Drowsy Driving

Perhaps one of the most dangerous consequences associated with not getting a good nights rest is sleepiness behind the wheel.

Drowsy Driving

Don't Learn About Drowsy Driving By Accident!

Perhaps one of the most dangerous consequences associated with not getting a good nights rest is sleepiness behind the wheel. The late night and early morning drive times are the most hazardous, with the majority of crashes occurring between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m. when the body naturally experiences sleepiness. This contributes to the high rate of serious injuries and fatalities for several reasons:

  • Crashes involving drivers who fall asleep occur more often on highways and roadways where speed limits are higher.
  • The driver's eyes are closed so there is no attempt to avoid the crash.
  • The driver is usually alone in the vehicle so there's no one to alert the driver to danger.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that more than 100,000 crashes each year are the result of drowsy driving. Some studies have proven that roughly one-quarter of shift workers report having at least one crash or close call within the last year. In fact, research shows that drivers are just as impaired when they're sleepy as when they've consumed alcohol.

Drowsiness and Drinking Don't Mix

Drinking alcohol when you're sleepy only serves to increase your drowsiness and further impair your judgment, perception, and ability to react to road conditions and other drivers. It's a hazardous combination. How dangerous? NHTSA has found that nearly 20 percent of all sleepiness-related, single-vehicle crashes involve alcohol. Even if you've had just a small amount to drink and are feeling just a little sleepy, the effects of one are intensified by the other.

There Are Other Driving Forces

The use of certain medications and drugs can also compound sleepiness. And the risk increases for people taking higher doses or more than one sedating medication simultaneously. Another factor to consider is your driving pattern; longer trips in terms of miles or minutes put you at a higher risk.

Sleep Tip

Avoid nicotine (e.g. cigarettes, tobacco products). Used close to bedtime, it Read More...

The Best Thing To Do Is Sleep On It!

The single most important key to eliminating most problems caused by shift work or lack of sleep is to make sleep a number one priority. Set a specific bedtime for yourself. Get good, uninterrupted sleep at the same time every day, even on your days off. And even if you can't sleep more, there are things you can do to make sure you sleep better.

Steps You Can Take To Help Improve Your Sleep

Create a restful, comfortable sleeping space and set aside time for uninterrupted sleep

  • Make your room dark: the darker, the better. As a shift worker, you're waking and sleeping against the natural rhythms of lightness and darkness, the most powerful regulators of our internal clocks. Your body wants to be active when it's light, and craves rest when it's dark. Try using special room-darkening shades, lined drapes or a sleep mask to simulate nighttime. Sleep without a night light, block the light that comes from your doorway, and if your alarm clock is illuminated, cover it up.
  • Block outside sounds. Sleep can be easily interrupted by sudden, unexpected sounds such as” the screech of a passing siren, a plane flying overhead, construction work or a barking dog, to name a few. Use ear plugs, a fan, or turn the FM radio or TV to in between stations so the "shhhh" blocks out other noises and lulls you to sleep. (Just be sure to turn off the brightness on your TV or cover the screen.) You might even want to consider a white noise machine, which plays a steady stream of lulling sounds such as ocean waves.
  • Adjust your thermostat before going to bed. A room that is too hot or too cold can disturb your sleep. Some research shows that 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit or 16 to 18 degrees Celsius is ideal.
  • Keep a regular schedule. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. The best way to ensure a good night's sleep is to stick to a regular schedule, even on your days off, holidays or when traveling.

Improve other habits and routines that can help improve your sleep habits

  • Maintain or improve your overall health. Eat well and establish a regular exercise routine. It can be as simple as a 20- to 30-minute walk, jog, swim or bicycle ride three times a week. Exercising too close to bedtime may actually keep you awake because your body has not had a chance to unwind. Allow at least three hours between working out and going to bed.
  • Avoid caffeine several hours before bedtime. Its stimulating effects will peak two to four hours later and may linger for several hours more. The result is diminished deep sleep and increased awakenings.
  • Avoid alcohol before going to sleep. It may initially make you fall asleep faster, but it can make it much harder to stay asleep. As the immediate effects of the alcohol wear off, it deprives your body of deep rest and you end up sleeping in fragments and waking often.
  • Know the side effects of medications. Some medications can increase sleepiness and make it dangerous to drive. Other medications can cause sleeping difficulties as a side effect.
  • Change the time you go to sleep. After driving home from work, don't go right to bed. Take a few hours to unwind and relax.
  • Develop a relaxing sleep ritual. Before going to sleep, try taking a warm bath, listening to soothing music or reading until you feel sleepy but don't read anything exciting or stimulating.
  • Don't make bedtime the time to solve the day's problems. Try to clear your mind. Make a list of things you are concerned about or need to do the next day so you don't worry about them when you're trying to sleep.

Work with your family and friends so they can understand your sleep schedule

Let's Set The Record Straight

Even getting one hour less sleep per day than your body needs can impair your ability to function. And contrary to popular belief, you usually can't tell when you're about to fall asleep. What's more, when it comes to staying awake behind the wheel, many common remedies just don't work.

These WON'T Keep You Awake While Driving:

  • Turning up the volume of your radio.
  • Singing loudly.
  • Chewing gum or eating food.
  • Getting out of the car and running around.
  • Slapping yourself.
  • Sticking your head out the window.

The key is to learn to recognize the warning signs of drowsiness and to take corrective action.

The Warning Signs of Drowsy Driving:

  • You can't stop yawning.
  • You have trouble keeping your eyes open and focused, especially at stop lights.
  • Your mind wanders or you have disconnected thoughts.
  • You can't remember driving the last few miles.
  • Your driving becomes sloppy - you weave between lanes, tailgate or miss traffic signals.
  • You find yourself hitting the grooves or rumble strips on the side of the road.

Tips For Getting Home Safely

  • Avoid driving home from work if you're drowsy. Some experts recommend drinking two cups of coffee, then taking a short 15- to 20-minute nap. You'll get some sleep before the caffeine takes effect, and when it does, you'll wake up and be alert for your drive home.
  • Avoid alcohol or any medications that could make you drowsy.
  • Carpool if possible, so that you're driving with someone else awake in the car or get a ride from a family member.
  • Take a taxi or public transportation.
  • If you hit a rumble strip, it's a sure sign that you need to pull off to a safe place, take a nap or get some coffee.

But if You're Still Having Problems

Sometimes making changes in your lifestyle isn't enough. If you continue to have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or waking too early, or if you or your significant other is a chronic snorer, see your doctor. Nonprescription sleep aids won't help you get better sleep. But rest assured, your doctor or a sleep specialist can prescribe treatment that can make quality sleep more than just a dream