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Moderate drinking combined with lack of sleep can be dangerous

Many college students in Pennsylvania subscribe to the "work hard, play hard" philosophy. That often means staying up late studying or forgoing sleep to finish up an assignment. It may also mean going to parties on the weekend where alcohol is served.

Most of us know that sleep deprivation and alcohol consumption can be dangerous by themselves, especially if taken to extremes. But what you might not know is that moderate sleep deprivation combined with moderate drinking can also be dangerous -- especially when driving.

This is according to the results of a recent study conducted in Australia. Researchers asked 16 young men to restrict their sleep to five hours in a night and gave them enough alcohol to raise their blood-alcohol level to 0.05 percent, which is under the legal limit in the United States.

In tests of attention and vigilance (not conducted behind the wheel), the study participants were impaired for several hours after consuming alcohol, even after they no longer felt "buzzed." This seemingly confirms an observation that many social drinkers have made about themselves -- that drinking affects people differently when they are short on sleep.

The test had a small sample size and would need to be reviewed and replicated to officially draw conclusions. But the study nonetheless has an important take-away message. If you are sleep-deprived and have consumed even moderate amounts of alcohol, you should think twice before getting behind the wheel of a car. The combined impairment caused by these two factors could lead to a multitude of problems, ranging from an accident to arrest on suspicion of drunk driving.

As a college student, you have your whole life ahead of you, and you shouldn't have to worry about your safety or your freedom. But if you do find yourself facing charges of DUI, underage drinking or any related crime, please contact an experienced criminal defense attorney right away.

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