Short and long sleep duration and risk of drowsy driving and the role of subjective sleep insufficiency

Accid Anal Prev. 2013 Oct;59:618-22. doi: 10.1016/j.aap.2013.07.028. Epub 2013 Jul 31.


Experimental sleep restriction increases sleepiness and impairs driving performance. However, it is unclear whether short sleep duration in the general population is associated with drowsy driving. The goal of the present study was to evaluate whether individuals in the general population who obtained sleep of 6h or less are more likely to report drowsy driving, and evaluate the role of perceived sleep sufficiency. Data exploring whether subgroups of short sleepers (those who report the most or least unmet sleep need) show different risk profiles for drowsy driving are limited. From the 2009 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (N=31,522), we obtained the following self-reported data: (1) sleep duration (≤5, 6, 7, 8, 9, or ≥10 h/night); (2) number of days/week of perceived insufficient sleep; (3) among drivers, yes/no response to: "During the past 30 days, have you ever nodded off or fallen asleep, even just for a brief moment, while driving?" (4) demographics, physical/mental health. Using 7 h/night as reference, logistic regression analyses evaluated whether self-reported sleep duration was associated with drowsy driving. Overall, 3.6% reported drowsy driving. Self-identified short-sleepers reported drowsy driving more often, and long sleepers, less often. Among those who perceived sleep as always insufficient, drowsy driving was reported more often when sleep duration was ≤5 h, 6 h, or ≥10 h. Among those who perceived sleep as always sufficient, drowsy driving was reported more often among ≤5 h and 6h sleepers. Overall, drowsy driving was common, particularly in self-identified short-sleepers as a whole, as well as subgroups based on sleep insufficiency.

Keywords: Accidents; Driving; Epidemiology; Insufficient sleep; Sleep; Sleep duration.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic / prevention & control
  • Accidents, Traffic / statistics & numerical data*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Automobile Driving / statistics & numerical data*
  • Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • Self Report
  • Sleep Deprivation / epidemiology*
  • Sleep Stages*
  • Time Factors
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult