Sleep recommendations: Drivers who fall short are more likely to crash
Hitting the road tomorrow morning? Better hit the pillow on time tonight. Sleeping fewer than seven of the past 24 hours can increase your accident risk, a new study suggests.
The notion that drowsy driving leads to car crashes is nothing new. But unlike previous research, the authors of this study endeavored to establish a correlation between how much a driver has slept and his or her chances of causing a crash.
Experts recommend that most adults get from seven to nine hours of sleep each night. But as many as one in three people regularly get less sleep than that.
For this study, researchers looked at U.S. Department of Transportation data from 5,470 crashes, including driver interviews. Here were some of their key findings:
Compared to those who slept at least seven hours, drivers who slept fewer than four of the previous 24 hours were much more likely to cause a crash—over 15 times more likely in fact. Their crash risk was similar to the crash risk of a drunk driver whose blood alcohol content is roughly 1.5 times the legal limit. Even drivers who slept for six hours—just one hour shy of the minimum sleep recommendation—were still 30 percent more likely to be responsible for a crash.
Falling asleep at the wheel isn’t the only danger drowsy drivers face. Drivers who stay awake can still make mistakes, according to the study’s authors.
The study was published in the journal SLEEP. You can check it out online.
How to get a good night’s rest
If you’re having trouble sleeping, following these tips from the National Sleep Foundation might help improve your sleep
Go to bed and wake up at the same time, even on weekends. This helps keep your body’s internal clock in sync.
Establish a relaxing bedtime routine, such as dimming the lights in your home, turning off the TV and listening to calming music, or taking a warm bath before you go to bed.
Skip your afternoon nap, if you normally take one.
Get some regular exercise (when scheduling your workouts, be aware that exercising too close to bedtime can disrupt sleep).
Make sure your bedroom is a comfortable 60 to 67 degrees and free of bright lights and noise.
Consider buying a new mattress if yours is about a decade old.
Patrick Moody is the director of marketing and public relations at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital. For more information about local community health programs, visit HenryMayo.com.