About 15 million Americans work full time on evening shift, night shift, rotating shifts or other irregular work schedules, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. With these varying shifts comes an increased number of safety risks, most notably those associated with drowsy driving.
Estimates indicate more than 6,000 deaths annually can be attributed to drowsy driving while the actual instances of driving while sleep deprived are underreported, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
"The components of creativity, judgement and vitality are the biggest part of the effect when it comes to whether people are going to sleep well," said Dr. Jeffrey Durmer, chief medical officer at FusionHealth.
The average adult needs seven to eight hours of sleep to be fully rested. However, even cutting back by one hour can cause a person to be less focused and slow his or her response time on the job, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
If a worker lacks sleep, they are more likely to show poor judgment and become complacent behind the wheel. In fact, employees who work night shifts, rotating shifts, double shifts or work more than one job have a six-fold increase in drowsy driving crashes, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
Furthermore, staying awake for 17 hours or more could present the same effects as having alcohol in your bloodstream, Durmer said.
Durmer has focused his research as a neurologist, systems neuroscientist and board-certified sleep medicine physician on the effects of drowsy driving. He works directly with commercial trucking clients on identifying the risks associated with drowsy driving as well as the application of risk management programs to not only reduce incidents but also improve company performance and employee wellness.
An effective sleep program not only is a form of risk management, but a form of preventative healthcare because it improves the vitality and energy of employees well-being of employees, Durmer said.
Whether the underlying issue is health-related or behavioral, encouraging employees to consistently receive a good night's sleep and providing coaching to educate workers about sleep hygiene potentially could assist workers with the treatment and prevention of both underlying health issues while also reducing drowsy driving accidents.
"It just makes a lot of sense for businesses to implement programs that are more efficient, deliver directly and change the well-being of a company's employees," he said.