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Why Sleep is a Safety Issue

Insuffcuent sleep can actually be dangerous to you and others around you. Find out how (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

Insuffcuent sleep can actually be dangerous to you and others around you. Find out how (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

It doesn’t matter whether you are driving a forklift or the family mini-van; fatigue impairs your ability to safely operate vehicles and machinery.  This is the message from the National Transportation Safety Board who has investigated accidents of all kinds for more than 40 years.

Insufficient sleep is a problem that touches every area of our society and the fatigue it causes needs to be a public health concern in every city and every state.  Most people do not realize that research has shown that being awake for 18 hours caused impairment similar to that of someone with a blood alcohol concentration of .05 and 24 hours without sleep caused impairment similar to that of a BAC of .10.  In most states, the legal limit for driving is .08.  It is clear that drowsy driving and operator fatigue needs to be treated as seriously as driving under the influence if we are going to make our roads, skies and seas safer.

When it comes to improving transportation safety, there are some measures in place aimed at ensuring the operators of commercial vehicles like long-haul truck drivers, airline pilots, and boat captains have schedules that allow for them to obtain adequate sleep.  However, having the time to get enough sleep does not always equate to getting a full night of quality sleep which can put lives at risk.


Why isn’t Drowsy Driving and Operator Fatigue Taken More Seriously?

There are at least three problems with monitoring, mandating, and legislating drowsy driving and operator fatigue.  The first is a logistical problem.  Unlike drunk driving which can be confirmed with a breath or blood test, there isn’t any way to test someone to see how tired they are or how much sleep they got.  It would be impossible to enforce any law mandating that a person gets a certain amount of sleep before driving or flying because there is no way to confirm or test their declaration.

The second problem relates to the fact that not everyone needs the same amount of sleep.  While sleep experts like the National Sleep Foundation recommend that adults get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night, our individual sleep needs are different.  While some people may be perfectly safe to drive with 7 hours of sleep other may require 10 to be safe.  Without any consistency there is no way to set a mandatory minimum that works across the population or to measure it if we did.

The third problem is a societal problem and this is where we can all make a difference.  Unfortunately, despite all the evidence supporting the importance of adequate sleep to our health and safety, our society continues to de-prioritize it.  In many cases, those who seem to function well on little sleep are seen as heroes or envied for their ability to do so.  We all seem to buy into the idea that skipping sleep is acceptable in almost any circumstance which is quite tragic when you consider the short and long term ramifications of not getting the sleep your body needs.  Until we start treating sleep as a foundational part of protecting out health and wellbeing, it is going to be difficult to make our roads, skies, and even factories safer places to be.

Client Reviews

"I recommend them highly!! I took my 2 year old daughter for a sleep study and was very impressed. Our sleep technician was amazing with her, very patient and kind. The DVD we brought to watch while getting her hooked up got stuck in the TV and they vowed to return it. We got a call the next day checking on our daughter and saying how sweet she was, they mentioned the DVD. Several days later, we received the DVD plus a new copy of the Lion King with a nice note. They are very good at what they do and if they can make a 2 year old feel at ease, they can probably do the same with anyone!!"

Anthea S.

Tempe, AZ

"Great staff, they make you feel so at home. Every medical facility should be this nice. Felt like a nice hotel. Someone has great taste in decorating. Thanks for making us feel at home."

Steve N.

San Diego, CA

"I was especially impressed with Andrew the Respiratory Therapist who reviewed my study with me and answered my questions. Andrew thoroughly explained everything about the Cpap machine-from start to finish. I never felt rushed and was assured I could contact him with any additional questions or needs. Andrew told me he would follow up with a call in a week and he did. I believe this center performed the study appropriately and the added benefit of having Andrew teach me about the machine and what to expect was a bonus."

Candace M.

Scottsdale, AZ