How to prevent sleepiness when driving?

Did you know ?

It is common to take advantage of public transport journeys to compensate for a lack of sleep with a short nap. In the car, the situation is quite different, given the level of vigilance required. If the driver is drowsy, he or she is in an altered state of alertness, which translates into difficulty in staying awake. What to do in such a situation? How can I avoid nodding off at the wheel?

Sleepiness while driving

Sleepiness while driving affects a large number of people: a study by the French National Institute for Sleep and Vigilance claims that 10% of working people who drive to work say they have already fallen asleep at the wheel. Among 18-24 year-olds, this figure rises to 18%. It is estimated that 20% of traffic accidents are due to falling asleep at the wheel.

The primary cause of sleepiness at the wheel is a too short a night’s sleep: below 6 hours’ sleep, significant signs of fatigue begin to appear.
Learn to detect the first signs, so you can quickly decide to take a break if necessary :

  • Tingling in the legs and stiffness in the neck and back: you don’t feel comfortable in your seat, and spend your time changing position and stretching.
  • Constant yawning
  • Tingling eyes, feeling that your eyelids are heavy blurred vision
  • Shivering, feeling cold
  • Comment les troubles du sommeil peuvent aggraver ce phénomène ?

For those suffering from sleep disorders, this daytime sleepiness can be even greater. In the case of sleep apnea, sleepiness is caused by the multiple micro-awakenings experienced by the person during the night, which disrupt sleep and cause it to lose its restorative function. Permanent drowsiness can result, greatly complicating the life of the sufferer. It is estimated that people suffering from sleep apnea are two to five times more likely to have a traffic accident.

Certain medications used to treat sleep disorders can also cause drowsiness.
Benzodiazepines and antihistamines are often associated with traffic accidents.

If you suffer from sleep disorders, consult a specialist and avoid self-medication at all costs, as it may lead to more problems than solutions.

What to do if you feel tired while driving?

There are many preconceived ideas: put your head out of the window to get some fresh air, drink a coffee, turn on the radio or drive faster. And don’t think that if you’ve only got a few kilometers to go, you’ll be able to make it without a hitch.

As soon as the first signs of sleepiness appear, look for a freeway service area where you can stop, rest or even take a nap. With 15/20 minutes of sleep, your body will have enough time to recover so that you can set off again in full possession of your senses.

As you don’t want to find yourself in this situation, here are a few tips to help you avoid drowsiness at the wheel.

  • Make sure you get enough sleep the night before departure (between 7 and 9 hours for an adult) to avoid creating a sleep debt.
  • Eat lightly to aid digestion.
  • Study your route in advance to be sure of yourself on the road and avoid stress-related fatigue.
  • Remember to take breaks every 2 hours to stretch your legs or take a nap if you’re feeling really tired.
  • Finally, avoid driving between 2 and 5 am, and between 1 and 3 pm. During this period, you’re more likely to doze off, so you’re taking a greater risk.