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Avoid Falling Asleep While Driving

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Updated April 25, 2007

Every year, over 100,000 accidents and 1,500 deaths are caused by driver fatigue. Lack of sleep affects our reaction time, judgment and ability to concentrate. This can be especially dangerous if you are driving.

Avoiding Falling Asleep While Driving

Caffeine, stimulants and other tricks may revive you temporarily, but these things are not reliable and do not work for long periods of time. Instead, the best solution to driver fatigue is to avoid being tired. Here are some tips to make sure you are alert enough for a nighttime drive:
  • No Sleep Debt: Before a long or nighttime drive, be sure that you have had several nights (in a row) of 7 to 9 hours of sleep. Plan on setting aside this time before you leave.
  • Take Breaks: Taking a break during your drive will allow you to stretch, move and wake up. Plan for breaks and even a quick 20-minute nap.
  • Arrive by Midnight: The time between midnight and early morning is when our body most wants to be sleeping. This is the most dangerous time to be driving in respect to sleep.
  • Know the Warning Signs: If you are yawning constantly, can’t remember the last few moments of driving or cannot keep your eyes focused, pull over and take a quick nap.

What Not To Do

Many people think that opening the window, playing loud music or talking on the phone will help you stay awake. These are, in fact, dangerous thing to do because:
  • They distract you from driving at a time when you need to concentrate.
  • They give you a false sense of security and keep you on the road when you should stop.
Instead of using tricks, pull over and take a quick nap.

More on Sleep Disorders and Sleep Problems

Sources: National Institutes of Health; National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Your Guide to Healthy Sleep. NIH Publication No. 06-5271.

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