Skip to main content

When was the last time you nearly fell asleep while driving?

Hospital news | Wednesday, October 30, 2013
The Respiratory Therapy Department at Prairie du Chien Memorial Hospital remind area residents that November 3-10 is National Drowsy Driving Prevention Week, an opportunity to increase awareness of the dangers of drowsy driving. One of the most serious consequences of insufficient sleep is traffic accidents due to drowsy driving.

In 2010, an American Automobile Association study estimated that one out of every six deadly traffic accidents, and one out of eight crashes required hospitalization of car drivers or passengers due to drowsy driving. The cost of automobile accidents attributed to sleepiness has been estimated between $29.2-$37.9 billion. Experts believe these disturbingly high figures underestimate the number of accidents or near-miss accidents due to drowsy driving because of drivers being unaware or not admitting they were drowsy at the time of the accident, or law enforcement not acquiring that information.

The AAA survey in 2010 found two out of every five drivers admitted to having fallen asleep at the wheel at some point, and more than 27% of drivers admitted they had driven while they were so sleepy that they had a hard time keeping their eyes open within the past month.

“According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 25 to 40% of our population experience problems falling asleep or daytime sleepiness,” stated Laurie Fritz, Respiratory Therapy Director at Prairie du Chien Memorial Hospital. “Those at risk include people with undiagnosed or untreated sleep disorders; young people, particularly males; shift workers and people who work long hours; people taking prescription medication that contain sedatives; commercial drivers; sleep deprived individuals; and those who have consumed alcohol.”

To avoid becoming drowsy while driving:

Get enough sleep: The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends adults get seven to eight hours of sleep each night in order to maintain good health and optimum performance.

Take breaks while driving: If one becomes drowsy while driving, it is recommended that the driver pull off to a rest area and take a short nap, preferable 15 to 20 minutes in length.

Do not drink alcohol: Alcohol can further impair a person’s ability to stay awake and make decisions. Taking the wheel after having just one glass of alcohol can affect one’s level of fatigue.

Do not drive late at night: Avoid driving after midnight, which is a natural period of sleepiness.

“Frequent problems sleeping or daytime sleepiness can signal a sleep disorder,” adds Rich Scott, Sleep Lab Clinical Coordinator, at Prairie du Chien Memorial Hospital. “Sleep disorders such as sleep apnea can be treated so that most symptoms are reduced or eliminated altogether. The most common treatment is nasal continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). When a CPAP device is prescribed, the exact amount of air pressure needed is determined during the sleep study. Your physician will help you determine if you need to undergo a diagnostic sleep study.”

To learn more about Prairie du Chien Memorial Hospital’s Sleep Study call the hospital at (608) 357-2000 between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.