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Drive Alert, Arrive Safe – Better Sleep Could Cut Serious Road Accidents By A Third

March 17, 2009

Driving hazards caused by sleepiness highlighted on World Sleep Day

NEW YORK, March 17 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Improved diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders could help to cut fatal or serious road traffic accidents by up to one third, according to the World Association of Sleep Medicine. The announcement has been made on the second annual World Sleep Day, March 20, an international event aimed at raising awareness of the burden and impact of sleep disorders. World Sleep Day is an annual event to raise awareness of the importance of sleep for good health. This year’s slogan is ‘Drive alert, arrive safe’. The event is organized by the World Sleep Day Committee of the World Association of Sleep Medicine (WASM) and aims to lessen the burden of sleep problems on society through better prevention and management of sleep disorders.

The day also highlights the dangers of drowsy driving which can lead to accidents caused by people suffering next day effects of sleep problems, such as excessive daytime sleepiness and poor concentration.

Catesby Ware, Chief of the Division of Sleep Medicine at Eastern Virginia Medical School, USA says, “In the USA, 40,000-50,000 people die yearly in traffic accidents. Up to 20% are thought related to fatigue and tiredness. Sleepiness, like drinking alcohol, destabilizes the car’s position on the road. Experiencing sleepiness whilst driving and driving under the influence of alcohol are similarly deadly.”

To help cut the risk of sleepiness while driving, Ware emphasizes the importance of understanding what is needed to ensure wakefulness when driving. “Just as important as knowing how to get a good night of sleep, is learning what it takes to stay awake. These include getting sufficient, quality sleep, having regular bed and rising times, taking regular breaks when driving, and using caffeine judiciously.”

Insomnia, one of the most common sleep complaints has been linked to a significant rise in road traffic accidents, 35% of all accidents are caused by drivers who have not had enough sleep or have not had restorative (quality) sleep. Poor alertness and efficiency, caused by poor quality sleep raise the risk of vehicle or occupational accidents. As a result, tiredness while driving is responsible for a large number of accidents and deaths. People with insomnia are also up to seven times more likely to be involved in work accidents that cause serious injury or death.

A costly global burden

Sleep problems constitute a global epidemic that threatens health and quality of life for up to 45% of the world’s population. As well as causing distress to the individual, sleep problems also create significant burden on society. Sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, and psychophysiological insomnia are among the most common alterations of sleep. Paradoxically, research suggests that less than a third of people with moderate to severe sleep problems seek professional help for their sleep problems.

Poor quality of sleep or insufficient sleep can also have a negative effect on the health of an individual. In the US it is estimated that direct and indirect costs of insomnia amount to $107.5 billion. Sleep deprivation has been associated with decline in mental health and people with insomnia are more likely to suffer symptoms of depression and anxiety. Other links have been made between sleep deprivation and conditions such as obesity, diabetes and weakened immune systems. Insomnia and other sleep disorders can also have a negative impact on overall quality of life and family and social relationships. However, most sleep disorders are preventable or treatable, yet less than a third of sufferers seek professional help. World Sleep Day aims to reduce the burden of sleep disorders on society by encouraging better understanding of sleep conditions and calling for more research into sleep medicine and treatment. A copy of this press release, references, and contact information can be viewed at www.worldsleepday.org.

World Sleep Day partners

World Sleep Day 2009 is sponsored by the World Association of Sleep Medicine. Partners in this year’s celebrations are pharmaceutical companies, H. Lundbeck A/S and Boehringer Ingelheim GmbH.

SOURCE World Association of Sleep Medicine


Source: newswire