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J Sleep Res. 1995 Dec;4(S2):4-14.

An overview of sleepiness and accidents.

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  • 1Unit for Experimental Psychiatry, Division of Sleep and Chronobiology, Department of Psychiatry and Center for Sleep & Respiratory Neurobiology, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.


This paper reviews the association between neurobiologically-based sleepiness/fatigue and human-error related accidents. It concludes that fatigue contributes to human error and accidents in technology-rich, industrialized societies in terms of human, environmental and economic impacts. The cultural utilization of time as expressed in 24-h work operations, combined with the widespread use of automation, will continue to escalate in the next century, further increasing the risks of fatigue-related accidents, as more people conduct vigilance-based activities at times other than the traditional daytime work hours. Fatigue management and prevention of fatigue-related catastrophes need to become a sustained priority for government, industries, labour, and the public. Scientific data are urgently needed on the most likely areas in which sleepiness-related performance failures contribute to accidents, and on the effectiveness of a wide range of potentially useful countermeasures.

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