Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Sleepy Teens Twice As Likely to Have Car Crashes

A study in the Feb. 15 issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that sleep problems and sleepiness increase the risk of motor vehicle accidents in teens.

Results indicated that adolescent drivers were twice as likely to have had a crash if they experienced sleepiness while driving or reported having bad sleep.

The 2004 study was conducted in Italy. It included 339 students. Students were between the ages of 18 and 21 years. Fifty-eight percent of them were male. All of them had licenses.

Eighty of the 339 students had already crashed at least once. Fifteen percent of them considered sleepiness to have been the main cause of the crash.

Fifty-six percent of students who had at least one previous crash reported driving while sleepy. In contrast, 35 percent of subjects who had not been in a crash reported driving while sleepy.

The students answered questions about lifestyle habits, sleep habits, sleep disorders symptoms and daytime sleepiness.

Researchers assessed the frequency and timing of car use. They also examined the number of accidents drivers experienced and the perceived causes. They considered the respondents’ way of dealing with drowsy driving.

Results showed that students suffered from chronic sleep deprivation. Additionally, 45 percent woke up at least once during the night with trouble falling asleep again. Forty percent complained of difficulties waking up in the morning. Nineteen percent reported bad sleep.

This pour-quality sleep affected their daytime wakefulness. Sixty-four percent of participants complained of excessive daytime sleepiness.

Men and smokers had an increased risk for accidents. The authors suggested that tobacco use could have been an indirect estimate of unhealthy lifestyle habits or method of counteracting sleepiness.

The researchers recommended combating sleepiness by pulling off the road and napping for 10 to 15 minutes. Opening a window, listing to music or drinking coffee are not effective.

Untreated sleep apnea is a major cause for motor vehicle accidents. Having sleep apnea can make a person 15 times more likely to be involved in a deadly motor vehicle accident.

In December, this blog reported on a study that found that being awake 17 straight hours produced impairment equal to a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .05. After 24 hours of not sleeping, the impairment rose to .10.

Read more about drowsy driving here.

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The Official Blog of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM) is intended as an information source only. Content of this blog should not be used for self-diagnosis or treatment, and it is not a substitute for medical care, which should be provided by the appropriate health care professional. If you suspect you have a sleep-related breathing disorder, such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), you should consult your personal physician or visit an AASM-accredited sleep disorders center. The AADSM, and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, as the managing agent of the AADSM, assume no liability for the information contained on the Official Blog of the AADSM or for its use.