Wake up! The Dangers of Drowsy Driving.

Wake up! The Dangers of Drowsy Driving.

If you’re not getting enough sleep and find yourself frequently waking up still tired, you’re not alone. More than one-third of all U.S. adults averages less than 7 hours of sleep per night, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

That lack of sleep is causing problems during the daytime, CDC surveys found. In one survey, 38% of people said they unintentionally dozed off during the day at least once in the previous month. Even more alarming, 5% said they nodded off or fell asleep while driving.

If you don’t get enough sleep, it definitely impacts your functioning, your memory, your response time and your ability to drive safely.

Drowsy driving causes more than 100,000 crashes a year, resulting in an estimated 1,550 deaths, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The Federal Department of Transportation reports one out of every three trucking accidents is sleep related.

The National Sleep Foundation has compared drowsy driving to driving drunk. Statistics show that being awake for 18 hours is similar to having a blood alcohol content of .05. Being awake for 24 hours is similar to having a BAC of .10.

We need to start seeing sleep as a important part of health. It isn’t a luxury. Lack of sleep can impact your day-to-day functioning and your life expectancy. If you get behind the wheel of a car and haven’t had adequate rest, your chances of having an accident increase dramatically.”

Sleep disorders—including insomnia, sleep apnea, and restless legs syndrome—are common. Individuals with untreated obstructive sleep apnea are up to 7 times more likely to fall asleep at the wheel according to The National Sleep Foundation.

More than 18 million Americans suffer from Obstructive Sleep Apnea and 90% go undiagnosed. Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a serious health condition, and snoring is often the first symptom noticed. Although snoring is generally viewed as a minor annoyance, it may often be an indication of a more serious condition such as sleep apnea. Other signs of sleep apnea may include: gasping, coughing or choking during the night, waking up tired after full nights rest, problems with memory, and general irritability.

People with untreated obstructive sleep apnea have a higher risk of death than the normal population. Suffers can experience a potentially crippling deterioration in daily functioning, an increased risk of high blood pressure and stroke, depression and death either in accidents or in their sleep. Effects are often felt by family members when dealing with their loved one’s frequent irritability, mood changes, lower sexual drive, and reduction of intellectual ability.

The impact of untreated obstructive sleep apnea stretches beyond an individual’s own household – employers and business are affected by underperforming workers and lower productivity, while communities are impacted by increased insurance costs as a result of accidents and health care needs. These health care resources are often expended to treat and alleviate the consequences of obstructive sleep apnea, such as heart disease and cardiac arrest, instead of treating the underlying cause.

Don’t Wait! Get Treated.

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) continues to be the gold standard of treatment for severe obstructive sleep apnea. If a patient is using CPAP and doing well they can stay on it. Unfortunately, many patients find the masks uncomfortable and inconvenient, and frequently discontinue using them for these reasons.

According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, only about 60% of CPAP users are still using the CPAP after the first few months. If a patient cannot wear the CPAP, other treatment options include lifestyle changes, surgery and oral appliance therapy.

Oral Appliance Therapy has proven to be a very viable and scientifically based treatment option for Obstructive Sleep Apnea. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine issued a statement in the 2006 journal “SLEEP” that Oral Appliance Therapy was approved as the first line of treatment for those suffering from mild to moderate Obstructive Sleep Apnea and is proving to be effective for severe cases as well. The purpose of the oral appliance is to hold the jaw in a position that allows the airway to remain as open and firm as possible during sleep. Oral appliances are similar to athletic mouth guards, but less bulky and completely non-invasive.

Oral Appliance Therapy is covered by most medical insurances and Medicare.

Are You at Risk?

Before you drive, consider whether you are:

Sleep-deprived or fatigued (6 hours of sleep or less triples your risk)
Suffering from sleep loss (insomnia), poor quality sleep, or a sleep debt
Driving long distances without proper rest breaks
Driving through the night, mid-afternoon or when you would normally be asleep
Taking sedating medications (antidepressants, cold tablets, antihistamines)
Working more than 60 hours a week (increases your risk by 40%)
Working more than one job and your main job involves shift work
Drinking even small amounts of alcohol
Driving alone or on a long, rural, dark or boring road

Specific At-Risk Groups

Young people – especially males under age 26
Shift workers and people with long hours – working the night shift increases their risk by nearly 6 times; rotating-shift workers and people working more than 60 hours a week
Commercial drivers – especially long-haul drivers – at least 15% of all heavy truck crashes involve fatigue
People with undiagnosed or untreated disorders – people with untreated obstructive sleep apnea have been shown to have up to a seven times increased risk of falling asleep at the wheel
Business travelers who spend many hours driving or may be jet lagged

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