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Sleeping While Driving
4/14/2010 2:08:04 PM

Sleeping While Driving    

In September 2003, The Scientific Research Foundation (SRF) did a small survey, in Lebanon, by asking many drivers if they found themselves sleepy at times during the day. The best answer was “It is quite possible to experience daytime sleepiness sometimes after pushing too hard for a long period”.

Daytime sleepiness is a common and serious complaint, and is an important cause of road traffic crashes. It occurs more frequently among older people than other age groups, which is due to changes in the sleep cycle with age such as the inability to sustain sleep during the night because of age-associated biological rhythm changes. However, daytime sleepiness may also indicate suffering from a certain medical condition. For instance, common causes of persistent daytime sleepiness include: insomnia, tiredness and fatigue resulting from along term viral illness; and types of drugs and medications, such as benzodiazepines, which include daytime sleepiness.

Another important cause of daytime sleepiness is sleep apnea. Sleep apnea refers to difficulties in breathing while sleeping, which often leads to daytime sleepiness. Sleep apnea most often affects men who are middle aged or older, heavy snores, overweight and medium to heavy drinkers of alcohol. People affected by sleep apnea stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep. Lapses from breathing can last between 10 and 60 seconds. It is possible for a person to stop breathing 400 times during one night, resulting in having very little sleep. Due to these reasons, people with sleep apnea are often very sleepy during the day. They can get very tired while driving, and even fell asleep at traffic lights or while driving. Sleep apnea is a significant factor in many road crashes.  If left untreated, it can lead to serious life-threatening conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and brain damage due to low blood oxygen levels. Unfortunately, many individuals realize that they are suffering from sleep apnea after being involved in a crash.  

Road Traffic Authorities of New South Wales recommends the following:
o All people should be aware of their own sleep patterns, and feelings of sleepiness during the day, and remind the relation of this with their driving ability. It is advised to ask the spouse or home partners if they have noticed snoring or restless sleeping.
o In case of thinking of having sleeping apnea, the doctor should be informed about that. The doctor may give a referral to a sleep disorders clinic, where a sleep analysis may be conducted. In case of having sleep apnea, there are many effective treatments available for that.
Finally, whether having sleep apnea or not, people should make sure not to drive a vehicle while they feel tired. In case of being sleepy, it is advised to have a nap before the journey. In case of becoming tired while driving, it is strongly recommended to stop at the nearest safe place and rest for a while.

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