Safety Risks With Excessive Sleepiness

Excessive Sleepiness with Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Safety Risks With Excessive Sleepiness

This content was created by the National Sleep Foundation

One of the greatest risks of excessive sleepiness is driving accidents. Drowsy driving is one of the leading causes of fatal car crashes. Official estimates put the number of fatalities due to drowsy driving at approximately 800-900 deaths per year. It’s often difficult to determine when drowsy driving or falling asleep at the wheel caused a crash, so this number is widely considered an underestimate. Even if you do not fall asleep while driving, sleepiness can seriously impact your driving abilities. When you are sleepy, your reaction time is slower, you pay less attention to the road, and your ability to make good decisions is compromised.

Research indicates that people who snore are more likely to report falling asleep while driving, which suggests that obstructive sleep apnea is a major cause of drowsy driving. People with untreated obstructive sleep apnea are much more likely to have a motor vehicle accident. Many tragic accidents have been attributed to sleepiness, and some specifically to undiagnosed obstructive sleep apnea.

If you’re on the road and you feel sleepy, your eyes are heavy, or you find yourself fighting to stay alert, it’s imperative that you pull over and stop driving. Find a safe place to stop and take a short nap, have a cup of coffee before beginning to drive again. Consult your doctor to understand the cause and get proper treatment.