Friday, March 30, 2007

Drowsy Driving

According to the National Sleep Foundation, drowsy driving causes over 100,000 motor vehicle accidents, 71,000 injuries, and 1550 deaths each year. Common causes of drowsy driving include chronic sleep deprivation and untreated sleep disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea.

A commercial driver’s extended hours of operation can create a scenario of continuous sleep deprivation. Difficulties in adjusting to varying shifts and rotating work schedules can compound the problem. The average adult needs 7 to 9 hours of sleep each day, and it is important to allow for sufficient sleep time. For those who have trouble adjusting to unusual work hours or rotating shifts, medication and/or bright light therapy are sometimes helpful.

Obstructive sleep apnea is present in 2-4% of the middle-aged population. It is more common in commercial drivers due to the high rate of obesity in this population. Obstructive sleep apnea is a disorder in which apneas (breathing pauses) occur during sleep. It is normal for the tissues of the upper airway to be somewhat collapsible during sleep, but in obstructive sleep apnea this tendency is exaggerated. Common symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea include loud snoring, daytime sleepiness, memory/concentration difficulties, and erectile dysfunction. The most common treatment for obstructive sleep apnea is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), in which pressurized air is delivered through a nasal mask to the upper airways. The pressurized air acts as a pneumatic splint for the upper airways. Other treatments for obstructive sleep apnea include dental appliances and ENT surgery.

Driving while sleepy is a serious problem, especially for commercial drivers. Any commercial driver with snoring or daytime sleepiness should be evaluated by a sleep specialist to ensure their, and the public’s, safety while driving.


Franto said...

Hi there Dr. Rack:

Sorry to butt in with this question for you!
I had a recent sleep study that showed I am getting v little REM sleep because I start getting hypopneic as soon as I enter into REM and have an arousal. Overall there was little obstruction and no apnea (lowest O2 sat was 91%). The problem was entirely REM specific, and I had good deep sleep. My total REM percentage was only 6.5%. There apparently were several aborted REM episodes. The reason I had the study done was that I have been having unrefreshing sleep and working memory issues for a few years now! My sleep physician wants me to do CPAP study to see if it helps improve my REM. My Q to you is if you see cases like mine at all, since I havent read about such a selective REM condition on the web or Pubmed. I know about UARS but that too involves both REM and NREM. Would CPAP help in such a situation?

Sorry to take your time. Thnx


Claire said...

Hi Dr. Rack
Been reading your sleep articles with gr8 interest

Very interesting - I thought I may have this however my gp doesn’t think so and after a little research I am in agreement.
However he has been unable to diagnose or treat my particular sleep problem and I can find no info anywhere that describes my particular symptoms.

I find so much research has been done in some areas but not enough in others in regards to sleep.

My problem; I sleep if allowed 10hours a day but am constantly tired. 2 afternoon naps not unusual, but I don’t fall asleep randomly.
I lucid dream remembering dreams perfectly in detail and can consciously switch between characters minds - change stuff, although interesting sometimes, other times annoying. very often I have difficulty in reconnecting to my body - I think I am back be half way down the stairs etc before realizing I am not - go back to try to move hand wriggle finger - think I succeed and may have to do this 5 or 6 times on a bad day. This doesn’t just happen in morning but also after a nap of only 30-40min.
I not expecting you to know or offer diagnosis - kinda given up hope - but maybe give another aspect of an unusual problem.

Keep up the gd work

webmaster said...

Dr. Rack,

First of all, great blog! It inspired me to do a similar one focussed on the UK.

I just finished a post about Drowsy Driving on my blog and like your post, the UK state of affairs is equally shocking. We have over half a million people undiagnosed! And those who are diagnosed are struggling to get government funded help.

I wonder when car manufacturers will step in with technology that can check sleepiness whilst driving. If they can alarm us when we're veering off the road, have our lights off or forgot to put the seatbelts on, then surely they should be able to find out when we're nodding off!

Anyway, keep blogging!


james said...

No Nap is a inexpensive automobile safety device, that prevents drivers falling asleep at the wheel. This intelligent device is designed to detect when the driver is in danger of DOZING off and immediately alerts him / co passengers. Prevents a potential crash. The light weight gadget fits over drivers left ear and triggers alert buzzer observing the drivers drowsiness. No Nap is a essential safety device a MUST HAVE on all road online at delivered at your address free of cost and offer of buy 2 get 1 free

nsfSLEEP said...

It is extremely important that Americans understand the hazards and potential tragedies of drowsy driving. Each year, thousands of people are injured or die as a result of car crashes caused by driving while sleepy. Most people are aware of the dangers of driving while under the influence of alcohol, but more education is needed to communicate the grave dangers of drowsy driving, which is an all-too-common occurrence.

The National Sleep Foundation’s (NSF) first-ever “Drowsy Driving Prevention Week” kicks off the year-long campaign. NSF has created a consumer-friendly and very comprehensive collection of resources easily available for download. These educational resources include fact sheets, print PSAs, radio scripts, press releases, posters, flyers and much more. Visit to review the breadth of information available.

While you are on the site, you can read first-hand moving memorials and testimonials to those whose lives have been impacted by drowsy driving tragedies. These sad and poignant pieces truly hit home.

NSF is extremely committed to this cause. Education about drowsy driving prevention WILL save lives.

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james said...

An estimated 2400 people are killed every year and many more seriously injured where a driver has fallen asleep at the wheel.
According to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), drowsy driving causes more than 100,000 crashes a year, resulting in 40,000 injuries and 1,550 deaths. As tragic as these numbers are, they only tell a portion of the story. It is widely recognized that drowsy driving is underreported as a cause of crashes. And this doesn't include incidents caused by driver inattention.

Drowsy driving is all too common, especially among young men aged 25 and under. Night workers who rotate their schedules are also at high risk. Others at risk include people who regularly drive long distances and those who have sleep disorders. The highest risk times of day for drowsy driving accidents to occur is in the mid-afternoon and overnight hours

Drowsy driving s just as Dangerous as drunken driving, Children playing, people taking a walk has been victims of such accidents.

Driver fatigue is the main reason for drowsy driving . . At 60mph if you close your eyes only for a second you have traveled 88 feet. Mishaps caused by drowsy drivers is generally fatal as dozing drivers do not brake before a crash.

I would recommend all drivers to use a very simple safety device No Nap

No Nap is a inexpensive automobile safety device, that prevents drivers falling asleep at the wheel. This intelligent device is designed to detect when the driver is in danger of DOZING off and immediately alerts him / co-passengers. Prevents a potential crash. The light weight gadget fits over drivers left ear and triggers alert buzzer observing the drivers drowsiness. No Nap is a essential safety device a MUST HAVE on all road travels. You can buy it online at I think its delivered free of cost at your address

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