Getting an appropriate amount of sleep is essential for everyone to achieve and maintain their best possible health. However, we know that millions of Americans aren’t getting the level of sleep they need to function at their peak productivity. According to the National Sleep Foundation 2011 Sleep in America® poll, 43 percent of Americans between the ages of 13 and 64 say they rarely or never get a good night’s sleep on weeknights and roughly two-thirds (63 percent) say their sleep needs are not being met during the week.
One particular area of concern this time of year: Driving while we’re sleepy. As the summer months draw near, more and more of us hit the roads to enjoy time off from work and school. The combination of vacation fun–and the travel needed to get there–can mean a very real danger of “drowsy driving.”
After packing in a full trip with family, friends, and seeing the sights, it’s understandable you would be tired. The problem comes when the schedule is too full to allow for a break to recover before getting back on the road. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that drowsy driving causes more than 100,000 crashes a year, resulting in 40,000 injuries and 1,550 deaths.
Rather than putting yourself or your families’ safety at risk, think about a few tips before getting back on the road:
• Get a good night sleep before starting out on your trip. Most adults need between seven and nine hours nightly to be properly rested.
• Take a nap if leaving later in the day. If you feel tired before heading out take a break first and then head out. A little later start is a much safer option than taking the chance of dozing off or not reacting quickly if needed.
• Schedule breaks on longer trips. Plan to stop, stretch out and walk around to refresh while on a road trip. Short breaks can help you stay more alert and revive your senses.
• Travel with a companion that can share the driving. If possible, it is always a good idea to have two drivers that can divide the driving on a regular basis and certainly if one person is feeling tired. It’s also great to have company on long trips to pass the time and talking helps the driver stay alert.
The summer months are a wonderful time of year filled with fun and great memories. Just be aware of your sleep needs and prepare properly to enjoy these moments safely. Drive safe–and sleep well!