Not getting enough sleep is a lot more dangerous than you might realize. Sleep deprivation interferes with brain activity, impairing mental and physical alertness, and activating the regions of the brain related to risky decision making.
One of the most dangerous consequences of sleep deprivation is drowsy driving. U. S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that at least 100,000 car crashes each year are caused by drowsy driving. However, tracking drowsy driving crashes is fairly difficult since there’s no test for sleepiness in the same way there is for intoxication, so the number in reality may be a lot higher than 100,000, especially since surveys show that drowsy driving is a common practice. In one survey, 55% of the people polled said they had driven drowsy in the past year.
There are easy steps to take to prevent driving drowsy. Keep yourself and everyone else on the road safe by following these four tips to avoid drowsy driving.
- Get a good night’s sleep. This may seem like an obvious solution, but prevention is the best way to avoid drowsy driving. Before you get up extra early in the morning to get a head start on a long drive, or pull an all-nighter when you’ll be behind the wheel the next morning, think twice. If you regularly have trouble falling or staying asleep, schedule an appointment with a sleep specialist as you may have a sleep disorder. Many treatment options exist for common sleep conditions like insomnia, sleep apnea, or narcolepsy. In fact, Preferred Research Partners is currently running a number of sleep-related clinical trials that you may qualify for.
- Avoid alcohol. When alcohol is combined with severe drowsiness, the effects are far worse than either one alone. Combining drinking, even light drinking within the legal limit, with sleep deprivation results in greatly lowered mental and physical alertness, making driving very unsafe. A study conducted by the UCLA Sleep Disorder Center found that one beer has the same impact on a person with four hours of sleep as six beers has on a well-rested person. If you’re sleep deprived and are going to be behind the wheel, lay off the drinks for the safety of yourself and anyone else on the road.
- Pull over if you’re feeling sleepy. Even if you think your sleepiness isn’t impairing your driving ability, just to be safe pull over to get some shut eye. Drivers involved in drowsy driving accidents didn’t think their driving was impaired before crashing either. At least take a quick nap to refresh.
- Get a caffeine boost. Caffeine isn’t a sustainable way to make up for lost sleep, but if you’re running low on sleep and must drive, caffeine can give a short-term boost to help you be more alert. Before you pull over for a nap, drink a coffee or cola to get some caffeine in your system. Caffeine is a quick fix to be used in rare circumstances. It can’t replace sleep.
If you often have a hard time getting a good night’s sleep, consider participating in Preferred Research Partners’ sleep studies. Fill out the form below and a member of our team will reach out to share more information.