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Seasonal Demands Put Drivers at Risk

Sleep association warns motorists to stay alert behind the wheel

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 27, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- The hectic holiday schedule can leave you sleep deprived and in no shape to drive, warns the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM).

"The holiday season has traditionally been associated with activities such as shopping, parties and cooking. Engaging in these activities can lead to sleep deprivation, and consequently make our roads a dangerous place to be," Michael H. Silber, AASM president and professor of neurology at the Mayo Clinic, said in a prepared statement.

"Despite an insufficient amount of sleep, people get behind the wheel, unaware that, by doing so, they are putting their lives and others' in great danger," Silber said.

He noted that drowsy driving can be similar to impaired driving. Sleepiness results in slower reaction time, decreased awareness and impaired judgment.

Drowsy driving is the direct cause of about 100,000 police-reported crashes in the United States each year, resulting in about 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries and $12.5 billion in monetary costs, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The AASM offers the following advice:

  • If you feel too drowsy to drive, leave it to someone else.
  • Adults need seven to eight hours of sleep a night in order to maintain good health and optimum performance.
  • If you become drowsy while driving, pull off in a rest area and take a 15-20 minute nap.
  • Consume caffeine, which improves alertness in people who are fatigued.
  • Don't drink alcohol. If you're tired, alcohol can further impair your ability to stay awake and make good decisions. Just one glass of alcohol can affect your level of fatigue while you're driving.
  • Don't drive after midnight, which is a natural period of sleepiness.

More information

The National Sleep Foundation has more about drowsy driving.

SOURCE: American Academy of Sleep Medicine, news release, December 2006
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