You didn’t sleep well last night, and you just got off a long shift. Now, you’re headed home. Most people don’t always recognize their sleepiness as a danger to their safety while behind the wheel, but some experts say that impairs your ability to drive similarly to alcohol.
What causes drowsiness?
Obviously, drowsiness is often the result of a simple lack of sleep. If you stay up all night, you’re going to be sleepy the next day. However, there are other factors that can contribute to driver drowsiness, like:
- Sleep disorders including apnea, insomnia, narcolepsy and jet lag
- Physical labor
- Shift work
- Medications, often including antidepressants, antihistamines, blood pressure medications, relaxants and anxiety medications
How does drowsiness affect driving?
Drowsiness can have a huge impact on your ability to drive. It can alter your ability to:
- Pay attention and hold focus on the road
- React quickly when necessary
- Make safe and wise decisions
How common is drowsy driving?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that of those surveyed over the age of 18, 1 in every 25 drivers have fallen asleep at the wheel within a span of 30 days. Estimates say that drowsy driving causes nearly 6,000 deaths each year.
Those who work long shifts, those with sleep disorders, those taking prescription medications and those who drive commercially are the most at risk for drowsy driving. And their sleepiness puts everyone else on the road in danger.
How to avoid drowsy driving
The first way to avoid drowsy driving is to keep a good sleep schedule. Make sure you are getting the proper amount of sleep for your body to be alert and your mind to be focused.
If you struggle to get enough sleep, you may need to see a doctor about a sleep disorder. You should also always talk with your medical provider about your medications and how they affect your driving ability.
Finally, if you find yourself in a situation where you need to drive, but you feel drowsy, it’s best to find another way home. Take public transportation, call a family member for a ride or use a ride-sharing service.