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Sleep Disorders

12 December 2018

Sleepy US drivers involved in 100 000 crashes a year

There are many risk factors for drowsy driving.

Driving under the influence and distracted driving are well-known hazards, but few people think twice about getting behind the wheel when feeling drowsy, a sleep expert warns.

"Drivers can reduce the danger by being aware of risk factors and taking precautions," said Dr Praveen Rudraraju, who directs the Center for Sleep Medicine at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco, New York.

Reducing the risk

Each year, nearly 100 000 traffic crashes can be attributed to drowsy driving, including more than 1 500 deaths and over 70 000 injuries, according to the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Most drowsy driving accidents occur between midnight and  among drivers who are alone in their vehicle.

Risk factors for drowsy driving include: sleep loss – even just one hour less than you need; use of sleep aids, anti-anxiety medications or alcohol; driving long hours with few or no breaks, driving alone or with sleeping passengers; and having undiagnosed or untreated sleep disorders.

There are a number of things you can do to reduce the risk of drowsy driving, Rudaraju said.

Don't consume alcohol and don't take sedatives. If you feel drowsy when driving, find a safe place to pull over and nap. But even though a short nap can help, it's best to get proper sleep.

Talk to your doctor about problems falling or staying asleep, especially if you are tired after a night's sleep or if you snore with periods of gasping. Your doctor may suggest an overnight sleep study to determine if you have sleep apnoea or another sleep disorder.

Image credit: iStock

 

Ask the Expert

Sleep disorders expert

Dr Alison Bentley is a general practitioner who has consulted in sleep medicine and sleep disorders, in both adults and children of all ages, for almost 30 years. She also researches and publishes on a number of sleep-related topics both in formal research journals and lay publications including as editor of Sleep Matters, an educational newsletter on sleep disorders for doctors.

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