It is universally understood that human beings are physiologically wired to sleep during the night-time hours, but environments like aged care facilities require the presence of staff regardless of whether the sun is up or down.

Shift workers and those that work outside of the natural day/night cycle, do so at the detriment of their own physical and mental health due to the framework of their internal body clock.

And new research from the CQ University has found that shift workers are actually more likely to crash their car after finishing their first night shift of the week as opposed to later in the week. 

It was once believed that the likelihood of crashing after a night shift increased as the week went on and sleep deprivation may have accumulated, but the results of these findings show that the risk decreased as the week went on.

Participants for this study that was based at CQ University in Adelaide’s Appleton Institute completed seven consecutive eight-hour night shifts, and then had their driving skills put to the test in a driving simulator after each completed shift.

The study also revealed that a night shift worker is eight times more likely to crash their vehicle while coming home from a shift as opposed to driving into work. 

While the idea that the likelihood of crashing after night shift decreases throughout the week is surprising, the long list of negatives for night shift workers are very well known.

A person’s internal body clock otherwise known as ‘circadian rhythm, regulates the body’s levels of alertness and tiredness throughout the 24 hour day cycle.

The negative effects of living outside the body’s internally regulated time-frame can wreak havoc on the wellbeing of those who work the night shift, and a lack of sleep even hinders the human body’s ability to heal and stave off disease.

Night shift workers have a higher risk of developing heart disease, depression, obesity, and insomnia than day-shift workers and long term female night shift workers actually have a 19% increased risk of developing cancer.

This negative effect on wellbeing is also making it increasingly difficult to retain nurses who are willing to work outside of day time hours.

There are a number of physical and mental symptoms that arise from a lack of sleep that can have a direct impact on the way a nurse is able to provide care.

These can include slower reaction times, poor coordination, forgetfulness, slow processing of information and a lessened ability to pay attention.

These symptoms can degrade patient care by increasing the risk of a number of negative workplace outcomes including clinical error, workplace injury and drowsy driving accidents.

According to another recent survey, 32 percent of nurses reported that they had actually fallen asleep driving home since becoming a nurse, and 65 percent reported feeling close to falling asleep in the 12 months before undertaking the survey.

The vast majority of nurses reported getting less than 7 hours of sleep per night and more than 70 percent reported never or rarely ever waking up feeling refreshed.

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