Skip to main content

Is Sleep Loss as Dangerous as Alcohol When Driving?

Is Sleep Loss as Dangerous as Alcohol When Driving?

You’ve been struggling to sleep, leaving you exhausted and fatigued during the day. Still, you get behind the wheel assuming that the people who drive after a few drinks are the ones we really need to worry about. Not so.

Each day in the United States, 32 people lose their lives to alcohol-impaired driving, so there’s little doubt that drinking and driving is a serious problem. What doesn’t garner as much attention is the effect that sleep loss can have when driving — in 2017, there were 91,000 accidents due to drowsy driving. 

As sleep professionals, Dr. Dana J. Rockey and our teams at South County Sleep Solutions and Prescott Sleep Solutions understand very well the dangers of driving while drowsy. Whether it’s insomnia, sleep apnea, or some other issue that’s routinely robbing you of sleep, we want you to know that this sleep loss can be as dangerous as drunk driving.

Drowsy driving by the numbers

We know that drinking alcohol can impair your ability to drive because it affects your vision, your reflexes, and your judgment. Well, lack of sleep can lead to these same impairments.

For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that not sleeping for 17 hours is like having a blood alcohol content of about 0.05%. This number goes up to 0.10% after 24 hours of being awake, which is well above the national drunk driving limit of 0.08%.

Now, let’s take a look at a different set of numbers. The Sleep Foundation reports that about half of people eligible to drive in the US have done so while drowsy, and 1 in 25 drivers admits to falling asleep at the wheel in the last month. There’s a lot of potential for life-threatening car accidents in these numbers.

Drowsy driving deficits

We’ve compared drowsy driving to drunk driving, and we want to dive a little further into the similarities. 

When you’re sleep-deprived, you’re less alert, slower to react, and your judgment can be foggy, at best. Your vision can also tire, and you might find yourself weaving on the road and reacting more slowly to correct the weaving.

Not to mention, drowsy driving is one small step away from falling asleep at the wheel. There’s a good reason why parents put infants in the car and drive them around to get them to fall asleep. The soothing rhythm of the motion of the car, the sights that move by hypnotically, and the hum and vibration can work wonders on sleepless infants, as well as adults.

If you’re sleep deprived, you might believe that you're better off than the person who’s leaving the party after a few drinks. In reality, you may be just as dangerous.

Our goal here isn’t to scare you, but to underscore the benefits of seeking help when you’re not sleeping properly. Our team can get to the bottom of your sleep issues so that you’re well-rested enough for all of your activities, including driving.

For help diagnosing and treating your lack of sleep, please call us today at 949-558-0554 in Newport Beach, California, or 928-235-6925 in Prescott, Arizona.

You Might Also Enjoy...

Is Untreated Sleep Apnea Hard on Your Heart?

Is Untreated Sleep Apnea Hard on Your Heart?

The connection between sleep apnea and poor sleep is obvious, but did you know that the condition can negatively impact your heart health? That’s why treating your sleep apnea is so important.
How Does Home Sleep Testing Work?

How Does Home Sleep Testing Work?

You have daytime symptoms that point toward a nighttime problem, namely sleep apnea, and you want answers. The first step is to conduct an at-home sleep study, and here’s how this simple test works.
How Can Sleep Apnea Affect Your Mental Well-being?

How Can Sleep Apnea Affect Your Mental Well-being?

Sleep apnea, which affects millions of people in the United States, can lead to a host of serious problems, and some involve your mental health. From anxiety to depression, sleep apnea can take its toll on your mental well-being.
5 Consequences of Poor Sleep

5 Consequences of Poor Sleep

About one-third of adults in the United States aren’t getting the restorative sleep they need, which can lead to some serious, and surprising, health consequences. Here’s a look at five side effects of poor sleep.