Working Americans don’t get enough sleep. Insomnia significantly affects about one in five adults in the United States, but more than a third of us experience some symptoms of insomnia about once a week, according to the National Sleep Foundation. The Foundation estimates that about fifteen percent of adult Americans have serious, chronic insomnia that threatens our health and our emotions. Insomnia is also probably the cause of more serious personal injuries than we realize.

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The symptoms of insomnia are known to everyone: insomnia sufferers deal with irritability, fatigue, reduced cognitive function, and sleepiness in the daytime. Insomnia also places you at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, heart problems, arthritis, allergies, respiratory disorders, digestive problems, severe headaches, clinical depression, and other serious physical and psychological conditions. However, you may not have realized that insomnia can also increase a person’s likelihood of sustaining – or causing – severe personal injuries.

Recent research suggests that insomnia is a major contributor to traffic collisions, workplace injuries, and other unintentional accidents that lead to serious personal injuries and fatalities. A survey conducted in 2014 by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine suggests that those who struggle with insomnia are 2.8 times more likely to die from a fatal injury than those with no insomnia symptoms, even after adjusting for alcohol consumption and the use of sleep medicines.

HOW MUCH INJURY AND DEATH DOES INSOMNIA REALLY CAUSE?

People who have genuine difficulty getting to sleep are more than twice as likely to die in traffic and more than 1.5 times more likely to die from any fatal injury than those who have no trouble falling asleep. Difficulty falling asleep contributes to more than a third of all motor vehicle deaths and eight percent of all accidental fatalities, deaths which would be preventable without the insomnia. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that insomnia is the cause of more than 126,000 unintentional fatalities in the U.S. every year. That figure makes insomnia the number five cause of death in the United States today.

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Insomnia costs the average U.S. worker more than 11 days and $2000 in lost productivity every year, according to a study in 2011 by the American Sleep Disorders Association. As a nation, the cost of insomnia is more than $63 billion yearly. One of the study’s authors, Ronald C. Kessler, Ph.D., said, “We were shocked by the enormous impact insomnia has on the average person’s life. It’s an underappreciated problem. Americans are not missing work because of insomnia. They are still going to their jobs but accomplishing less because they’re tired. In an information-based economy, it’s difficult to find a condition that has a greater effect on productivity.”

These estimates don’t consider the cost of insomnia-related injuries that occur away from the workplace, but another recent study looked at the link between insomnia and injuries happening both in the workplace and outside it. The research focused only on persons with difficulty falling asleep – or difficulty staying asleep – at least three times a week for at least a year. These persons were 1.9 times as likely to sustain an injury at work and 1.5 times as likely to suffer a non-workplace injury as the “average” person. The study’s results also suggest that anyone with other health problems in addition to insomnia is even more likely to experience a serious injury.

HOW MUCH SLEEP DO WE NEED?

Insomnia, fatigue, and drowsiness considerably reduce anyone’s ability to drive safely. Fatigued and drowsy drivers are slower at processing information and slower to react. Their vision isn’t as sharp, and they’re more apt to be on edge and drive aggressively – or to fall asleep at the wheel. Eight hours of sleep every night is the number one piece of advice from the sleep experts. Obviously, if you struggle chronically with insomnia, you must bring the matter to your doctor’s attention – especially if you have to drive or if you work with any kind of potentially dangerous chemicals or equipment.

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Particularly in traffic collisions, it can be difficult to isolate insomnia or fatigue as a cause, so many of the statistics that are compiled are probably underestimates. If you are injured in South Florida in traffic – or in any other kind of accident – by someone you suspect was drowsy, fatigued, or asleep, you’ll need to discuss the case promptly with an experienced West Palm Beach personal injury attorney. “Fatigue” can be difficult to prove, so putting an attorney on the case as quickly as possible is the wisest option.

For those of us who don’t struggle with insomnia, it’s still vital to develop healthy sleep habits and to make sure that we’re alert when we drive. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) offers these alertness tips for truck drivers, but every driver in South Florida can profit from adhering to the advice:

  • Get at least seven hours of sleep every 24 hours and more if you need it.
  • If at all possible, sleep on a regular schedule.
  • If you’re going to drive or work with dangerous equipment, avoid medications that may cause drowsiness.
  • A proper diet is imperative. Fatigue is often the result of an unbalanced diet.
  • Naps restore alertness more effectively than coffee or energy drinks. For most adults over thirty, a 20-to-45 nap makes you “good to go.”

WHERE CAN YOU TURN FOR HELP?

If you don’t get enough sleep, especially as you age, your health will eventually suffer. If insomnia is an issue, get the medical advice and help you need. If you’re injured in an accident because another person was drowsy or fatigued, a West Palm Beach personal injury can provide legal advice and services and may be able to help you recover compensation. Still, the accidents, injuries, and fatalities caused by insomnia, fatigue, and drowsiness are preventable.

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Fatigue is a factor in far too many serious traffic collisions, and it’s the leading cause of traffic accidents involving trucks. Wide-awake alertness and concentration is required every second a driver is on the road and any time anyone works with hazardous chemicals or heavy equipment. Your life and your health have to be your top priorities. Every one of us must get the sleep we need, and if insomnia prevents that, then seeking help for insomnia is imperative.