Better Sleep Can Make Roads Safer

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Researchers from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine found that sleepapnea treatment could reduce traffic accidents and save lives and billions of dollars each year in theUnited States. Individuals with sleep apnea stop breathing for 10 to 30 seconds at a time, as manyas 400 times a night. The poor quality of sleep leads to excessive daytime sleepiness.

Using continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) to treat sleep apnea could save about 980 livesand $11.1 billion in accident costs annually, the researchers reported in Sleep (May 2004). CPAPrequires patients to wear a mask over the nose while they sleep. An air blower connected to the maskforces air through the nasal passages and prevents the throat from collapsing during sleep.

In the study report, the researchers noted that sleep-deprived drivers with obstructive sleepapnea cause ~1400 traffic deaths each year. Of those 1400 fatalities, 980 could have been preventedif the drivers had been treated for their sleep apnea. The researchers based that figure on a70% success rate using CPAP.

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