A brand new study released by AAA may make you think twice about skimping on your sleep. Researchers from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety
told reporters that if you only slept between five to six hours the night before, you just doubled your risk for a car crash.
Sleep experts have been telling us for ages to schedule enough time each night for sleep. For how long should we be sleeping? At the very least, as this AAA study doubly confirms, we all should get seven hours of sleep each night.
In our fast-paced digital world, unfortunately, few of us get the kind of rest our bodies require. Heck, most of us are lucky to sleep some nights. But AAA is urging all Americans to get serious about sleep health, especially during the holiday season.
To obtain their data, AAA took a look at almost 7,300 drivers, 4,571 of whom crashed their cars. All of these drivers were observed between the hours of 6AM and midnight from 2005 to 2007.
All of this information was filed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey. This means that AAA researchers had access to data on how many hours each driver slept 24 hours before he/she crashed his/her car.
As hinted at above, the researchers found that the risk for a crash increased in proportion to how little sleep a person got. The less sleep time, the higher the chance of a serious accident.
While this may not seem like a shocking revelation, AAA researchers were surprised at just how much a lack of sleep hinders a driver's performance. Researchers said drowsy driving is just as dangerous as drunk driving in many cases.
AAA's research actually confirms a 2012 study published in the medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine
that suggested how similar drowsiness was to drunk driving. This study, which took place in France, interviewed a total of 679 patients involved in a car crash. These patients were hospitalized in Bordeaux, Toulouse, and Limoges between the years 2007-2009. Researchers found that "sleepiness carried almost as much risk as alcohol ingestion" in every case. The researchers recommended both public "information and education" to combat this problem effectively.
This is all horrendous news, especially considering that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(CDC) released its own report this year revealing that over one-third of American adults fail to get seven hours of sleep each night. CDC officials said that America's poor sleeping habits fit the official definition of a "public health problem."
The AAA researchers officially said if a person had between six to seven hours of sleep, then the risk for a crash rose by about 1.3
. As mentioned before, between five and six hours of sleep doubled the risk. Between four and five hours of sleep increased the risk by a rate of 4.3. And, finally, people with less than four hours of sleep had a whopping 11.5 increased risk of crashing their vehicle.
Looking back on past work done by AAA, a 2010
study found that at least two out of every five American drivers have actually fallen asleep behind the wheel. One of the head researchers at AAA, Brian Tefft, said that he personally knew a few friends who fell asleep at the wheel and got involved in serious accidents.
AAA wanted to get this study out before the busy Christmas and New Year's travel season. They hope this information will remind drivers to get as much sleep as possible to be alert and focused on the highways and byways of the USA.
The U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics
said that travel increases by 23 percent during the Christmas/New Year's Holiday season. About 91 percent of that travel is done by a personal vehicle.
So, what could you do to promote a healthy circadian rhythm? Well, most sleep experts suggest
exercising everyday, cutting out caffeine and alcohol from your diet, and taking sufficient time to relax before going to sleep. If you are really having troubles with insomnia, you can try taking herbs
like valerian, California poppy, and ashwagandha. If you have serious issues with sleep, contact your personal physician as soon as possible to get a professional sleep study done.