Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday that puts a lot of drivers on the road as they travel to spend time with their family. Experts warn that drivers should be aware of sleep deprivation and darkness during this time of travel, which may lead drivers to believe they are alert even though they are sleepy.
A 2011 National Sleep Foundation survey revealed that 60% of adults admitted to driving at least once while sleepy, and 37% admitted to falling asleep at the wheel in the past year. 1 in 6 fatal traffic accidents is caused by drowsy driving.
Dr. Xue Ming, a sleep medicine specialist at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, says that when people are sleep deprived for more than 24 hours, stronger sensory stimulation is needed to main alertness. Sensory stimulation such as light, noise, and touch all helps to keep people alert. When stimulation is low, the brain will drift into a full sleep state or micro sleep, which can last from a fraction of a second to up to 30 seconds. In this state, a person feels awake and their eyes may remain open, but actually they are asleep.
The most vulnerable time for drivers to succumb to drowsiness are between 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., when there is a natural dip in their circadian rhythm, which regulates periods of sleepiness and wakefulness.
Eating huge meals or not sleeping well the night before, both contribute to decline of the circadian rhythm, leading to higher risk of drowsy driving.
Ways for drivers to boost their alertness for limited periods of time include, taking a 20-minute nap, drinking 2 cups of coffee or a similar caffeinated beverage, brightening the dashboard, and buying a visor light box that stimulates morning light and placing it on the passenger side of the vehicle.
The best thing for all drowsy drivers to do is to let someone alert drive or simply call a cab.
Happy Thanksgiving from Gallery Furniture! Be blessed and be safe!