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What are the effects of sleep deprivation on shift workers?

Alon Avidan, MD
Neurology
Certain periods of the 24-hour cycle are likely to put people at risk for sleep-related accidents. At around 3 to 4 a.m., your wake propensity is at its lowest. When people need to be alert during these times, for example, shift workers or people who are operating heavy machinery, they often run into problems. Historical accidents, like Chernobyl, Exxon Valdez, single-vehicle accidents, usually occur during this time period. 
In addition to making people more prone to accidents and injury, sleep deprivation causes a number of negative effects -- both physical and psychological -- that can impair the on-the-job performance of shift workers. Sleep deprivation:
  • Slows reaction time
  • Interferes with memory
  • Causes fatigue
  • Compromises judgment
  • Impairs the ability to retain new information

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.