While you may never drive drunk and you’ve trained yourself to put the phone down and not text while driving, you may still be at risk of operating your car when you are way too tired.
The potentially fatal effects of drowsy driving are in the news again with the Governors Highway Safety Association’s new report showing that nearly 83.6 million sleep-deprived Americans are driving every day. While the actual numbers of accidents and fatalities are difficult to determine, the AAA Foundation estimates drowsiness causes an average 328,000 crashes per year, with 109,000 involving 6,400 fatalities.
“Drowsy driving is more pervasive than we recognize, more commonplace and we’re all guilty of it,” said Pam Fischer, a former New Jersey highway safety official who wrote the report released this week. “And we have the ability to correct it. The fix is simple: Get more sleep.”
The bottom line is that too many of us are accepting sleep deprivation as the new normal. If the adverse health effects won’t lead you to treatment, the even scarier possibilities of a serious car accident should be that wake-up call. Plus, any motorist who has been awake for an extended period of time can experience performance deficits similar to that of someone who has been drinking. If you haven’t slept in 21 hours, you could have the same reaction time as someone with an alcohol concentration of 0.08%.
Sleep needs change for different age groups, but the average adult needs 7.5 to 9 hours of sleep every night. Do you get 9 hours of sleep? Do you know anyone who does?
Changing Your Sleep Habits
It’s time to change our habits and get help. First, try some of our Sleep Health Tips to switch up your behavior and cultivate good sleep hygiene. If trying those ideas don’t help, you may have a health problem hampering your ability to get to sleep or stay asleep. Talk to your doctor about how much and how well you are sleeping.
Once you can rule out environmental or possible medication side effects as the culprits, you may want to see a sleep specialist or do a sleep study. One of the usual suspects, obstructive sleep apnea, has several treatment options that get people back to sleep without medication. Some people even show improvement with new dental sleep treatments. Whatever the root cause of your short sleep nights, there is probably a treatment to help you get back to sleep and down the road safely.