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Sleep deprivation

Amy E. Stanton (The State News via U-WIRE)/EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Americans are not getting enough sleep and are going through life being drowsy, according to the results of a study released this week by the National Sleep Foundation.

As part of National Sleep Awareness Week, which continues through Friday, the foundation released the poll reporting 63 percent of Americans do not get the recommended eight hours of sleep needed for good health, safety and optimum performance.

Marsha Stein, spokeswoman for the National Sleep Foundation, said people are not making the connection between sleep and health.

"The proper amount of sleep is needed to get the health benefits people are looking for," she said. "Sleep impacts your immune system and helps avoid injuries."

Stein said sleep is also important for getting through the day.

"There is no excuse for going through life feeling drowsy," she said. "It can lead to serious accidents where people can injure themselves as well as injuring others."

Stein said being tired while driving is most likely to cause an accident.

Fatigued drivers are listed as the primary cause of more than 100,000 car crashes per year in the United States, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Nationally, these accidents result in 71,000 injuries and 1,500 deaths.

Pamela Minkley, supervisor of the Sleep/Wake Center at Ingham Regional Medical Center, 2025 S. Washington Ave. in Lansing, said there are many things a driver can do to ensure they are not putting themselves, or others, in danger.

She said the most important thing to understand is that adults need at least eight hours of sleep, and people age 18 to 25 can need up to 10 hours of sleep per night.

Minkley also said people have learned to take other precautions with alcohol and other substances while driving, but don't realize sleep can still be a factor.

"We have become a lot more responsible about not drinking and driving," she said. "But often times the level of sleep deprivation can be just as dangerous as being drunk."

She said one beer can have the effect of five or six beers when a person has a lack of sleep. Minkley added that other things like cold medication that can cause drowsiness as well as putting in more than 12 hours of work and class in one day can cause a person's performance to suffer, no matter how much sleep a person gets.

"You would have to spend a long time polling college students before you find someone who gets eight hours of sleep," Minkley said. "And then if you add in whether or not they get that amount regularly, you are going to have an even tougher time."

Packaging junior Scott Jerue said he is one of those people who doesn't get enough sleep. The 21-year-old said he doesn't see any way he could get up to 10 hours of sleep in one night.

"There is really nothing I can do," he said. "I have to go to work and class and I have to study, so yeah I am going to be going for more than 12 hours a day."

He said there are many times when he drives tired.

"I have never been in an accident because of it," Jerue said. "But I do worry sometimes when I am by myself late at night with nothing to keep me awake."

The Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning has joined with the National Sleep Foundation in promoting events throughout the state encouraging people to address the issue of lack of sleep. During the designated awareness week, people will be able to get more information on how sleep deprivation affects driving.

"Certainly our interest in this event is how sleep relates to driving," said Anne Readett, spokeswoman for the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning. "The newest research indicates that a lack of sleep can have an adverse effect on someone's driving ability.

"There are a significant number of crashes where there is nothing indicating something happened except for the fact that the person drove off the road because they fell asleep."

(c) 2001 The State News via U-WIRE

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