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A Laurentian University study shows mining employees who regularly work the night shift only sleep an average of 5.5 hours after work — a full hour less than what the average person receives.

A new study from Laurentian University reveals that miners are less rested and are at a higher risk of experiencing a workplace accident than employees in other fields.

A former Vale shift worker said his work schedule took a toll on him — and his sleep suffered as a result.

“It gets to the point where, sometimes, you’ll have such a hard shift that [when] you’re driving home, it almost feels like you’re kind of drunk,” Ryan St. Georges explained. “That’s how it can make you feel.”

New data from Laurentian University suggests this experience is common.

The study says mining employees who regularly work the night shift only sleep an average of 5.5 hours after work — that’s a full hour less than what the average person receives.

Risk of accidents ‘significantly higher’

One of the authors of the study, who is also a sleep expert in the psychology department, said sleep deprivation can be dangerous.

“The biggest consequence for anyone who is sleep deprived is that the reaction time slows down,” Dr. Glenn Legault said. “The chances of you having an accident are significantly higher.”

He said this is especially problematic for those who work with heavy machinery.

“The issue is, if they’re not getting good quality sleep before going in for the next night's shift, they’re going to have problems with decision making and all sorts of other things associated with sleep deprivation.”

St. Georges said most miners know the risk but, for some, working a normal shift isn’t an option.

“People are a lot more stressed out to do a lot more work,” he said. “There’s a shortage of people to sometimes get the work done.”

Legault will present the preliminary findings of his study this weekend at the Canadian Sleep Society in Halifax.