The Unexpected Toll of Fatigue-Related Car Accidents.

While adults should get seven to eight hours of sleep every night, most get far less. Sleep loss may be the result of a hectic work schedule, medical condition, or stress, but no matter the cause, sleep deprivation can wreak havoc on your body and driving ability. With an understanding of the heavy toll sleep deprivation takes on the body, not to mention the lives lost, you’ll be prepared to prevent drowsy driving and make better sleep choices.

The Brain Fights for Sleep

Sleep deprivation causes the brain to do everything it can to get the rest it needs. Most notably it slows down neurons, those brain cells control everything from reasoning to movement. The brain tries to slow enough that the body naturally falls asleep.

In the meantime, critical thinking, problem-solving skills, reaction times suffer. The split second decisions needed to avoid car accidents are difficult if not impossible to make for a brain that’s not working at full speed. The result is 328,000 drowsy driving related accidents each year. Of those accidents, nearly 6,400 people lose their lives.

Heavy Costs and Permanent Changes

You can lose enough sleep that your driving skills become comparable to some who is legally intoxicated. In fact, if you get less than four of sleep you are 11.5 times more likely to get in an accident.

As White Plains car accident lawyers, we have seen the terrible personal injuries inflicted on our clients by drowsy drivers

The annual societal cost of drowsy driving accidents runs up to $109 billion each year. That takes into account medical and insurance premiums, emergency responder wages, and the wages lost by those in the accidents. Because car accidents often cause brain, neck, or back injuries, many people continue to lose wages over the course of their lifetime.

With such high risks and costs, it’s time to take action against drowsy driving.

Responsible Driving and a Commitment to Better Sleep

Being a responsible driver means knowing when you might be too fatigued to take to the road. If you’re drifting out of your lane, missing exits, or realizing you don’t remember the last few miles traveled, it’s time to pull over. A short 15-20 minute nap can give you the boost you need to make it home. It’s even better if you can sneak in a full 30 minutes as a nap that long can start to decrease the effects of sleep deprivation.

If that’s not possible, taking steps to a better night’s sleep is your best bet. Check that your mattress and pillow aren’t causing discomfort that’s keeping you awake at night. At night, keep your room quiet, dark, and at a comfortably cool 60-68 degrees. A few other ways you can help yourself get better shut-eye include:

  • Eating Sleep-Inducing Foods: Fish, chickpeas, and bananas are rich in Vitamin B6 which is used to make melatonin, a hormone that triggers sleep. Dairy products like milk and low-fat yogurt have the calcium needed to make melatonin. There’s truth behind having a warm glass of milk before bed.

  • Reading a Book (not an e-reader): Any relaxing activity can be part of a healthy bedtime routine. Reading a book, not an e-reader, smartphone, laptop, or notebook, which can keep you awake, can help the brain slowly shut the body down.

  • Keeping a Consistent Bedtime: When you go to bed at the same time every day you help the body establish and follow healthy circadian rhythms. Getting up at the same time each morning also supports the healthy rhythms necessary for better sleep.

    Thank you to Tuck for this informative piece