Drowsy driving is risky behavior that anyone can participate in without realizing the seriousness of it. Driving while sleepy or fatigued may feel like a necessity for many, such as shift workers or teamsters, but it is not worth the risk. The next time you’re yawning and blinking heavily while behind the wheel, consider the following.
You are 3 times more likely to be in a car crash if you are fatigued. Drowsiness will affect the driver’s ability to pay attention to the road, their ability to make good decisions, and their reaction time. If it’s harder to make a split-second decision to stop quickly or steer out of the path of an obstacle, then it’s harder to be a good driver. Even worse, losing even 2 hours of sleep is similar to the effect of having 3 beers.
The CDC reports that an estimated 1 in 25 adult drivers (aged 18 or older) report having fallen asleep while driving in the previous 30 days. Also, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drowsy driving was responsible for 72,000 crashes, 44,000 injuries, and 800 deaths in 2013. However, these numbers are underestimated, and the number of fatal crashes caused by drowsy drivers is likely up to 6,000.
Most adults need at least 7 hours of sleep each day. If your routine isn’t making the time for your body to recharge, it’s time to make a change. Developing good sleep habits, like sticking to a routine that encourages a full 7 hours of sleep, is the first step to keeping yourself and others safe. Another good step is to evaluate whether the sleep you’re getting is quality sleep. Snoring or feeling fatigued despite getting 7+ hours of sleep may be signs of a sleep disorder.
Sleep apnea, often associated with snoring, is a dangerous sleep disorder if left untreated. Sleep apnea causes you to regularly stop breathing while sleeping at night. This creates countless side effects and health conditions that will impact your daily life. Sleep apnea causes a lack of oxygen that will prevent you from entering proper REM cycles. Without the REM cycles necessary to feel rested, drivers with sleep apnea are at risk of drowsy driving. More than 70 million Americans suffer from a sleep disorder. And the average life expectancy evaluated in patients suffering from untreated Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is 58 years, compared to the average 78 years in healthy men and 83 in healthy women. You can find out if you’re one of them by taking a simple and quick online screening quiz here.