the need to identify engineering counter-measures to help prevent these crashes from happening.

“Such measures can include the availability of highway rest areas, roadside and in-vehicle messaging to improve a driver’s attention, and how to encourage drivers who may have a late-night work shift to take other modes of transportation, including public transit or ride-share service.”

Those who work through the night, sometimes referred to as the graveyard shift, could be more likely to develop sleep issues, making them extremely vulnerable when getting behind the wheel of a car.

Previous research trials have shown links between sleep disorders and an increased risk of car accidents, but they were always carried out in controlled environments, Dr Edara said.

He added: “Our study goes a step further by using actual observed crash and near-crash data from approximately 2,000 events occurring in six US states.

“We’ve known for a while now that sleep disorders increase crash risk, but here we are able to quantify that risk using real world crash data while accounting for confounding variables such as roadway and traffic characteristics.”

The findings have been published in the Sleep Science journal.

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