Sleepy Hospital Workers a Danger on the Road: Study

Working the night shift compromises their driving ability on the way home, researchers say

FRIDAY, June 8 (HealthDay News) -- Hospital staff who work the night shift may have trouble driving home safely, new research suggests.

Researchers in France had 30 anesthesia trainees take a simulated driving test after coming off the night shift. They found the workers had more trouble driving in a straight line and controlling their speed than when they hadn't worked through the night, according to the study scheduled for Friday presentation at European Society of Anesthesiology annual meeting.

"We found that there were differences between those who had had a normal sleep and those who were sleep-deprived because of working overnight," Dr. Segolene Arzalier-Daret, of the Caen Teaching Hospital, said in a society news release.

Coffee boosted driving performance somewhat, but researchers said sleepy medical professionals should be given a place to rest before they drive home and that hospitals should provide taxis to take workers home.

"I hope that our work will help to raise awareness of the dangers of driving when tired, and that employers of those who have to work night shifts will take measures to protect their staff from these dangers," Arzalier-Daret said.

Because this study was presented at a medical meetings, its conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke provides more information on sleep.

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