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Asleep Behind the Wheel

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Sleeping less than six hours a night can actually be more dangerous than driving drunk.

That’s the startling finding of researchers at the University of Pennsylvania suggest in a new study that concluded so-called “short sleepers—people who sleep less than six hours a night—are among the most perilous  drivers on the road.

In their study, UPenn researchers found that people who routinely are short on sleep (are most likely to report incidents of drowsy driving. This phenomenon was true even amongst “short sleepers” who otherwise report that they otherwise “feel fine” on their abbreviated nighttime rest. No surprise, the most frequent drowsy drivers were “short sleepers” who feel in the “four hours or less” category.

The researchers noted their findings are important for anyone who is struggling with sleep deprivation for issues ranging from medical (such as sufferers of sleep apnea) to those who are so stressed for time they are sleep starved. But their study also included people who say they naturally get by on a little sleep. Noting that the federal government estimates some 15 to 33 percent of fatal accidents are attributed to drowsy driving, the researchers suggest the issue of “short sleep” combined with driving is a serious one. The study was reported recently in the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention.

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