Millions of Americans experience difficulty falling and staying asleep at night. The negative effects of not getting enough sleep have been well-documented with the non-profit organization Alternet.org noting that the negative "effects of short-term sleep deprivation can be very similar to the effects of being drunk." Given this information, it's not surprising that the U.S. Department of Transportation believes that, annually, as many as 10,000 motor vehicle crashes are caused by drivers who are overly tired.
Given the negative and even dangerous side effects associated with sleep deprivation, it's no wonder that many Americans who have trouble sleeping turn to sleeping pills. In fact, an estimated seven percent of people in the U.S. regularly rely upon prescription sleep medications for a good night's rest. The problem, safety experts contend, is that the sleep-inducing effects of these medications can stay in an individual's system long after he or she wakes the next morning.
A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Washington's school of pharmacy, reveals that individuals who takes prescription sleeping medications increase their risks of being involved in a motor vehicle accident by as much as three times. Researchers found this to be especially true among individuals who take one of three popular prescription sleeping medications including Ambien, Restoril, and Trazodone.
After several cases in which users of Ambien reported engaging in dangerous activities like sleep-driving, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration took steps to compel drug makers and doctors to recommend and prescribe lower doses of the drug. However, even at these lower doses, prescription sleeping medications remain in an individual's bloodstream and can inhibit a driver's ability to take in and process information and reaction time.