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> Health Sleep Awareness Week, 2013

Sleep Awareness Week, 2013

When we turn the clocks ahead an hour on March 10, we start to think about spring being just around the corner and brighter, longer days. But that time change can have several effects:
Turning the clock ahead affects your body's internal clock. You are likely to be fatigued until your body has adjusted to the time change.
Initially, you may not be able to fall asleep, causing you to be more tired in the morning.
Drowsy driving crashes occur more frequently during the first weeks following the time change.

Sufficient sleep is as important as diet and exercise to maintaining good health. Lack of sufficient sleep can adversely affect our ability to do some of the things we do every day, like driving a car. Operating a motor vehicle while you are tired can have serious consequences for you and others on the road. In 2010, driving while drowsy contributed to 3,925 motor vehicle crashes and 17 deaths on New York’s roadways.

What is drowsy driving?

Drowsy driving can mean a number of things, including falling asleep while driving or simply not paying attention while driving due to fatigue or lack of sleep.

What happens when you drive while drowsy?

You may actually nod off at the wheel or run off the road or into another vehicle. Some drowsy drivers simply “zone out” while driving causing them to make poor driving decisions leading to crashes or close calls. Drowsy drivers think they can stay alert behind the wheel, even when they are tired, but this is not always true. Even if they stay awake, they are not alert. Driving while drowsy can slow your reaction time, decrease awareness and impair your judgment. In fact, driving while sleepy can be as dangerous as driving while drunk! We often think that we can stay awake when we only have a short distance to travel. However, driving while drowsy can lead to crashes even on short trips. Sleep is an involuntary response by the body and most people don't realize they are becoming drowsy.

What are the danger signs of drowsy driving

  • You have difficulty focusing, or notice frequent blinking, or heavy eyelids.
  • You find yourself daydreaming, your mind wandering or having disconnected thoughts.
  • You have trouble remembering the last few miles driven.
  • You missed exits or traffic signs.
  • You are unable to stop yawning.
  • You have trouble keeping your head up.
  • You keep jerking the car back into your lane.
  • You drifted off the road and narrowly missed hitting something.

Who is most at risk for drowsy driving?

  • Bus, truck, and other commercial drivers.
  • Shift workers.
  • Persons with more than one job or people who work irregular work hours.
  • Persons with untreated sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea or narcolepsy.
  • Drivers 25 and younger. Teens are more likely than older drivers to be sleep-deprived. Adults need 7-9 hours and teens need 8.5-9.25 hours of sleep per day.

What can you do to stay alert?

  • Sleep/take naps: Your best bet is to get enough sleep every day. Most adults need seven-nine hours to maintain proper alertness during the day. If you feel drowsy while driving, a 15 minute nap can be very effective. Make sure to pull over in a safe place.
  • Regular stops: You should stop every 100 miles or two hours. Switch drivers, if you can.
  • Travel with a companion, so you have someone with whom you can chat and share the driving.
  • Avoid alcohol: If you have been drinking, please don’t drive! In addition to being illegal, alcohol makes you sleepy.
  • Check medication labels or ask your doctor if it will put you at risk for sleepiness.

What DOES NOT work to keep you alert while driving?

  • Opening the window; turning on the air conditioning; or playing loud music are not effective means to keep drivers alert for any extended period of time.
  • Drinking coffee might help some people, however, be aware that caffeine only promotes short-term alertness. Since it takes about 30 minutes for caffeine to begin working, the best thing to do is pull over, drink coffee or other caffeinated beverage, take a short nap, and then get back on the road. Keep in mind that caffeine won’t have much of an effect on people who consume it regularly. The only long lasting solution to prevent drowsy driving is to get enough sleep.

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