Insomnia Linked to Increased Risk of Motor Vehicle Deaths

New research shows that insomnia is a major contributor to deaths caused by motor vehicle crashes and other unintentional fatal injuries.

A new study shows that the risk of unintentional fatal injury increased with the number of insomnia symptoms present. People with three symptoms of insomnia were 2.8 times more likely to die from a fatal injury than those with no insomnia symptoms, even after adjusting for potential factors such as alcohol consumption and daily use of sleep medication.

Among the insomnia symptoms, difficulty falling asleep appeared to have the strongest association with fatal injuries, according to the study’s findings. People who almost always had difficulty falling asleep were more than two times more likely to die from a motor vehicle injury and more than 1.5 times more likely to die from any fatal injury than people who never had trouble falling sleep, the study found.

Further analysis by the researchers found that self-reported difficulty falling asleep contributed to 34 percent of motor vehicle deaths and eight percent of all unintentional fatal injuries.

“Our results suggest that a large proportion of unintentional fatal injuries and fatal motor vehicle injuries could have been prevented in the absence of insomnia,” said lead author Lars Laugsand, M.D., Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow in the department of public health at the Norwegian University of Science in Technology in Trondheim, Norway.

“Increasing public health awareness about insomnia and identifying and treating people with insomnia may be important in preventing unintentional fatal injuries.”

The study involved an analysis of survey data from 54,399 men and women between the ages of 20 and 89. Cause of death was identified using a national registry. During the 13-year follow-up period, there were 277 unintentional fatal injuries, including 169 deaths from falls and 57 deaths from motor vehicle crashes.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are more than 126,000 unintentional injury deaths in the U.S. each year, making it the fifth leading cause of death. There are more than 33,000 motor vehicle traffic fatalities and more than 27,000 unintentional fall deaths annually, as well as 29.3 million emergency department visits related to unintentional injuries.

“Healthy sleep is essential for physical health, mental well-being, and personal and public safety,” said American Academy of Sleep Medicine President Dr. Timothy Morgenthaler, a spokesman for the new Healthy Sleep Project.

“Sleep is a necessity, not a luxury, and the promotion of healthy sleep should be a fundamental public health priority.”

Earlier this year the Healthy Sleep Project launched its “Sleep Well, Be Well” campaign to increase awareness of the importance of sleep as one of the three pillars of a healthy lifestyle.

The study was published in the journal Sleep.

Source: American Academy of Sleep Medicine

Tired driver photo by shutterstock.