When you’re suffering from sleep deprivation, some effects are pretty immediate:
It’s hard to concentrate
You’re cranky and short-tempered
Your reaction time is slower
If there’s a way to sneak in a nap, we can often refresh ourselves with just a short one - and the symptoms are usually decreased right away. When it comes to long-term sleep deprivation, however, we seldom think of all the repercussions.
In particular, how a lack of sleep can be putting ourselves and others in harm's way. On the road, driving drowsy is as dangerous as driving while intoxicated.
Driving while drowsy
Here’s an alarming fact: Per a 2010 study: One in six fatal automobile crashes involved a drowsy driver. Now, in that same study, two out of five drivers surveyed drivers reported that they had dozed off while driving in the last year, at a rate of 11%.
So - think about it: the next time you’re out driving, every 10th car you pass could be driven by a sleepy driver. You’ve probably experienced being behind these types of drivers in the past - they’re veering out of their lane and tailgating. Perhaps you have been the sleepy driver. Hopefully, though, you are never involved in an accident that will lead to injuries and lawsuits.
Are you more tired than you know?
On the other hand - how do you know if you’re suffering from a lack of sleep? If driving while drowsy really is as bad as driving while intoxicated, (18 hours without sleep has the same effect on you like a .05 blood alcohol level) it’s important to know the warning signs of sleep deprivation before you get behind the wheel.
If you’re keeping irregular hours, suffer from insomnia or other issues that prevent proper sleep, or have been up late, be aware of these warning signs:
Obvious, physical signs
These can include the usual yawning and droopy eyes, but can also include falling into “micro-sleeps”. You may not notice it, but you’re actually nodding off for up to 30 seconds.
Reading the same thing over and over? Messing up simple tasks? Forgetting details? These are all signs that your brain needs actual sleep.
Cranky. moody or unexpectedly sensitive? These can all be caused by sleep deprivation. So can a lack of motivation. Your body and mind need a break and some downtime.
Is it really hurting anyone?
We’re a nation that doesn’t get enough sleep. It’s estimated that 50-70 million Americans are surviving on too little. In addition to affecting our health, it affects our work performance and ability to operate heavy machinery - such as your car.
Just think about how a sleepless night can have you nodding off over your keyboard at work, or drifting into another lane briefly on the highway.
Not only are the health effects of sleep deprivation enough to fill a book - it can hurt others who are affected by your poor performance.
Be aware of how you can make changes
There are many resources available to those who feel they are chronically sleep-deprived. The first step is recognizing the symptoms. If you feel that you are struggling with chronic sleep deprivation, it’s advisable that you talk to a qualified medical professional about diagnosis and treatment. The difference it can make in your overall health can be literally life-changing.
Sleep deprivation can be a serious business. In addition to affecting your work performance and health, it can have dramatic effects on your ability to perform your daily tasks. Forgetting to turn off the coffee pot is one thing - driving to work when you’re actually impaired by your lack of sleep is downright dangerous. Pay attention to the warning signs, and stay off the road until you can address your sleep shortage.
As the most comprehensive sleep lab in Alaska, Alaska Sleep Clinic is reaching out to you to be proactive in making our roads safer for all Alaskans. If you want to know more about safety for truckers with sleep apnea, call us today for an evaluation.