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Drowsy drivers’ risk of car accident can increase 10x

Dec 29 2016
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Lack of sleep can affect a person’s ability to drive and lead to drowsy driving, as researchers from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found the chance of a car accident increases ten-fold for people driving after losing at least four hours of sleep.

The findings were published in the December 2016 study, “Acute Sleep Deprivation and Risk of Motor Vehicle Crash Involvement.” Using data from crash reports from 2005 through 2007, the researchers looked at the relationship between the number of hours the driver had slept in the past day and the risk of crash.

Driving after losing at least four hours or more of sleep increases the chance of a car accident by 10 times

Drivers who slept less than four or more hours than usual had 10.2 times the crash rate, compared to a person who slept for at least seven hours. The more hours of sleep a person lost, the greater their risk of a car crash, according to the study.

Know how much sleep you need

The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults get seven to nine hours of sleep daily. But with various stressors and pressures of everyday life, it’s not uncommon for a person to sleep less than the recommended amount. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found more than one-third of the country is not getting at least seven hours of sleep each night.

Lack of sleep affects your health

Getting enough sleep is important to maintain overall health. Sleeping less than seven hours is associated with an increased risk of developing chronic conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and frequent mental distress. When a person gets adequate sleep, it allows the body’s cells and tissues to recover and for protein synthesis to occur, according to Harvard Medical School’s Division of Sleep Medicine.

More than one-third of the U.S. gets less than seven hours of sleep each night

Aetna began offering employees an incentive to get a good night’s rest so they could reap the positive benefits of enough sleep. As part of the Healthy Lifestyles program, employees can earn up to $300 per year for sleeping seven or more hours a night. More than 17,000 employees participated in the sleep program last year.

The Healthy Lifestyles program is a holistic wellness program that encourages physical, mental, emotional and financial wellness.

Other things that can impact sleep

Certain medications and over-the-counter drugs can affect sleep. For example, blood pressure medication and allergy medication can make a person feel drowsy. Two of the most common side effects of medicine are headaches and fatigue, according to John Moore, DO, FAAFP, Aetna’s medical director for the U.S. Northeast Region.

If you’re sleeping enough, but still feel tired afterwards, Moore recommends talking with a physician.

“If you feel tired all the time, especially while you drive and think you had adequate sleep,” Moore said, “it’s important to see your doctor because obstructive sleep apnea is very insidious. You may not realize you have it.”

Sleep apnea is a disorder where a person has one or more pauses in breathing while sleeping, according to the National Institutes of Health.

TIps for a better night of sleep

There are several things you can do to try to get more sleep in each night. Try avoiding using any electronics before bed. The blue light emitted from the screens of mobile phones, tablets and computers can affect the sleep cycle. With enough light, the brain can be tricked into promoting wakefulness, which prevents a person from falling asleep.

Here are some tips from the National Sleep Foundation on getting more sleep:

  1. Stick to a sleep schedule.
  2. Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual.
  3. If you have trouble sleeping, avoid naps, especially in the afternoon.
  4. Exercise daily.
  5. Evaluate your room to make sure it’s free from any distractions, such as light or electronics.
  6. Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillow.