Tips for great sleep

Drowsiness and Driving Don’t Mix

August 8th, 2016

Driving while sleepy is an all-too-common and very dangerous problem. Research suggests that almost 20% of accidents on major roads are sleep-related. Sleep-related accidents are also more likely than others to result in a fatality or serious injury.

Overestimating your ability

If you think you can handle driving when you’re drowsy, think again. Lack of sleep can have the same hazardous effects as drugs and alcohol. Drowsiness slows your reaction time, decreases awareness, and impairs judgment. And just like drugs or alcohol, drowsiness can be fatal when driving, warns the U.S. National Safety Council.

A serious public-safety issue

Drowsy driving is the cause of at least 100,000 auto crashes each year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Despite the obvious dangers of drowsy driving, many of us still do it. Surveys conducted by the National Sleep Foundation show the prevalence of drowsy driving among U.S. drivers:

  • More than one-third (37%) of drivers report having nodded off or fallen asleep while driving in the past year.
  • Among those who report nodding off while driving, 13% say they’ve done so at least one or more times a month.
  • Four percent of drivers admit they have had an accident or near-accident due to drowsiness in the past year.

Ways we ignore the problem

The statistics are enough to frighten anyone who spends time on our nation’s roads. Why are drivers so reckless? Some people cannot tell that they are close to falling asleep. The urge to sleep can come on suddenly. Others think they can fight off the desire to close their eyes. Both groups are putting themselves and others in danger.

What drowsy driving feels like

There are clear signals that a driver should stop immediately and rest. The National Sleep Foundation and National Safety Council tell us to watch for these warning signs:

  • Difficulty focusing, frequent blinking or heavy eyelids
  • Wandering or disconnected thoughts
  • Trouble remembering driving the last few miles; missing exits or traffic signs
  • Yawning repeatedly or rubbing your eyes
  • Trouble keeping your head up
  • Drifting from your lane, tailgating or hitting a shoulder or rumble strip
  • Abnormal speed
  • Feeling restless, irritable or impatient
  • Back tension, burning eyes, shallow breathing or inattentiveness

Who is most at risk?

Since we all need adequate sleep, any driver can experience a decrease in alertness when they have not had enough sleep. That said, research points to young males, night-shift workers, commercial drivers (especially long-haul drivers), as well as other people who drive a high number of miles everyday as being at increased risk for a fall-asleep crash. People with untreated sleep disorders such as insomnia or sleep apnea are also at elevated risk for accidents stemming from drowsy driving. Sedating medications like antidepressants, cold tablets, and antihistamines can also put you at risk, so be sure to check drug labels or talk to your doctor before getting behind the wheel when you’re taking medication.

Getting tough

Laws differ from state to state, but there is increasing focus on treating drowsy driving as a criminal offense in cases where someone is injured or killed. Don’t let the dangerous combination of driving and sleepiness get you in trouble. Stay rested and stay safe.


* ResMed recorded and analysed 2,000,000 nights of sleep in the development of S+

** Users with average sleep scores between 50-60 improved their sleep by an average of 44.71 minutes per night after one week of use.

*** Below average users are those with an average sleep score below 75. Poor sleep is defined as an average sleep score between 50-60. Very poor sleep is defined as an average sleep score between 30-50. Users with average sleep scores between 30-50 improved their sleep by more than 70 minutes per night after one week of use. Aggregate S+ user data as of 03/19/2015. All data is derived from a sample size of [5932] users as of 03/19/2015. Your results may be different.

Note: S+ is not a medical device. If you are seeking information on how to treat a sleep disorder, you should talk to your healthcare provider.