Sleep seven hours, or crash twice as often

drowsy driver behind wheelHow much sleep do you get on a work night? A new report suggests that shorter sleep equates with more car crashes.

So how much sleep do you need? An AAA researcher says seven or more hours. Drivers in the study who slept only five or six hours are twice as likely to crash as longer sleepers.

Wow. For decades, I habitually slept about five and a half hours each work night. Then about six years ago, I realized PEMCO was not getting my best energy and effort at work, so I set a 10 o'clock bedtime. That now gives me seven hours of sleep before my 5:20 a.m. alarm, and my energy clearly has improved.

I guess I'm lucky to have avoided crashes for so long.

The AAA study shows that compared with drivers who slept seven hours or more, drivers who slept only four or five hours had four times the crash rate – close to that of drunk drivers.

AAA based its study on data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Previous research had revealed 20% of highway fatalities involve drowsy drivers.man sleeping in chair in front of tv

A National Public Radio story on the drowsy-driving report notes that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found more than one in three people sleep too little on a regular basis, and that other consequences include weight gain and depression.

So when do you turn out the light? Perhaps it's better for more of us to catch Jimmy Fallon on time-shifted TV and leave the live broadcasts to late risers.

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