People who sleep less than seven hours per night are more likely to cause an accident. The risk is higher in people who sleep less than 4 hours. They are 15 times more likely to cause an accident, according to the study, published in the journal Sleep.
Each of five Americans sleep less than the recommended amount of 7-9 hours per day. Lack of sleep has a variety of adverse health effects: for example, it is associated with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, as well as a propensity for junk food.
Brian Tefft of the non-profit organization AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety analyzed data on 5.7 thousand accidents from 2005 to 2007 with the participation of 10,200 drivers investigated by the US Department of Transportation.
The sample included accidents from 6:00 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. with at least one car badly damaged by which they called the ambulance. The experts interviewed the drivers and found out how much they slept on the night before the accident.
Tefft identified the drivers guilty of the accident based on their actions and violations of the regulations, which the experts of the Ministry considered as determinants for the accident. In general, most drivers guilty and not guilty of their accident (70% and 78% respectively) reported that they slept between seven and nine hours, and 8% and 7% six hours.
Tefft then showed that for a driver, who slept less than four hours, the risk of having an accident by his own fault was 15.1 times greater than for the driver who slept seven to nine hours. According to the Ministry of Transportation, the figure is comparable to the risk of exceeding the limit of blood alcohol content.
In addition, the risk of being the culprit of the accident increased for those who reported that in the previous seven days they changed work or sleep schedules, or that they normally experience drowsiness during the day. However, it is worth noting that due to the small size of the study sample should be interpreted with caution.