Falling Asleep While Driving

Banner Health understands that driving is an important part of your life and we want to help you stay safe and alert behind the wheel. Whether it’s errands that need to be run, communing to work or shuttling kids between activities, obligations call and you must get around. Learn the warning signs and solutions for tired driving.

What Happens When I Drive When Tired?

Research says that more than 18 hours awake leaves you with a fatigue level like intoxication. 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. Are you part of the 50% of adult drivers that say that they have driven while drowsy? Another 20% of drivers have actually fallen asleep at the wheel. Over two million accidents happen from feeling tired or falling asleep while driving.

What Increases My Risk?

You may have more than one reason that you’re tired behind the wheel. Ask yourself if you’re doing any of the following

  • Drinking alcohol
  • Driving alone on a long, rural, dark or boring road
  • Driving long distances without regular rest breaks
  • Driving through the night or when you would usually be asleep
  • Shift work
  • Six or less hours of sleep - triples your risk
  • Suffering from insomnia, sleep apnea, or restless legs syndrome
  • Working more than 60 hours per week

What Over the Counter Medications Cause Drowsiness?

Sometimes you’re sick and need to take medication. Many cold, flu, and allergy medicines have ingredients that leave you tired. These may include:

  • Brompheniramine, the ingredient in Dimetane® and Comtrex® Maximum Strength Acute Head and Cold
  • Diphenhydramine, found in Contac® Day/Night and Benadryl® Allergy
  • Pseudoephedrine, a nasal decongestant found in cold remedies and diet aids may also cause insomnia
  • Triprolidine, the active ingredient in Actifed® and Sudafed® Sinus Nighttime

It is important to read the label, precautions and side effects on all medications to see if they may cause drowsiness, You may also want to check with your pharmacist or doctor for more information.

What Are The Signs I'm Too Tired To Drive?

Be aware of the warning signs of tired driving. Pull over immediately if you experience any of the following:

  • Excessive yawning
  • Trouble keeping your head up
  • Difficulty focusing or keeping your eyes open

What Can I do if I Feel Tired While Driving?

There are things you can do to avoid falling asleep while driving. Stay alert by trying the following:

  • Find a place to stop as soon as possible
  • Give driving responsibility to your companion, if possible
  • Nap for 15-20 minutes
  • Drink caffeine for short-term alertness, but wait 30 minutes for a noticeable result