Drowsy Driving – What’s the Harm?

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October 19, 2009

Most people are aware of the dangers of driving while intoxicated, but many do not know that drowsiness also impairs judgment, performance, and reaction times just like alcohol and drugs.

Many tragic car accidents in Western New York have been blamed on “drowsy driving.” Studies show that being awake for more than 20 hours results in an impairment equal to a blood alcohol level of 0.08, the legal limit in all states.

If you find yourself dozing off behind the wheel, tired all of the time, or having trouble concentrating, you may suffer from a sleep disorder. The “dream team” at SleepCare, the Sleep Center at Sisters of Charity Hospital, St Joseph Campus, can help you get a good night’s sleep by offering the most advanced sleep testing services for the diagnosis and treatment of a variety of sleep disorders.

About 40 million people in the U.S. suffer from chronic sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea (pauses in breathing during sleep), with an additional 20 - 30 million affected by intermittent sleep-related problems. Today’s economy also has exacerbated a condition called “Job-Related Sleep Restriction,” caused when people work more and sleep less. Respondents to the New York State survey who reported drowsy-driving incidents cited a variety of reasons related to work patterns, including working more than one job, working extended shifts and working more hours each week.

According to the National Commission on Sleep Disorders, an overwhelming majority of sleep disorders remain undiagnosed and untreated. SleepCare specializes in sleep testing (polysomnography) to assist in the diagnosis and treatment of sleep-related disorders. Patients undergoing a sleep study spend a night in the SleepCare Sleep Center, which looks like a typical hotel room. Through painless, non-invasive sensors placed on various parts of the body, technicians can record sleep patterns and other medical data, while patients’ sleep, to allow physicians to identify abnormal sleep conditions. Catholic Health also offers sleep testing services at Mercy Hospital of Buffalo.

Depending on the severity of the condition, treatment options can range from the mild assistive devices to provide extra oxygen during sleep, to surgical procedures to open obstructed airways. SleepCare is working with the National Sleep Foundation to increase awareness of the importance of getting a good night’s sleep.