We are often reminded to drive carefully and obey the rules of the road but a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study on drowsy driving reminds us of the importance of a good nights rest.

The study, released Thursday, reported that 1 in 24 people admit to nodding off while behind the wheel. Health officials note that this number is most likely higher because some people do not realize they fall asleep.

While a lack of sleep can be caused by many factors, insufficient sleep can also be a sign of a sleep issue such as insomnia or sleep apnea, a disorder when people frequently stop breathing at night.

Sleep testing can help diagnose a disorder and help you prevent being one of the 4% of reported drowsy drivers on the road. Whether you are conscious of your sleep problems or simply consider yourself a tired person, speak with your doctor if you are experiencing signs of a sleep disorder. Signs include:

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • High blood pressure
  • Heavy snoring that bothers others
  • Waking up in the middle of the night and the inability to fall back asleep
  • Drowsiness while driving, reading or watching television
  • Waking up with headaches

To prevent drowsy driving, health officials recommend getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night and treating any sleep disorders.

Ask your doctor for a sleep test at The Sleep Disorders Center at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital (301-294-5580) in Rockville or at The Sleep Disorders Center at Washington Adventist Hospital (800-264-1487) in Takoma Park.