Exhaustion and sleep deprivation are problems often neglected or passed off as 'nothing big.' What most people often fail to see are the side effects of physical exhaustion doubled with sleep deprivation? Physical exhaustion shows its effects in the form of draining mental abilities such as making decisions and delayed reactions to the happenings in surroundings. Extreme cases of sleep deprivation cause micro naps which are even more dangerous especially in the case where one may be driving.
These problems are prevalent in the lives of people with occupations requiring them to spend their nights working to meet deadlines or working night shifts. The occupation which first comes to mind when talking about working night shifts are the doctors or even more specifically junior doctors or trainees, who are often given night duties. Working through an entire night is now a standard part of most junior doctors' rosters. In these times of competing needs, junior doctors will cover the hospital wards between the hours of 10 p.m to 8 am. When it is a very well known fact, the human mind needs 6 to 8 sleep hours of the night to function properly and to be in its best condition.
It is due to these nights spent tending to patients and taking rounds of the hospital wards that most of the junior doctors leave the hospital doors in a rundown state and a profound need of sleep. In this condition they are left to drive themselves to their homes leading to very obvious and not very positive consequences, half of the junior doctors are reported to have accidents or near misses after night shifts.
In the groggy state after the night shifts, doctors have often explained their experiences where they almost ran over a motorcyclist, crashed into another car, hit a curb or swayed from their lane. In some cases they are pulled over, in some, they nearly avoid an accident, but in others, they are not very fortunate and are faced with a calamity.
What does the survey show?
A survey shows in all, 1,229 (57%) of 2,155 trainee anesthetists questioned were involved in an accident or had a near miss. Most of the doctors, when asked about the reason, admitted to the accident being their own faults but they also admitted sleep deprivation and exhaustion being the cause behind their mistakes. The survey, Medical journal Anaesthesia that was published has also highlighted this issue and stated that at least three junior doctors have died in car accidents after night shifts. One of them had crashed into a lorry after working three continuous night shifts. It was found he had been singing to keep himself to stay awake.
Why are young doctors more vulnerable to accidents?
The reasons behind the young doctors specifically being more vulnerable to accidents is that they are likely to have more night shifts at the start of their careers. Also due to the fact that they may not have yet accustomized tough working hours required by their occupation and having to be sleep deprived sometimes for even a whole week.
The solution to this problem
The easiest solution to avoiding such circumstances where the lives of the ones who save uncountable lives of the others may be protected is as stated in Medical journal Anesthesia, which has prompted calls to allow the doctors to get a few hours to sleep off their exhaustion in the hospitals before leaving the hospitals to get to their homes.