Is It Dangerous to Be a Night Owl?

It makes little difference here in the city that never sleeps. Whether you’re out at night running errands or you’re a worker on the road to or from your 3rd shift job, an injury accident can happen anytime due to lack of sleep — your own or someone else’s. Sometimes, it can be dangerous to live the life of a “night owl.”

Drowsy driving is epidemic in the U.S., and it follows that much of it occurs in the wee small hours of the morning. A study published in 2014 by Accident Analysis and Prevention Journal showed that drowsy driving is as serious as having a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent.” It’s no wonder that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that in 2014 more than 100,000 crashes were caused by drowsy drivers, resulting in more than 5,000 serious injuries and 846 fatalities. A more recent study by NHTSA and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) showed that overnight sleep-deprived driving comes with certain dangers, such as:

  • Slower or delayed reaction times
  • Reduced attention span
  • Memory lapses
  • Dozing off involuntarily
  • Inability to keep eyes open
  • Drifting from lane
  • Overall performance impairment.

When you add sleep-deprived drivers to the number of overnight “partiers” who are making their way home after midnight, then throw in tired overnight workers heading home, and distracted drivers, the safety odds don’t look all that good for those who venture out after midnight. Is it any wonder that NHTSA now tells us that other than the crowded afternoon rush hour – 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. – night owl drivers run the greatest risk of being involved in an accident?

The workplace itself can be just as dangerous for the sleep-deprived. In fact, those who work the graveyard shift have a special challenge when it comes to being vulnerable to an accident.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), around 15 million Americans work a permanent night shift or regularly rotate in and out of night shifts. This leads to a significant number of working Americans who experience the same chronic sleep-deprived symptoms listed above.

These workers run the risk of suffering from shift work sleep disorder. But it’s not just the third-shift workers who are vulnerable; those who rotate shifts also share this risk. Working at night or on irregular shifts makes it difficult to get into a regular sleep pattern to which daytime workers are accustomed. Inattentive workers make mistakes. And some of them lead to serious accidents which injure the worker and others in the workplace.

People with “shift work sleep disorder” tend to have higher absentee rates and are involved in more sleep-deprived accidents. They also have memory challenges and an inability to continually focus on the tasks before them. For those who work in manufacturing jobs with a lot of repetitive motion, these people are an injury accident waiting to happen. Potential health problems are also more common in night or rotating shift workers — conditions such as ulcers, insulin resistance, and heart disease.

Such workplace challenges cannot be fixed overnight.  Nor should they be taken lightly.  If you believe it’s chronic, see a doctor, and ask your employer if there are any programs that can assist you.

Hopefully, you will not become a victim of being a “night owl.”  But if you do suffer an accidental injury on-the-job or on the way home late at night; the lawyers at Kaplan PC are here to help.  You are encouraged to contact us for your legal needs.