Here’s Why Chronic Sleep Deprivation (And Sleep Apnea) Is Linked To Car Crashes

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Sleep experts have long held that you’re more likely to get in a car accident when you are tired. Sleepy drivers might struggle to keep their eyes open, miss turns or ignore traffic signs, react more slowly to oncoming cars or pedestrians, and have issues maintaining a consistent speed.

Each of these factors can increase the risk of crashes, which is why the National Sleep Foundation advises against drowsy driving. But here’s the trouble: Some people who are chronically sleep deprived don’t even realize how tired they are. As such, they may not realize they are at risk for drowsy driving.

[Editor’s Note: The information provided should not be considered a substitute for professional advice. Please consult a sleep doctor or other medical expert if you have questions related to your own health.]

RELATED: Everything You Should Know About Drowsy Driving


Sleep Apnea, Chronic Sleep Deprivation, And Drowsy Driving

A team of researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital recently investigated the relationship between car crashes and two potential contributing causes: not getting enough sleep or experiencing sleep apnea. (Sleep apnea is a common condition wherein your breathing slows or stops during the night. This diminishes sleep quality and can cause daytime fatigue.)

The researchers analyzed data collected from 1,745 men and 1,456 women between the ages of 40 and 89. They found that people with severe sleep apnea had a 123 percent increased risk of being in a motor vehicle crash.

“We found that chronically sleep-deprived individuals don’t perceive themselves as being excessively sleepy and thus don’t perceive themselves as impaired,” lead author Dr. Daniel J. Gottlieb said in a press release. “This resulted in an increased risk of motor vehicle crashes in sleep-deprived individuals.”

RELATED: New Data Suggests Drowsy Driving Is A Bigger Issue Than We Thought


According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, a doctor can diagnose you with sleep apnea based on an assessment of your medical history, a physical exam, and sleep study results. Common treatment options include making healthy lifestyle changes or using a breathing apparatus while you sleep.

RELATED: Research Suggests Synthetic Cannabis May Help Treat Sleep Apnea

The researchers from this study believe that treating people for sleep apnea may decrease the likelihood that they get in a car crash—though the relationship between the two isn’t cause-and-effect.

“To help reduce these crash risks we need to identify individuals with sleep apnea and ensure they are properly treated for their apnea,” Gottleib said. “We also need to increase public awareness of the importance of a good night’s sleep to reduce the percentage of the population with insufficient sleep duration. Ultimately, we would like to be able to identify a biomarker for cognitive impairments due to excessive sleepiness.”

[Editor’s Note: The content provided on this site is for general informational purposes only. Any information provided is not a substitute for professional medical advice. We encourage you to consult with the appropriate health expert if you have concerns.]

Featured image: Solis Images/Shutterstock

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Joe Auer

Joe Auer is the editor of Mattress Clarity. He mainly focuses on mattress reviews and oversees the content across the site.

He likes things simple and take a straightforward, objective approach to his reviews. Joe has personally tested nearly 250 mattresses and always recommends people do their research before buying a new bed. He has been testing mattresses for over 5 years now, so he knows a thing or two when it comes to mattress selection. He has been cited as an authority in the industry by a number of large publications.

Joe has an undergraduate degree from Wake Forest University and an MBA from Columbia University.