Sleep problems among teens increase crash risk: survey

February 11, 2010

Adolescents who experience poor sleep quality or sleepiness behind the wheel double their odds of being involved in a motor vehicle crash, results of a 2004 survey from the University of Bologna in Italy indicate.

Of 339 students surveyed, 80 experienced a crash; of those, 15 percent identified sleepiness as the main cause of the crash. The survey also indicated that chronic sleep deprivation was a problem for students 18-21 years old, with 45 percent reporting waking in the night, 40 percent reporting difficulty waking in the morning and 64 percent reporting excessive daytime sleepiness.

"Commonly used countermeasures to fatigue, such as opening the window, listening to music or drinking coffee, are short-lasting and essentially useless," lead author Fabio Cirignotta said.

The National Safety Council advises drowsy drivers to avoid stopping on the side of the road and parking in nonsafe areas. Drowsy drivers should pull into a well-lit, secure and busy area and make sure doors are locked.

The study was published in the Feb. 15 issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.