Drowsy driving puts your life and the lives of those around you at serious risk. As the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports, each year over 100,000 crashes are happening due to drowsy driving. Sleep apnea seems to be one of the biggest causes of drowsy driving. So the question is – how to prevent drowsy driving and stay awake while behind the wheel?
What causes drowsy driving?
When a person is feeling too tired to stay awake while driving, we say that the person is driving drowsy. That person has slower reaction times, reduced focus, and impaired thinking – all of which are very important cognitive functions for safe driving. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for drowsy driving to cause that person to fall asleep behind the wheel, thus causing an accident.
Such accidents happen most often at higher speeds, like for example on the highway, but they can also occur at slow speeds as well. Drowsy driving-related accidents usually occur early in the morning and late at night. This is considered to be the body’s natural sleep period, hence the high frequency of drowsy driving.
The following signs point to drowsy driving:
- Repeatedly yawning;
- Difficulty focusing on the road;
- Wandering thoughts;
- Frequent blinking;
- Trouble to keep your head up, etc.
According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), as much as 1 in 25 adult drivers have reported having fallen asleep behind the wheel in the last month. In 2013, drowsy driving has been the cause of 800 deaths in the United States alone.
Even one night of poor or insufficient sleep can expose one to the risk of drowsy driving. Certain people have a higher risk of drowsy driving as compared to others. Such examples would be older adults and people who work rotating and night shifts – doctors, nurses, truck drivers, etc.
Sleep apnea is one of the major contributing factors for drowsy driving. This is a common sleep disorder that causes breathing to repeatedly stop and start. By doing so, sleep apnea is leading to fragmented sleep. This, in return, causes low concentration, agitation, anxiety, etc., which are all symptoms that are impairing the person’s ability to drive safely. The Sleep Foundation explains that as much as 18 million American adults are struggling with sleep apnea.
Tips to ensure that you are getting the sleep that you need to get behind the wheel
According to SleepStandards, if you happen to struggle with sleep apnea, the first step is getting the issue properly diagnosed and then treated. The good news is that the majority of cases of sleep apnea are easily treated with the use of a CPAP mask. The aim is to provide a continuous oxygen supply throughout the night and control the symptoms.
In the following, we will also suggest a couple of tips. These tips can help you get the sleep that you need as you get prepared to get behind the wheel. The ultimate goal is to prevent drowsy sleeping and with that, prevent any accidents while being on the road.
- Get a good night’s sleep – It is essential to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Creating a sleep schedule can help you get the sleep that you need. Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, even on days when you do not work, can help you stick to that sleep schedule. Taking a hot shower or bath and drinking chamomile tea can help relax your body and mind and induce sleep.
- Invest in a comfortable mattress to ensure sleep quality – One of the best ways that you can do is invest in a quality mattress and pillow. Having a comfortable mattress will increase the quality of your sleep.
- Avoid drinking alcohol – Because even the slightest amount of alcohol can enhance drowsiness, a good tip would be to avoid alcohol. This is especially important on nights when you have not had enough sleep.
How to stay awake on the road
Let’s say that you struggle to stay awake on the road. Maybe you are only traveling to work/school, or maybe you have gone on a long drive. Either way, it is important to take the necessary steps to stay awake on the road to avoid causing an accident. And so, here are a couple of tips that we find useful whenever we find it hard to stay awake while driving.
- Take a short nap – If you failed to get enough sleep before hitting the road, it is highly recommended that you take a short nap. Napping for even 30 minutes can do a huge difference.
- Drink caffeine – Rely on caffeine to help you stay awake. Do not over-do it though, since too much caffeine can enhance the agitation and anxiety that you already feel. Take a few sips of caffeine to improve your alertness. For the best effects, take a quick nap after consuming caffeine.
- Pull up and rest whenever you need it – If you are driving alone, it is always recommended to pull up and take a nap or even sleep for a couple of hours, if your body and mind are craving some deep sleep. You can sleep in your car or a nearby motel.
- Avoid fast driving – If you are feeling drowsy, the last thing that you would want is to drive fast. This will only increase the risk of causing an accident on the road.
- Drive with a partner – Driving with a partner allows you to switch and take a nap every couple of hours. This is a great tip for whenever you go for a long drive.
Drowsy driving is not doing anyone good. Getting sufficient sleep is key, not only for your health but for your safety on the road as well. Staying alert and focused while behind the wheel makes you a better driver. And so, we hope that our tips will help you improve your driving abilities by preventing and addressing the issue that it is drowsy driving.