National Safety Month-fatigue driving

June 23, 2021 / 5 mins read

With the “lazy days” of summer fast approaching, we wanted to talk about an easy way to stay safe this summer – getting enough sleep! Sleep is critical to your health and, as stated by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), only about two-thirds of Americans are getting the sleep that they need. Not sleeping enough can lead to general sleepiness or escalate into fatigue. According to the National Safety Council, “Sleepiness is the physiological desire to sleep. Fatigue describes a physical, mental, or social impairment that includes tiredness, sleepiness, reduced energy, and increased effort needed to perform tasks at the desired level.” Due to the hours, whether they are early in the morning or late at night, many people may be missing their natural sleep patterns and falling into a routine of fatigue.

The solution is to obtain the right amount of sleep in the times that align with the hours you are working. The healthy amount of sleep for an adult is a minimum of seven hours. Any less and you could be adversely affecting your health and creating a sleep debt. It is also important to maintain a regular sleep schedule and have good sleep quality. To learn more about this, check out our March blog post all about sleep!

Sleep directly affects your day-to-day actions, which naturally affects your safety. In fact, fatigue is the contributing factor to drowsy driving that many confuse with sleepiness. In a study by the CDC consisting of 147,076 people, 4.2% of people admitted to falling asleep behind the wheel in the previous 30 days. While that percentage may seem low, remember that there are 229 million licensed drivers in the US. If we expand that 4.2% to the full driving population, we have an estimated 9,618,000 people that have fallen asleep behind the wheel within the past 30 days.

To fall asleep while driving, you must first be engaging in drowsy driving. Drowsy driving can have serious repercussions, with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimating that 100,000 police-reported crashes occur due to drowsy driving each year. It may seem like you are in control when you are driving while tired, but driving drowsy is remarkably similar to driving drunk. Your reaction time is reduced the more drowsy you are, and this makes sense when you consider an Australian study that showed impairment equal to the legal limit of blood alcohol concentration (BAC) when drivers were awake for longer than 20 hours.

If you, while driving, are:

  1. Having trouble focusing or keeping your head up,
  2. Yawning or rubbing your eyes,
  3. Cannot remember moments in your trip,
  4. Miss turns or road signs,
  5. Cannot maintain your speed or stay in your lane,

you may be too tired to drive.

Some of these symptoms of drowsy driving may occur because you are experiencing micro-sleep, which is an involuntary response to sleep deprivation that causes you to be unconscious for about three to five seconds. This, as you can imagine, can be incredibly dangerous while driving. Fortunately, this is mostly caused by a lack of rest, which we have the power to control by making sure we get enough sleep each night.

Fatigue can have serious implications on the road, detrimental effects on your health, and reduced productivity at work. Based on all of the information above, it is imperative to your safety that you identify when you are feeling the effects of fatigue and change your habits and routine to reduce it. Good sleep is your first step towards reducing your fatigue, so if it is late and you’re reading this, go to sleep and have a good night. You’ll thank yourself in the morning. If you are having trouble sleeping or have questions about your sleep patterns, please give your care team a call at 978-878-8100 – we would be happy to help you!