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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.

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