Bad habits, work hours are correlated with poor sleep
A new study released by the Centers for Disease Control shows that Pennsylvania lags behind the national average in terms of getting enough sleep.
Researchers surveyed 440,000 people nationwide, finding that a third reported they got less than seven hours of sleep per night - already a dangerously high number. Pennsylvanians reported a higher-than-average rate of sleep deprivation, at 37.5 percent.
The CDC reported a number of factors that lead to poor sleep, including bad habits such as using electronic devices at night. Socio-economic status and race play a role, as does work: People employed in certain fields, such as healthcare, are particularly likely to be sleep-deprived.
Sleep deprivation is strongly correlated with a number of negative health effects, such as obesity. Just as importantly, sleep-deprived people are cognitively impaired, which means they're more likely to make mistakes that could lead to injuries or death.
Lack of sleep contributes to accidents on the road and in the workplace
Fatigued driving is a leading risk factor in car accidents in Pennsylvania and nationwide. The study results reveal why: Nearly two out of five adults in Pennsylvania are getting less sleep than they need. That means that a high percentage of motorists are driving while tired in Pennsylvania.
Even that figure might understate the danger of fatigued driving. The CDC report indicated that many sleep-deprived adults juggle multiple jobs and have long commutes. That means these sleep-deprived people are spending a lot of time on the road, especially around the critical dawn and dusk hours when visibility is limited and accidents are more likely.
Asleep-at-the-wheel accidents are particularly dangerous because in most cases, drivers don't slow down or otherwise attempt to avoid contact. Sometimes, the vehicle even speeds up before the collision because the sleeping driver's foot is on the gas pedal, increasing the chances of catastrophic injury or death.
While fatigued driving is perhaps the best-known way that lack of sleep can contribute to injuries, it's far from the only one. Cognitive impairment from sleep deprivation can lead to serious injuries at construction sites and in other work environments. Again, one of the industries that struggles most with sleep deprivation is the healthcare industry; when medical professionals are sleep-deprived, they can make mistakes that cause serious harm.
Pennsylvanians have a responsibility to be aware of the role fatigue plays in causing accidents and take steps to keep from endangering themselves or others. For instance, fatigued drivers can stop at a convenience store for an energy drink or pull over on a side street to rest for a few minutes before getting back on the road.
While it's easy to sympathize with an overworked, sleep-deprived driver who causes a collision, the reality is that asleep-at-the-wheel accidents are always preventable. Getting behind the wheel while exhausted is irresponsible, and when fatigued drivers cause others to be injured or killed, they need to be held accountable.