CQUni study finds shift workers likely to crash car on first night shift of the week

Published:18 October 2019

Person in bed turning off alarm clock

A CQUniversity-led study has found that shift workers are more likely to crash their car after finishing their first night shift of the week rather than later in the week.

The findings overturn the theory that the cumulative effects of night shift increase the risk as time goes on.

Lead researcher Professor Greg Roach and others, based at CQUni Adelaide's Appleton Institute, recruited 43 people for simulated shift work in their sleep laboratory.

The participants completed seven consecutive eight-hour ‘night shifts’, simulating office work, then each day had a 20 minute ‘commute’ in a driving simulator at 10.30pm, as if they were going to work, and at 7.10am ‘going home.’

The data collected found that the accident risk was greatest after the first night shift and then declined through the week.

“Most guidelines recommend a maximum of two-to-four consecutive night shifts, based on the notion that fatigue risk increases with each successive night shift due to accumulated sleep loss,” Prof Roach said.

“Our results challenge that notion.”

The study also found the likelihood of a shift worker crashing on the way home from night shift on the first night is eight times greater than the likelihood of crashing on the way to work.

The research was presented on 17 October at Sleep DownUnder 2019, the annual Australasian Sleep Association Conference in Sydney.