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A Sleep-Deprived Driver is a Dangerous Driver

Americans don't get enough sleep. There are many consequences that flow from this, from lost productivity at work to unnecessary stress in relationships. But the most immediately dangerous result of fatigue is car accidents and other vehicle accidents caused by drivers who are too tired to pay proper attention.

In a wired society like ours, the failure to get enough sleep is a common problem. It cuts across race, gender and class lines.

It's true that there are some differences in sleep tendencies among different races. A study of Chicago-area residents done at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago concluded that whites sleep the most, followed by Asians, Hispanics and blacks.

The study involved 500 people who agreed to wear wrist monitors for a week to report data on their sleep patterns. The results are there considered more reliable than studies based merely on data that people self-report.

Regardless of race, however, there are other key factors that influence how much someone sleeps. A lot depends on where someone lives. For example, in a densely populated area, with frequent sirens and lots of urban lighting, sleep may be harder to come by than in a more remote location.

And then there are the personal lifestyle choices that affect sleep. Excessive caffeine or alcohol consumption in the evening can negatively affect sleep. So can excessive use of electronic devices, in which the lights from the screen trick the mind into thinking it's earlier than it really is.

Shift work is another variable that can lead to sleep-deprived, and therefore dangerous, drivers. Working nights or other odd hours can throw off the body's internal clock and make it difficult to get enough restful sleep.

Source: "Length of sleep varies by race," study shows," Chicago Tribune, Leslie Mann, 7-25-12

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