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Study: Shift work sleep disorder triples the risk of traffic crashes

Some of the most difficult jobs in Los Angeles involve shift work. They work nontraditional hours that require them to work while the rest of us are enjoying the evening or we’re asleep. Some of the jobs that involve shift work include servers, bartenders, doctors, nurses, musicians, firefighters, police officers and others.

The Sleep Foundation says that “people who work night, early morning, or rotational shifts are at higher risk of developing shift work disorder and other sleep problems.”

Raising the risk

Those who develop shift work sleep disorder (a condition that involves insomnia or excessive sleepiness) are three times more likely to be in a motor vehicle crash, according to a recent study by University of Missouri researchers.

They found that shift work sleep disorder increased the risk of a crash by 296 percent. Sleep apnea (a sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts) raises the risk of traffic accidents by 29 percent, while insomnia increases the risk by 33 percent.

Failing to pay attention

According to the researchers, people with sleep disorders are more likely to be in a crash because they’re 29 percent more likely to be inattentive while they’re behind the wheel than people without the conditions.

Study co-author Praveen Edara said the study highlights a need to find countermeasures that can help prevent the violent collisions from happening. “Such measures can include the availability of highway rest areas, roadside and in-vehicle messaging to improve a driver’s attention,” he said, adding that education efforts could target shift workers, urging them to use public transportation or ride-shares.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that drowsy drivers contributed to 697 crash fatalities in 2019. Most of the accidents happened between midnight and 6 a.m. or in late afternoons.

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