Yep. This is what you came here for, isn't it?
Well, the first thing you need to know is that America prides itself on being a "24/7" society, a work culture in overdrive, if you will. From this societal view, sleep is seen as a luxury instead of the biological need that it is. In fact, this cultivates the myth that the less sleep you need, the more productive you are. Well, here's a wake-up call to everyone that sleep deprivation really is a serious problem.
To keep our society revving 24/7, a lot of shift work is done. Shift work is work that isdone outside the normal 9 to 5 business day and includes the "swing shift" of 3-11 p.m. and the "graveyard shift" of 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. More than 22 million Americans are shiftworkers and this group is growing each year. Shift work is usually associated with these areas:
Health care professionals, especially doctors-in-training (interns and residents), are chronologically and severely sleep-deprived. Did you know that it's not unusual for residents to work 100h hours during a week--includingtwo or more nights on call? And these are the folks that are operating on you and prescribing medications! In an anonymous survey at a San Fransisco hospital a few years back, 42 percent of the housestaff admitted to causing the death of a patient by making a fatigue-related mistake. The sad thing is that even though there are guidelines for shift regulations, they are routinely ignored because many hospitals are short-staffed.
Long haul truck drivers and airline pilots face a substantially high risk of sleep deprivation, which can be rather dangerous considering their job duties!
Truck drivers are pressured to deliver goods in a very short amount of time and are given poor scheduling of work and rest time because of this. Next time you're on the road passing a truck, watch out! Fatigue is THE most frequent and direct cause of truck accidents in which the driver is killed. Many truck drivers also suffer sleep apnea, a serious sleep disorder where a person stops breathing many times while sleeping but wakes up just barely enough to being breathing again.
Airline pilots have a tough time of sleep deprivation, especially those flying international flights, because they are fighting circadian rhythms and time zone changes. Pilot error is now the most common cause of airline accidents due to automated aircraft controls, improved weather tracking and well-designed and tested airplanes. That means that we want our pilots as rested as possible! Inflight rest on the flight desk is not sanctioned under current federal regulations, but planned or spontaneous naps frequently occur--while the pilot is flying the plane! Kinda scary, if you ask me!
You know, those truck drivers aren't the only people to watch out for on the road. Drowsy driving by tired people like you and me is getting more and more attention lately because so many accidents are caused by fatigued drivers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administrations reports that the following is the direct result of drowsiness and fatigue each year:
Yet another 1 millions crashes are estimated to occur because of driver attention--such attention lapses are often caused by sleep deprivation and fatigue.
Here is one significant fact to leave you pondering. More people die each year from crashes related to Drowsy, Sleepy or Fatigued Drivers than from all of the following causes COMBINED:
Plague; Anthrax; Leprosy; Diptheria; Whooping Cough; Tetanus; Smallpox; Chicken Pox; Measles; Rubella; Yellow Fever; Dengue; Mosquito-born Encephilitis; Infectious Mononucleosis; Malaria; Venereal Diseases; Vitamin A, B, C and D Difficiencies; Gout; Glaucoma; Cataracts; Hemorrhoids; Chronic Sinusitis; Pregnancies with Abortive Outcomes; Impetigo; Psoriasis; Spina Bifida; Cleft Palate and Cleft Lip; Bites from Snakes, Lizards and Spiders; Dog Bites; Hornet, Wasp and Bee Stings; Catacylsmic Earth Movements and Eruptions; and Fireworks.
I hope all this information has left you a little wiser and hopefully willing to help society tackle this insidious yet often overlooked problem. Happy Sleeping!