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We all know about the dangers of drinking and driving. But sleepy drivers are just as dangerous: sleepiness is now thought to be involved in 16–60% of road accidents.

 

Driving while sleepy is a problem, because even moderate sleep deprivation affects driving performance as much as low-level alcohol intoxication. Both alcohol and a lack of sleep inhibit your ability to react quickly – to a suddenly braking car, for example. They also affect your judgement: you may misjudge the width of your car or the sharpness of a bend. And falling asleep at the wheel is particularly dangerous, since it only takes seconds for your car to come off the road.

 

Warning signs that you are too sleepy to drive safely include difficulty keeping your eyes focused, yawning, drifting across the lane markers and being unable to recall driving the last few miles.

 

To avoid sleepy driving, follow these tips:

  • Make sure you get enough sleep before hitting the road
  • If possible, avoid driving between midnight and 7am – the period when we are naturally the most sleepy
  • Schedule frequent breaks on long road trips: if you start feeling sleepy, pull off the road and take a nap for 15–20 minutes.
DoctorNeil

Dr. Neil Stanley

Dr Neil Stanley is an independent sleep expert who has been involved in research for over 35 years. After starting out at the R.A.F. Institute of Aviation Medicine, he moved on to the University of Surrey's Human Psychopharmacology Research Unit, where he was Director of Sleep Research. Today, he travels the world lecturing on various aspects of sleep to both healthcare professionals and the public at large.