Posted on: 12 May 2015Share
Most people know that driving while intoxicated is a bad idea, but driving while drowsy can be just as dangerous. Though it may seem like common sense to avoid driving while one is fatigued, people do it all the time. The National Sleep Foundation found approximately 60 percent of drivers have gotten behind the wheel of a vehicle while feeling drowsy, and 37 percent fell asleep while driving. There are a number of ways drowsy driving occurs, and here are a few tips for preventing it.
Get the Full Amount of Rest You Need
Getting enough sleep may seem like the most obvious advice in the world, but you would be surprised at how often people shortchange themselves in the bedroom. A 2013 poll by the National Sleep Foundation found 56 percent of respondents aged 25 to 55 didn't get enough sleep during the weekday. People would then try to make up for the lack of sleep during the week by staying in bed longer on the weekend.
This type of unhealthy sleep cycle only contributes to fatigue. Even shorting yourself 90 minutes of sleep per night can cause a 32 percent reduction in daytime performance and alertness. Sleep deprivation can also negatively impact cognitive function and memory and increases your risk for car accidents.
Ideally, you should consistently be getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night. You may need more or less depending on your age and biology. Take time to experiment to find the optimal number of hours for you. Additionally, you should aim to go to bed and get up at the same time every day. Not only can this help you fall asleep faster, but you won't have as much trouble getting up in the morning because your body will get used to being active at that time.
Mind Your Health and Medications
Some health conditions can cause you to feel tired during the day, leading to drowsy driving. Sleep apnea is one of the most common and well-known causes of daytime fatigue. However, other conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, depression, anxiety, restless leg syndrome, and hypothyroidism can cause tiredness during the day. Work with your physician to get your condition under control as much as possible to minimize the risk of driving while tired.
Medications are also a common culprit for daytime drowsiness. Antihistamines, antidepressants, high-blood pressure medications, and statin medicines are all known to cause tiredness as a side effect. If you suspect your medication is the root cause of your sleepiness during the day, talk to your doctor about adjusting the dosage or switching to a different kind that may not make you as tired.
Avoid Driving Right After Eating Big Meals or When You're Hungry
After you eat a big meal, most of your body's energy will be directed towards digesting that food. This can cause an overall energy drain that leaves you feeling tired. Wait about a half-hour to an hour before hitting the road to give your body time to deal with the food.
Likewise getting too hungry can cause a drop in blood sugar that causes you to feel drained and sleepy. Eat a light snack such as a banana and peanut butter crackers that will stabilize your blood sugar and give you an energy boost.
Recognize When You're Too Tired to Drive
If you're driving and find you're:
- Having a hard time keeping your eyes open
- Yawning excessively
- Drifting into other lanes
- Driving too close
- Nodding off
- Not reacting as quickly as normal
It's time to pull the vehicle over and let someone else drive for awhile or take a short nap to revive yourself. You can consume caffeine to give yourself a boost, but this is a temporary fix that will wear off after awhile. It's better to find a safe place to park and rest for a little while than risk falling asleep and getting into an accident.
If you do find yourself in the unfortunate situation of being involved in a car accident as the result of drowsy driving, contact a car accident lawyer for assistance with your case.