You may be awake on your drive to work, but if you have gotten less than seven hours of sleep, you are definitely not alert enough to be driving safely, according to a new study published in SLEEP.
Using data from 5,470 crashes in a U.S. Department of Transportation study and interviews with those drivers, the researchers found that a few hours of sleep made all the difference for a crash-free commute. Drivers who reported fewer than four hours of sleep had a 15 times higher chance of getting involved or being responsible for a car crash, compared with drivers who slept at least seven hours.
Sleep-deprived drivers can be 15 times more likely to be in crash
When you have not gotten enough sleep, you cannot think straight. It does not take much to get to a dangerous state of mind. One study found that if a participant got 10 days of six-hour sleep, they were acting as if they were totally sleep deprived. When you reach that level of sleeplessness, you act legally drunk, becoming slower to respond and more prone to dozing off.
People who got four to six hours of sleep in the SLEEP study were making more driving errors that led to car crashes. Changes in work schedules and driving for longer than three hours also led to a higher risk. Too many of us are at risk. As more jobs moved farther from population centers, more of us are becoming extreme commuters who travel a minimum of two hours each way to go to work. It’s why commuting can make or break a job offer.
Before worrying about how your workday is going to go, first, worry about how you are going to get there. If you are sleep-deprived, you may be the biggest danger on the road.