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Sleep is Disrupted, Possibly Leading to Severe Impairment
LONDON (CNN) -- Night owls take note: new research offers yet another reason to get more sleep. In a study published this week in the British Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, researchers in Australia and New Zealand report that sleep deprivation can have some of the same hazardous effects as being drunk.
Getting less than 6 hours a night can affect coordination, reaction time and judgment, they said, posing "a very serious risk."
Drivers are especially vulnerable, the researchers warned. They found that people who drive after being awake for 17 to 19 hours performed worse than those with a blood alcohol level of .05 percent. That's the legal limit for drunk driving in most western European countries, though most U.S. states set their blood alcohol limits at .1 percent and a few at .08 percent.
The study said 16 to 60 percent of road accidents involve sleep deprivation. The researchers said countries with drunk driving laws should consider similar restrictions against sleep-deprived driving.
The British Medical Association warned that there are other problems associated with sleep deprivation beyond impaired motor skills. People who get too little sleep may have higher levels of stress, anxiety and depression, and may take unnecessary risks.
And the dangers aren't limited to drivers. People who work long shifts or night shifts, such as medical personnel or other emergency workers, may also have troubles.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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