Physiology puts teens at risk for drowsy driving

Two teenage males ended up in the hospital on St. Patrick’s Day after the 17-year-old driver fell asleep behind the wheel.
   Alcohol was not a factor, police said.
   The two were headed west on U.S. 12 when the driver fell asleep, crossed the center line, drove off the road and flipped the vehicle.
   Teenagers should be aware that drowsy driving naturally afflicts young drivers more than older adults. The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) says two-thirds of all drowsy-driving crashes involve drivers under 30, with males outnumbering females five to one.
   Teen drivers and those in their 20s miss necessary sleep for several reasons: younger people are naturally “wired” to be more alert late at night, which causes them to go to bed later than needed on weekdays. Schoolwork demands – and for some, early start times – plus part-time jobs and sports activities also disrupt sleep time.
   The NSF says the average high school senior sleeps less than 7 hours on weeknights, far short of the eight or nine hours it recommends for teens.
   If that describes you, what can you do? Do you have a tough time waking up and getting up in the morning? Do you sleep in two hours or more on weekends than on weekdays? Do you rely on caffeine in the morning to get going?
   Perhaps it’s easier said than done, but aim for this: stick with a regular bedtime. Avoid caffeine after lunch. Move that TV out of your bedroom so you’re not tempted by late-night viewing. And learn to say “no” when too many activities cut into your sleep time.

by  Jon Osterberg

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