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Drowsy Driving Worse Than Drunk Driving?

Drunk driving remains a threat on the roadway but for obvious reasons it is considered taboo in most circles. This is due in large part to campaigns to spread awareness about the incredible safety threat it poses. Drowsy driving can have a similar impact on driving safety. Until recently, it has not received the same amount of attention as drunk driving, but this is changing.

A report by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety illustrated how driving drowsy can be just as reckless as driving while drunk. Researchers found sleeping less than four hours can increase your crash risk 12-fold. This risk factor is comparable to a blood alcohol concentration of .12 to .15. To put this in perspective, a 200-pound man would have to consume six to eight drinks an hour to reach this level of intoxication.

Lack of sleep effects more than just your reflexes and ability to operate a motor vehicle. Sleep deprivation has a wide-ranging impact on your health, including the following:

Increased risk of car accidents

Increased accidents at work

Reduced ability to perform tasks

Reduced ability to learn or remember

Reduced productivity at work

Reduced creativity at work or in other activities

Reduced athletic performance

Increased risk of type 2 diabetes, obesity, cancer, high blood pressure, osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease

Increased risk of depression

Increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease

Decreased immune function

Slowed reaction time

Reduced regulation of emotions and emotional perception

Poor grades in school

Increased susceptibility to stomach ulcers

Exacerbates current chronic diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and cancer

Cutting one hour of sleep a night can increase the expression of genes associated with inflammation, immune excitability, diabetes, cancer risk and stress

Contributes to premature aging by interfering with growth hormone production, normally released by your pituitary gland during deep sleep

Beware of Light Pollution 

Human beings have been sleeping at night since time immemorial and light exposure can easily disrupt normal sleep cycles. Your pineal gland produces melatonin roughly in approximation to the contrast of bright sun exposure in the day and complete darkness at night. The sleep difficulties that so many experience can often be linked to the absence of a natural sleep environment. 

Your health depends on a regular light-dark cycle that, ideally, starts and stops at the same time each day. Late night artificial light exposure can profoundly influence your physical and mental health and well-being. EMF generating devices greatly can severely disrupt circadian rhythms. You should strongly consider removing electronics from the vicinity of your bed and not using them within several hours of turning in.

It may seem challenging at first, but another goal should be creating a sleep environment that is completely free of light. Blackout drapes are an excellent starting point. I highly recommend investing in a pair of blue blocker sunglasses. I call them reverse sunglasses and wear them in most commercial buildings. Artificial blue light should be avoided at all times and these affordable glasses reduce the harmful impact of high intensity and LED lighting.

A few other easy to implement tweaks are avoiding alcohol, caffeine and other drugs including nicotine for several hours before bed. I also recommend keeping the temperature in your bedroom below 70 degrees F.  Rejuvenating sleep is one of the fundamental foundations of health, but for millions it is a challenge. Fortunately, there are strategies that can help make sleep a respite rather than a source of frustration. 
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