Long working days with too few hours' sleep slow responses as much as alcohol

September 18, 2000

Moderate sleep deprivation produces impairments in cognitive and motor performance equivalent to legally prescribed levels of alcohol intoxication 2000; 57: 649-55

After 17 to 19 hours of staying awake-a normal working day for many people-reaction times are up to 50 per cent slower than they are after drinking alcohol, shows research in Occupational and Environmental Medicine. The research focused on legally accepted limits for alcohol in Scandinavia, of 50 mg/dl; in the UK this is almost twice as high at 80 mg/dl.

Mental ad physical reaction times, accuracy, coordination and attention span were tested using a range of manual and cognitive tasks in 39 people in their 30s and 40s. The tests were carried out over a period of 28 hours during which the volunteers were given alcohol up to a maximum of 100 mg/dl. And after a night's sleep, the tests were repeated over the same time frame without alcohol. All those assessed worked in transport.

The results showed that after staying awake for 17 to 19 hours-a normal working day for many people-performance of some tasks was the same or worse than after 50mg/dl of alcohol. Reaction times were up to 50 per cent slower, and accuracy was significantly poorer. The longer the volunteers stayed awake, the worse they performed, reaching levels normally expected from alcohol intake above the legally accepted limit in Scandinavia and the UK.

The authors note that lowest performance levels did not parallel the sleep-wake cycle that occurs as a result of the body's natural biorhythms (circadian rhythms). And they suggest that this is because it is sleep deprivation rather than dips in the natural cycles that most strongly impair performance, but that the effects are likely to be exaggerated by these rhythms.

The effects of fatigue are thought to play a part in almost two thirds of the road accidents in the United States, say the authors. Extended working hours, shift work, and lifestyle choices are likely to decrease the amounts of sleep we have, they conclude. The effects, which are likely to be cumulative, pose a serious risk to safety, they say.
-end-
Contact:

Dr Ann Williamson, School of Psychology, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. a.williamson@unsw.edu.au




BMJ Specialty Journals

Related Alcohol Articles from Brightsurf:

Alcohol use changed right after COVID-19 lockdown
One in four adults reported a change in alcohol use almost immediately after stay-at-home orders were issued: 14% reported drinking more alcohol and reported higher levels of stress and anxiety than those who did not drink and those whose use stayed the same.

Changes in hospitalizations for alcohol use disorder in US
Changes over nearly two decades in the rate of hospitalizations and in-hospital deaths from alcohol use disorder in the US were examined in this study.

Associations of alcohol consumption, alcohol-induced passing out with risk of dementia
The risk of future dementia associated with overall alcohol consumption and alcohol-induced loss of consciousness in a population of current drinkers was examined in this observational study with more than 131,000 adults.

New alcohol genes uncovered
Do you have what is known as problematic alcohol use?

Does estrogen influence alcohol use disorder?
A new study from researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago shows that high estrogen levels may make alcohol more rewarding to female mice.

Sobering new data on drinking and driving: 15% of US alcohol-related motor vehicle fatalities involve alcohol under the legal limit
A new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, published by Elsevier, found that motor vehicle crashes involving drivers with blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) below the legal limit of 0.08 percent accounted for 15% of alcohol-involved crash deaths in the United States.

Alcohol-induced deaths in US
National vital statistics data from 2000 to 2016 were used to examine how rates of alcohol-induced deaths (defined as those deaths due to alcohol consumption that could be avoided if alcohol weren't involved) have changed in the US and to compare the results by demographic groups including sex, race/ethnicity, age, socioeconomic status and geographic location.

Cuts in alcohol duty linked to 2000 more alcohol-related deaths in England
Government cuts to alcohol taxes have had dramatic consequences for public health, including nearly 2000 more alcohol-related deaths in England since 2012, according to new research from the University of Sheffield's School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR).

Integrated stepped alcohol treatment for people in HIV care improves both HIV & alcohol outcomes
Increasing the intensity of treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD) over time improves alcohol-related outcomes among people with HIV, according to new clinical research supported by the National Institutes of Health.

The Lancet:Targets to reduce harmful alcohol use are likely to be missed as global alcohol intake increases
Increasing rates of alcohol use suggest that the world is not on track to achieve targets against harmful alcohol use, according to a study of 189 countries' alcohol intake between 1990-2017 and estimated intake up to 2030, published in The Lancet.

Read More: Alcohol News and Alcohol Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.