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2,966 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
You've heard the old expression 'asleep at the wheel'? It no longer just means people who aren't paying attention to what they're doing at work or in life. It's also come to mean exactly what it says - people nodding off while they're driving. It's a serious problem with potentially deadly consequences. And in our work-more-and-sleep-less world, it can be deadly. Figures show fatigued drivers kill at least 400 Canadians a year, and one in five - an astounding four million of us - have acknowledged nodding off while we're in the driver's seat.
But while cops can catch drunk drivers and those impaired on other substances, the sleep-deprived steerers are a lot harder to detect. Experts suggest those who suffer from extreme fatigue (more than 17 hours without shuteye) are the equivalent of having a blood alcohol level of .05 percent and present as big a hazard as a drunk driver.
What can be done about it? Experts are pondering that question at a Toronto driver fatigue symposium on Wednesday and the results are eye opening.
Until then, here are some questions to ask yourself as your eyes start to close on the road.
  • Do your eyelids droop or does your vision get blurry?
  • Do you have trouble keeping your head up?
  • Do you drift between lanes, tailgate or miss traffic signs?
  • Are you unable to stop yawning?
  • Do your thoughts wander?
  • Do you not remember driving the last few miles?
  • Have you drifted off the road or had a near miss?
  • Do you keep jerking the vehicle back into the lane?

2,966 Posts
Discussion Starter #2

The tragedies of Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and the Exxon Valdez all occurred during the night shift.
Fatigue is a critical occupational safety concern for shift workers, especially workers in the transportation industry. Off the job, being overtired creates a risk for anyone who undertakes an activity that requires concentration and quick response -- from driving, to home repair, to skiing. And exhaustion is one of the most common health complaints for Canadian workers, especially women.
How sleep affects safety

Irregular working hours, monotonous work, long shifts, vibrations and drugs increase drowsiness and reduce alertness. The costs are devastating in human terms, and the economic consequences are enormous. Worldwide, the National Institute for Working Life, a Swedish organization, estimates that sleep-deprived workers cost $350 billion US per year.
Sleep is as basic to survival as food and water. Losing as little as two hours of sleep can negatively affect alertness and performance. Sleep deprivation affects a person's carefulness and ability to respond to an emergency. Symptoms can include: decreased judgement, decision-making and memory; slower reaction time; lack of concentration; fixation; and worsened mood.
Studies monitoring brain activity show that one shift worker in five dozes off during the shift. Often, they do not realize afterwards that they have done so. Drowsy drivers, according to sleep researchers, may cause as many crashes as impaired drivers. Regardless of motivation, professionalism, training or pay, an individual who is very sleepy can lapse into sleep at any time, despite the potential consequences of inattention.
The circadian clock

The body's processes have peaks and low points during every 24-hour period. These are called circadian rhythms. Time cues -- such as sunlight and work/rest schedules keep the circadian clock "set." Crossing time zones or changing from a day shift to a night shift forces the circadian clock to move to a different schedule. Time is required to adjust to the new schedule. During the transition, symptoms similar to sleep loss can occur.
Disruption of the circadian rhythm when combined with loss of sleep can create a dangerous increase in fatigue.
Factors in the work environment

The environment and nature of the work can further magnify the effects of sleep debt and circadian rhythms. Environments with dim lighting, limited visual acuity (e.g. due to weather), high temperatures, high noise and high comfort tend to enhance fatigue. Also, a worker's susceptibility to fatigue is increased by tasks where attention must be sustained for long period, and those which are long, repetitive, paced, difficult, boring and monotonous.
How to fight fatigue

Despite the fact that working nights and early mornings does not promote good health, shift work is a necessary part of today's work environment. Expensive machinery has to operate to its capacity. Goods have to arrive "just in time." Patients in hospitals need care around the clock.
Lifestyle, operations and physiological disorders are key components in the fight against fatigue.
Workers can reduce fatigue through proper nutrition, stress control and exercise. A healthy diet provides longer-lasting energy -- concentrate on complex carbohydrates (starch) rather than simple carbohydrates (sugar); and avoid fatty foods and junk food. Don't let negative circumstances get the better of you. And regular exercise is important -- cardiovascular, muscle strengthening and flexibility.
Employers can avoid placing workers in jeopardy by analysing working conditions, addressing operational safety disincentives and conducting sleep-safety training. Shorter shifts and work rotation schedules that go in the direction of the sun (morning, afternoon, night) have been found to reduce the negative effects.
Any worker with a specific sleep disorder should seek help. For example, 78 per cent of long-haul truckers suffer from sleep apnea, which can be treated.

4,886 Posts
I have a friend who used to keep odd hours during school, so that he was up for 24 hours at least two days per week.

Anyhow, he finally got a wake-up call when he fell asleep at 7 am coming home from working all night restocking the Lowes. He fell asleep and nudged the old van in the lane next to him. Luckily, all he did was play bumper cars with his truck and not run someone down. He learned from that and never drove drowsy again ... either take a nap in the bed (he had a full topper canopy) or a quick cat-nap in the driver's seat while still parked.

Premium Member
1,625 Posts
Having done way to many trips from TN to MA 16 hours each way, straight threw.

I have to admit I have nodded more than once and it scares the crap out of me.

Now after a few of those I just find the first rest stop and pull in for a few winks.

Driving tired can be a lot worse than driving drunk. Scary and dangerous.

Be careful stop and take a nap, coffee helps but not all the time.

Be careful out there and keep it between the ditches guys and gals.
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