Wednesday, July 25, 2012

SAFE-D: Teaching Sleep, Alertness and Fatigue Education to Drivers

In the middle of summer’s peak driving season, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) offers a free online presentation describing the signs, causes and effects of driver fatigue and some strategies to manage it.

SAFE-D: Sleep, Alertness and Fatigue Education for Drivers is available on Vimeo, which has been posted below. The presentation also is on YouTube (part 1, part 2) to share or embed.

SAFE-D: Sleep, Alertness and Fatigue Education for Drivers from AASMorg on Vimeo.

The 30-minute narrated slide presentation explores the causes of fatigue, which stretch beyond the simple lack of sleep. For example, people who work outside of a typical nine-to-five schedule or work unpredictable schedules are at a high risk for fatigue.

Most people think that sleepiness and drowsiness are due only to lack of sleep, but there are other factors that affect your levels of alertness throughout the day, SAFE-D warns. These include staying awake for 16 hours or more, sleeping less than seven or eight hours a night, having interrupted sleep or suffering from an untreated sleep disorder such as obstructive sleep apnea. Fatigue and exhaustion can impair your performance even if you do not feel sleepy. As you become more fatigued, it becomes more difficult to pay attention and react quickly while driving.

According to a recent study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, an estimated 16.5 percent of all fatal motor vehicle crashes in the United States from 1999 to 2008 involved a fatigued driver.

And studies have shown that the effects of sleep loss are similar to having a blood-alcohol content over the legal driving limit.

The AASM recommends these strategies for managing fatigue:
  • Develop a healthy lifestyle by getting regular exercise, avoiding nicotine and eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Practice good sleep hygiene by following a regular sleep schedule and creating a comfortable sleep environment. Keep your bedroom dark, quiet and comfortably cool or warm. Limit food/liquid and alcohol intake, as well as electronic device usage before bedtime.
  • For greatest effectiveness, use caffeine as-needed instead of daily, and use it in moderation.
  • On longer road trips, use “activity breaks” to improve alertness. Pull over in a safe location and take 15 to 20 minutes to walk around and stretch.
Do not rely on turning the radio volume up, opening a window or chewing gum to try to stay alert, the SAFE-D presentation cautions. The only way to reverse fatigue and sleepiness is to get more sleep. And using illegal drugs or abusing prescription medication in order to fall asleep or stay awake is dangerous for your safety and health.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The effects of sleep deprivation vs. sleep restriction

What are the effects of severe sleep deprivation and insufficient sleep on middle-age men? A study in the July issue of the journal SLEEP looked at 18 healthy French men ages 46 to 55.  Sleep deprivation and restriction immediately affected their performance and vigilance, but they adapted after three days. And it only took one good night’s sleep for them to recover.

To study the consequences of sleep deprivation and restriction, the men slept normally for the first night. But on the next night they either had no sleep or slept only four hours during the next five nights. The ability to perform a task and continue to perform that task were measured.

Sleepiness was determined in the men immediately following the four hours of sleep. The amount of time it took to fall asleep was as short for men deprived of a night’s sleep as it was for the men sleeping only four hours. Falling asleep in a short time is considered a sign of a sleep disorder. Reaction times decreased after the second day of a four-hour sleep and reached the same levels as men completely deprived of sleep. But the four-hour sleep times also appeared to have little effect after three nights. In the end, alertness and performance for all men was restored after an eight-hour recovery night of sleep.

Read more about sleep needs for men, women, children and older adults.  For sleep disorders of any kind, locate an AASM-accredited sleep center near you for assistance.

Monday, July 9, 2012

When napping is good for older folks

Napping can be good for seniors – as long as they don’t sleep too much. A new study in the July issue of the journal SLEEP studied the sleep habits of 1,166 Israeli seniors ages 75 to 94. The results favored older people who take daily naps to supplement short sleep periods during the night. Seniors who slept more than nine hours per night, however, had higher mortality rates, with or without a nap.

The study surveyed the Israeli seniors and followed up on their mortality rates 20 years later. Sleeping more than nine hours a night was significantly related to increased mortality in comparison with sleeping seven to nine hours. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends seven to nine hours of sleep each day for adults.

Researchers also found a protective effect of daily naps for folks over age 84 who slept fewer than seven hours each night. The study concluded that determining healthy sleep habits among seniors should include an entire 24-hour period. Basing them on nighttime sleep duration or daytime napping alone was inadequate.

Read more about sleep and growing older. If you’re having sleep troubles at any age, locate an AASM-accredited sleep center near you for assistance.

Image by zilverbat

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Sleep loss triggers stress-like immune response

Extreme sleep loss causes an immune response in the body similar to stress, a new study reports. Researchers in the Netherlands and United Kingdom compared white blood cell counts of 15 healthy young men under normal and severely sleep-deprived circumstances. White blood cell numbers showed differences in numbers and patterns after the men were kept awake for 29 hours straight.

Researchers said more study is needed to determine whether this immune response contributes to the development of diseases associated with sleep loss. Sleep restriction has been linked with obesity, diabetes and hypertension. Other studies have shown that sleep helps sustain the functioning of the immune system. Chronic sleep loss also is a risk factor for immune system impairment. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends seven to nine hours of sleep for adults.

The study was published in the July issue of the journal SLEEP. If you’re having trouble sleeping, locate an AASM-accredited sleep center near you for assistance. You also can find more information on sleep disorders and other patient information at the Your Sleep website.