Research from the National Sleep Foundation indicates the being awake for more than 18 hours produces impairment equal to being legally intoxicated. Many people fall into this category due to work, school or family commitments and pose a risk to themselves and others when on the road.
In the past year, about one-half of adult drivers say that they have driven a vehicle while feeling drowsy and almost two in 10 have actually fallen asleep at the wheel. Over two million drivers have actually had an accident because they either fell asleep or were too tired to drive.
Are You at Risk?
- Sleep deprived or fatigued. Six or less hours of sleep triple your risk.
- Suffering from sleep loss (insomnia ) or poor quality sleep (sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome)
- Driving long distances without regular rest breaks.
- Driving through the night or when you would usually be asleep
- Working more than 60 hours per week
- Shift work
- Drinking even small amounts of alcohol
- Driving alone on a long, rural, dark or boring road
Over the Counter Medications
Many Americans turn to over the counter medications to control symptoms of cold, flu or allergy. Certain of these medications have active ingredients that can cause sleeplessness at night and sleepiness during the day. These include:
- Brompheniramine, the ingredient in Dimetane® and Comtrex® Maximum Strength Acute Head and Cold
- Diphenhydramine, found in Contac® Day/Night and Benadryl® Allergy
- Triprolidine, the active ingredient in Actifed® and Sudafed® Sinus Nighttime
- Pseudephedrine, a nasal decongestant found in cold remedies and diet aids may also cause insomnia
It is important to read the label, precautions and side effects on all medications whether they are prescribed by your physician or purchased over the counter. If any cause drowsiness and you must drive, talk to your pharmacist or doctor. Sometimes the timing of when you take the medication can solve the problem.
If you have any of the following symptoms, you are at risk for “micro-sleeps” or falling asleep at the wheel.
- Yawning excessively
- Trouble keeping your head up
- Difficulty focusing or keeping your eyes open
Recommendations on what to do if you have the symptoms:
- Find a place to stop as soon as possible
- Have a companion take over the driving
- A 15-20 minute nap will make you more focused and alert
- Caffeine drinks promote short- term alertness, but take 30 minutes for a noticeable result.