Sleepiness and driving is a dangerous combination. Most people are aware of the dangers of drinking and driving but do not realize that drowsy driving can be just as fatal. Like alcohol, sleepiness slows reaction time, decreases awareness, impairs judgment and increases a person's risk of crashing.
According to the National Sleep Foundation's 2005 Sleep in America poll, 60 percent of Americans have driven while feeling sleepy and 37 percent admitted to actually having fallen asleep at the wheel in the previous year. However, many people cannot tell if or when they are about to fall asleep.
Here are some signs that should tell a driver to stop and rest:
- Difficulty focusing, frequent blinking or heavy eyelids
- Daydreaming; wandering/disconnected thoughts
- Trouble remembering the last few miles driven; missing exits or traffic signs
- Yawning repeatedly or rubbing your eyes
- Trouble keeping your head up
- Drifting from your lane, tailgating or hitting a shoulder rumble strip
- Feeling restless and irritable
Sleep-related crashes are most common in young people, especially men, adults with children and shift workers.
Have you ever driven while drowsy?
Frequent sleepiness can be a sign that you might have sleep apnea. To find out if you might be at risk for sleep apnea, check out our five-question screening tool.