How Safe A Sleeper Are You?
Here are seven statements about sleep. See if you know which
ones are True and which are False.
know when I'm falling asleep.
Coffee overcomes the effects of drowsiness while
I'm a safe driver so it doesn't matter if I'm
I can't take naps.
I get plenty of sleep.
Being sleepy makes you misperceive things.
Young people need less sleep.
If you said true, you're like
most people - you believe you can control your sleep. In tests, nearly four-fifths of people said they could
predict when they were about to fall asleep. They were
wrong. The truth is, sleep is not voluntary. If you're
drowsy, you can fall asleep and never know it. You also
cannot tell how long you've been asleep. When you're
driving, being asleep for even a few seconds can kill
you or someone else. If you experience any of these
danger signs, take them as a warning that you could fall
asleep without meaning to:
Your eyes close or go out of
focus by themselves.
You have trouble keeping your
You can't stop yawning.
You have wandering, disconnected
You don't remember driving
the last few miles.
You drift between lanes, tailgate,
or miss traffic signs.
You keep jerking the car back
into the lane.
have been jolted to attention by tire noise or a
near crash due to drifiting.
Stimulants are no substitute for sleep. Drinks
containing caffeine, such as coffee or cola can help you
feel more alert, but the effects last only for a short
time. If you drink coffee and are seriously
sleep-deprived, you are still likely to have
"micro-sleeps" - brief naps that last around four or
five seconds. At 55 miles an hour, that's more than 100
yards, and plenty of time to cause an accident.
The only safe driver is an alert driver. Even the safest
drivers become confused and use poor judgment when they
are sleepy. The young man awarded "America's Safest Teen
Driver" in 1990 later fell asleep behind the wheel and
was killed. In order to be a safe driver you must have
your eyes open - and that means staying off the road
when you're sleepy. In addition, to a tired person, one
drink feels like four or five. If it's late and you know
you have to drive, don't make matters worse by drinking
Many people insist they can't nap. Yet even people who
say they are not tired will quickly fall asleep in a
darkened room if they have not been getting enough
sleep. If you think you can't nap, stop the car and
recline for 15 minutes anyway. You may be surprised at
how easily you fall asleep once you give yourself the
chance. If you're concerned about safety, plan your
route so you can use well-lit rest stops or truck stops
on heavily traveled roads. The busier the place you stop
to rest, the less opportunity for crime. Always lock
doors and roll up windows
Chances are good that you really aren't getting all the
sleep you need. If you said "True," ask yourself: "Do I
wake up rested?" The average person needs seven or eight
hours of sleep a night. If you go to bed late and wake
up early to an alarm clock, you probably are building up
a sleep debt during the week. If you spend eight hours
in bed but still feel tired, you may have a disorder
preventing you from getting enough sleep. Whatever the
cause, avoid driving when you feel drowsy. Rearrange
your schedule so you get enough sleep during the week
Have you ever driven at night and seen something you
thought was an animal but turned out to be a paper bag
or a dead leaf? That's only one of the many ways sleepy
drivers misjudge their surroundings. A drowsy driver
doesn't process information as fast or as accurately as
an alert driver and is unable to react quickly enough to
avoid a collision.
In fact, teenagers and young adults need more sleep than
people in their thirties. They often get less, because
they enjoy staying up late and have a wide range of
responsibilities. Teenagers and young adults who get up
early tend to feel alert in the evening. They think that
means they don't need much sleep. The problem is, the
temporary alertness wears off later, and they can end up
driving home drowsy.