Driving drowsy can be as dangerous as drinking and driving. Sleepiness slows reaction time, decreases awareness and impairs judgment — all of which can make an accident more likely to happen.
Studied have shown that being awake for 24 hours straight is the equivalent of being legally intoxicated. And mixing lack of sleep and alcohol worsens the situation exponentially.
“Even a small amount of alcohol when a person is already sleepy can affect his or her ability to stay awake while driving,” says Dr. Nilesh B. Dave, medical director of the Sleep and Breathing Disorders Center at UT Southwestern Medical Center. “Ingesting one alcoholic drink while sleepy is like having several drinks at once.”
Drowsy drivers often have “microsleeps,” in which their eyes are open but they are not really aware of their surroundings, making them less likely to attempt to avoid a crash. The easiest way to combat drowsiness while driving is to drink caffeine equal to two cups of coffee and pull over to take a short nap.
“A 15- or 20-minute nap when a driver is drowsy might just save his or her life,” Dr. Dave says.
To lessen the need for caffeine and naps while driving, Dr. Dave says drivers should plan ahead to get at least seven hours of sleep and limit driving between midnight and 6 a.m.
Visit http://www.utsouthwestern.edu/sleep to learn more about UT Southwestern’s clinical services in sleep and breathing disorders.
Media Contact: LaKisha Ladson
March 3-9 is National Sleep Awareness Week
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