November 6-10, 2017 is Drowsy Driving Prevention Week™. This nationwide campaign is an effort to educate the public―and specifically, young drivers who are at high risk for this condition―about the dangers of driving while sleepy.
It couldn’t come at a better time: it’s the week after Daylight Savings Time when we’re often aware of our sleep patterns and notice how just a small disruption to our normal sleeping habits can cause afternoon or evening drowsiness. In addition, with the holiday season almost upon us, many of us will be driving long distances to visit family.
How Much Sleep Do Americans Get?
According to a poll on the Drowsy Driving website:
- 8% of us get more than 8 hours of sleep per night
- 21.5% of us get 7-8 hours of sleep
- 41% of us get 6-7 hours of sleep
- 29% get less than 6 hours of sleep
This poll indicates that fewer than 30% of adults are getting the recommended amount of sleep per night (7 to 9 hours) while a disturbing 70% of people aren’t getting enough sleep. And these sleepy people are likely driving the next day, putting themselves and others at risk for accidents and injuries.
Insufficient sleep results in serious consequences at home, at work, in school, and on our nation’s roadways. Accidents resulting from drowsy driving kill and injure thousands of Americans annually. It’s a tragedy that can be prevented.
Sleep Impacts Every Aspect of a Healthy Life
The National Sleep Foundation reminds us that sleep is critical to your body: it’s as important as diet and exercise to maintain your good health, and it’s likely the easiest of the three to get! Sleep is not a luxury: it’s a necessity. Without enough sleep, you will suffer various negative effects including altered mood, difficulty learning, lower productivity, and decreased health and safety―not to mention those unattractive dark bags under your eyes. To be at your best, make getting a good night’s sleep a priority every night.
You sleep for about one-third of your life. The time you invest in this important habit has a monumental impact on the quality of the wakeful two-thirds of your life.
How Much Sleep is Enough?
According to experts, young adults and teens need between 8.5 and 9.5 hours of sleep each night while adults need 7 to 9 hours.
Whether you’re a teen or adult, if you’re not getting enough sleep you will accrue a “sleep debt” – and you can’t control when your body will demand that rest by making you groggy. It could be while you’re behind the wheel of your car or truck. By not getting adequate sleep, you put yourself and others at risk of a drowsy driving accident, which often results in serious injuries and even death.
Preventing Drowsy Driving is Easy
How can you prevent drowsy driving? It’s fairly simple: make sleep a priority for yourself and your teenage drivers. It’s critical to get the required amount of sleep to keep you feeling awake, alert and aware behind the wheel.
Getting enough sleep before you drive means you won’t have to take stopgap measures while you’re already drowsy and at risk of causing an accident. Even if you manage to stay awake under such circumstances, your reflexes are slowed by being fatigued. Similar to being under the influence of drugs or alcohol, lack of sleep impairs driving skills including reaction time, hand-eye coordination, vision, awareness of surroundings, decision-making and judgment.
Drowsy Driving Countermeasures
So, what can you do if you find yourself driving late at night or mid-afternoon and your eyelids start feeling heavy?
Here are some countermeasures to help prevent a fall-asleep accident if you find yourself driving while drowsy:
- Pull off at an exit or rest area or find a place to sleep for the night.
- Find a safe place to take a 15-20 minute nap—not any longer, or you’ll feel groggy afterward.
- Get caffeinated: two cups of coffee (about 170 mg of caffeine) will increase your alertness for several hours,
- Combine caffeine with a nap: since the wakeful effects of caffeine take about 30 minutes to enter the bloodstream, drink coffee before taking a 20-minute nap to maximize your alertness.
- Travel with a friend who can take shifts driving.
Drowsy Driving Prevention Week emphasizes the importance of being alert, aware and well-rested before getting into the driver’s seat of a vehicle. Sleepiness, whether it’s caused by untreated sleep disorders or poor sleeping habits, is the cause of a growing percentage of highway motor vehicle crashes and on-the-job accidents. Make sleep a priority and be sure to share this blog post about drowsy driving with friends and family.