Why We Sleep – #Sleep and Driving

Autocockpit mit Ausschnit der Arme und Beine der fahrenden Person
Photo by Maria Orlova on Pexels.com

…or should I rather say no sleep and driving?! It might seem a bit of a steep entry but let me share the following quote with you:

There are many ways in which a lack of sufficient sleep will kill you. Some take time; others are more immediate.

Matthew Walker, Why We Sleep

One of the more immediate ways is drowsy driving. A lack of sleep can lead to a lack of concentration which can then lead to drowsy driving. As a matter of fact: „Every hour, someone dies in a traffic accident in the US due to a fatigue-related error.“

I know, a few lines into the post and we are talking about death, but knowing a few things about (lack of) sleep and driving can really safe lives. Your’s and other’s. So let me give you some facts and clear up a few myths when it comes to sleepy drivers.

Basically, among drowsy-driving accidents there are two main causes. The driver either completely fell asleep or he/she fell into a microsleep. The later being way more common. Microsleep usually lasts for just a few seconds and is likely to happen when a person generally doesn’t sleep more than seven hours at night. It might come as a shock, but falling asleep at the wheel for only two seconds is more than enough to cause severe harm if not death!

A Few Facts About Sleep And Driving

  1. Studies have shown that somebody who has been sleep-deprived for just one night and then goes out socialising with friends and drives home late that day after being awake for nineteen hours is as cognitively impaired as someone who has been drunk to the legal drinking limit (in America: .08 percent blood alcohol).
  2. „Car crashes rank among the leading causes of death in most first-world nations.“
  3. The less you sleep, the more likely you are to get involved in a car accident (possibly with deadly consequences).
  4. „Car crashes caused by drowsiness tend to be far more deadly than those caused by alcohol or drugs.“ (Which, of course , does not encourage drunk driving!!! But rather shows how many people underestimate the danger of drowsy driving.)

Drowsy driving alone may be as, if not more, problematic than driving drunk: drunk drivers are often late in braking, and late in making evasive maneuvers. But when you fall asleep, or have a microsleep, you stop reacting altogether. A person who experiences a microsleep or who has fallen asleep at the wheel does not brake at all, nor do they make any attempt to avoid the accident.

Matthew Walker, Why We Sleep

Common Myths

…about how to fight or even overcome fatigue when driving are misleading! The following methods do NOT help:

  • turning up the radio
  • winding down the car window
  • blowing cold air on your face
  • splashing cold water on your face
  • talking on the phone
  • chewing gum
  • slapping yourself
  • pinching yourself

so please don’t fool yourself! Be responsible instead. The only thing to do about drowsy driving is not to drive!

When I read this chapter of the book, I felt so convicted. Many situations popped up in my head where I actually did practice drowsy driving after being out with friends dancing all night. Not aware of the risk I was taking at all, and the consequences my drowsiness could have had for me and the people who were in the car with me. So reading this, my heart in my mouth, I thought man, I simply didn’t know! Now I do and I would love for you to know, too, which is why I am sharing this important piece of information with you. So be safe 🙂

There are many things that I hope readers take away from this book. This is one of the most important: if you are drowsy while driving, please, please stop.

Matthew Walker, Why We Sleep

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