Healthy Library

Not too drowsy? Lost sleep could still cause crashes

April 26, 2018—Getting too little restful shut-eye—either because you don’t sleep long enough or you have a sleep disorder that wakes you up—could raise your risk for car crashes, even if you don’t feel too tired.

That’s a takeaway from a new study in the journal BMC Medicine.

The study found that car crashes were more common among people who were chronically sleep deprived. For instance, sleeping six hours a night was associated with a 33 percent higher crash risk, when compared to those who got seven to eight hours of nightly slumber.

People with sleep deprivation due to a condition called sleep apnea also had a higher crash risk. Sleep apnea causes breathing pauses during sleep (and often loud snoring), which can make it hard to get a good night’s rest.

What’s more, most people who were sleep deprived didn’t feel especially sleepy. This suggests that, if you often fail to get a good night’s rest, you may not always be aware of the safety risks you may face behind the wheel.

The findings also highlight the importance of improving poor sleep habits and treating sleep apnea, both of which are common.

Are you sleep-starved?

If poor slumber can impair your driving without making you sleepy, then how can you tell if you’re chronically short on shut-eye? For one, you might find clues in your mood and daytime performance. For example, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine reports that you might:

  • Lack motivation.
  • Feel anxious or depressed.
  • Have trouble concentrating and paying attention.
  • Be less alert.
  • Have a slowed reaction time.
  • Feel like you’re low on energy.
  • Tend to forget things.

Could you use a sleep study?

If you think you might have a sleep disorder, a sleep study could help you find out. Take a quick quiz, and talk to your doctor about the results.

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