We as a society tend to not value sleep. Instead we often feel that we can overcome the necessity with stimulants and sheer will power. The truth of the matter is that we do not perform at our best when we deprive our body of much needed rest. You think clearer, are more emotionally stable, and less prone to illness and weight gain when you consistently incorporate quality sleep into your life. Yet a staggering number of drivers are operating their vehicles daily they are sleep deprived. According to the National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep in America poll, 37 percent of those polled had fallen asleep at the wheel in the past year with another 60 percent stating that they had driven knowing that they were feeling tired.
The signs are fairly consistent among drivers. You tend to yawn excessively, blink to varying degrees, your eyelids feel heavy, and your head begins to droop. While we may think sleep can be overcome, upsetting your sleep-wake rhythm can cause your body to over compensate by forcing you into an episode of micro-sleep to help make up the loss. Micro-sleep allows parts of your brain to rest while your motor skills are still functioning to some extent. Micro-sleep is described as a light form of sleep that lasts for 5 to 10 seconds at a time in which one’s brain forces sleep involuntarily most notably occurring during monotonous tasks, such as driving.
One of the telltale signs that you just experienced an episode is the sudden jerk of the head. If you are driving it is advised for the safety of the driver as well as other motorists to pull over, take a nap, change drivers is possible, and allow 20 minutes for caffeinated beverages to kick in. Some signs that you are driving while drowsy are rubbing your eyes, yawning, driving into the shoulder lane or over the shoulder rumble strip, drifting into another lane, and having a difficult time being able to focus or recall the last few miles that you just drove. It is advised to not drive during times in which your body is used to being asleep such as late at night and early in the morning. However some drivers choose to drive at off peak hours especially if traveling a long distance to help avoid traffic and shorten their overall travel time. In these circumstances it is best to prep the night before with adequate amount of sleep, and to factor in both nap breaks and coffee breaks.
The Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention recently released a drowsy driving survey in which it found that 1 in 25 adults stated that they had fallen asleep while driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that roughly drowsy drivers likely caused 5,000 to 6,000 fatal crashes each year. While we often report on the dangers of driving while under the influence, sleep deprivation accounts for about 3 percent of traffic fatalities each year with some estimates significantly higher.
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