Sleeping less than five hours a night and then getting behind the wheel is as dangerous as driving while drunk, a major study has found.
Researchers in the US found that drivers who miss between one and two hours of the recommended seven hours a night nearly double their risk of having an accident.
And motorists who miss two to three hours of sleep more than quadruple their risk of having a crash, which is the same risk as driving while over the legal limit.
“You cannot miss sleep and still expect to be able to safely function behind the wheel,” said Dr David Yang, executive director for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
“Our new research shows that a driver who has slept for less than five hours has a crash risk comparable to someone driving drunk.”
The Sleep Council estimates that a third of Britons get by on just five to six hours sleep a night, and that mental and physical problems become more pronounced in those sleeping for less than six hours.
They also found that not sleeping enough may ramp up the “fight or flight” response to stress, releasing hormones that speed up the heart rate and raise blood pressure.
The new study was based on an analysis of a representative sample of drivers involved in 4,571 crashes. Those who were the most sleep deprived, getting just four hour of sleep, were 11 times more likely to be involved in an accident.
It is thought that people driving while drowsy are responsible for around one in five crashes on British roads.
“Managing a healthy work-life balance can be difficult and far too often we sacrifice our sleep as a result,” said Jake Nelson, director of Traffic Safety Advocacy and Research for AAA. “Failing to maintain a healthy sleep schedule could mean putting yourself or others on the road at risk.”
Symptoms of drowsy driving can include having trouble keeping eyes open, drifting from lanes or not remembering the last few miles driven.
However, more than half of drivers involved in fatigue-related crashes experienced no symptoms before falling asleep behind the wheel.
The AAA says drivers should not rely on their bodies to provide warning signs of fatigue and should instead get at least seven hours of sleep if they are planning on driving the following day.
This article retrieved from AAAFoundation.com