by Marshaneil D' Rozario | 23 MAR 2018
A long spell of work or drive can lead to physical and psychological fatigue. It is a common experience amongst people in falling asleep while driving. It can also be a direct outcome of sleep disorder like insomnia, sleep deprivation or sleep apnea. Microsleep or dozing off due to fatigue or tiredness by drivers are common incidents and reported only when there is a mishap or registration of police case. It is immensely dangerous to fall asleep while driving. In fact, feeling sleepy while driving can also be threatening in a safe trip. Microsleep occurs mostly in drivers as there is fatigue of the body and brain and the person is staying awake to perform a monotonous task like driving the vehicle. It leads to a complete loss of consciousness within seconds and is one of the major causes for accidents.
A study published in the journal Neuroimage which investigates microsleep, using functional MRI has found that due to increased activity there are problems in processing and paying attention. The person does not realize when the brain starts shutting down and succumbs to the urge to sleep. This can happen, not only when a driver has not slept enough, but it can also happen due to untreated sleep disorders, medications, drinking alcohol, or shift work. Microsleep can lead to a lethargic response at the time of pressing the brake or steering. It is also responsible in affecting the discretion of the driver in taking a good decision.
Dr Venkat Reddy, senior trauma specialist explains, “Microsleep occurs when the brain can no longer function and is completely tired out. When this happens it suddenly starts shutting down. This leads to sleep for a few seconds but it can be dangerous for a vehicle driver as they lose complete control. This is mostly found to occur in those who work for 18 to 20 hours at a stretch doing only one job without taking a break.”
Statistics shows around 16.5 per cent fatal crashes are due to drowsy or sleeping drivers who have dozed off at the wheel. There is one death every four minutes due to a road accident in India. Researchers also claim that micro sleeps can be correlated with high accident risk. The greater the duration of the micro sleep, the chances of accidents also gets accentuated.
Warning signs of microsleep :
Feeling very tired and exhausted
Having trouble concentrating or keeping the eyes open
Not able to think clearly
Nodding your head every few minutes to stay awake
Get adequate sleep before driving, an adult normally requires 7 hours of sleep a day.
Don’t drink and drive.
Avoid consuming medicines that induces sleep. Consult with a doctor, prior travelling.
Remain alert at wheels. Try talking to your partner or co passenger in order to avoid sleeping.
Try to take, in between breaks in a long distance travel.
Stay engaged; listen to music and radio talks.
Caffeine and chewing gums can help in keeping your mind alert.
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