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Sleep at home instead of behind the wheel. (iStockphoto.com)

Wake Up To Your Sleep Deficit, America!

by Scott Hensley
Mar 4, 2011

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I'll make an exception to my usual rule against mentioning any cause-specific days, weeks or months on Shots to tell you that National Sleep Awareness WeekŪ starts Monday. It's no coincidence that it ends when Daylight Saving Time steals an hour of sleep from most of us, a week from Sunday.

Why am I getting soft? Well, in a wake-up call most of us should heed, the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention is out with fresh data that show Americans just aren't sleeping enough. And there are real health consequences from our national sleep deficit.

A 12-state telephone survey of nearly 75,000 people found that more than one-third of them had slept less than 7 hours the night before they were buttonholed by the government questioners. And 38 percent said they had fallen asleep without meaning to during at least one day in the previous month.

"So what?" you ask.

Well, consider that nearly 5 percent of those surveyed admitted they were so tired they had nodded off or fallen asleep while driving at least once in the preceding month.

And the sleep deficit has gotten a lot worse over the past few decades.

The CDC says this is the first time a national survey has looked at drowsy driving and people unintentionally falling asleep. Driving while sleepy leads to about 1,550 deaths a year and 40,000 injuries, the CDC notes.

That reminded me of a study last year that showed starting the school day a little bit later seems to reduce the accident rate for teen drivers.

The National Sleep Foundation, the group behind the coming awareness week, says healthy adults should get 7 to 9 hours of shut-eye a night (or during the day, if you work nights). Kids, of course, need more — 10 or 11 hours is about right.

How are you doing?

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