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Study Reports That Sleep Apnea More than Doubles the Risk for Accidents

While many of us dread waking up for work after vacations or weekends and hearing that alarm buzzer sound, most of us have to stick to a schedule for our “daily grind”. That is why we should all get a good night’s sleep. In fact, not only does being well rested increase your productivity and help you create a better work product, but it will make your commute to work a lot safer.

However, there are many conditions and factors that prevent some people from getting the sleep they need to function well at work and safely on the road. Maybe you live in a noisy downtown area and struggle sleeping through the noise of the city and the traffic. Perhaps you have a child whose cries interrupt your sleep in the middle of the night. You might also have a medical condition that stops you from being well rested, having deep sleep, or sleeping long enough.

A recent study revealed that those who suffer from sleep apnea have a more than double the risk of others on the road of a car accident from their drowsy driving. According to an article by Medical Daily, the risks of sleep deprivation are similar to those of alcohol intoxication when driving a car. This means that driving when not properly rested is very similar to getting behind the wheel of a vehicle when drunk. According to the study, people with obstructive sleep apnea were found 2.5 times more likely to be the driver in an accident than people without the sleep disorder. One doctor explained that excessive daytime sleepiness is a common symptom of obstructive sleep apnea, which causes the individual to wake up in the morning feeling tired and unrefreshed despite having slept all night. In fact, insufficient sleep has been classified as a public health epidemic by the Centers for Disease Control, and nearly 40% of people report unintentionally falling asleep at least once per month. That is an especially high percentage, especially when you consider the fact that the once per month or more could happen behind the wheel of a car.

The article elaborates to say that in a 2010 study, 20 to 25 hours of sleep loss result in the same levels of depleted brainpower as a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.10. This is why drowsy driving is such an important issue to address because lack of sleep impairs an individual’s cognitive abilities. A Swedish team completed a similar study and examined 1,478 sleep apnea patients with the average age of 54. From this accident they saw that drivers in accidents were more likely to be sufferers of sleep apnea.

Furthermore, while the article states that one in five Americans has a mild case of sleep apnea and one in 15 has a moderate to severe case, a Gallup poll revealed that too many Americans are simply not getting enough sleep before getting behind the wheel of a car. The poll found that 40% of us get less than the recommended amount of sleep, which accounts for 6,400 traffic-related deaths per year from motor vehicle accidents. By simply getting enough sleep and being well-rested, this is the number of lives that could be saved every year. Choosing to drive when too tired is negligent and unnecessarily puts lives at risk. While sleep apnea is a medical condition and can be tackled with medical care, those who do not sleep enough can address their own problem by being well rested and making the road a safer place for everyone. This is an easy solution that will save lives.