Falling Asleep While Driving - A Danger to All

Most people are already aware of drunk driving and its life-threatening dangers, but many people are not fully aware of the adverse outcomes that drowsy driving carries with it. Falling asleep while driving is a state in which a person becomes inattentive and feels sleepy, resulting in slower reaction time towards the objects on the road. This considerably reduces the drivers’ safety and also puts pedestrians around them in danger. The consequences can be fatal for both the driver and those near the moving vehicle.

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If you are driving and having a blurred vision, nodding your head from time to time, constantly yawning or feeling that your eyelids are heavy; then yes, you are drowsy driving. In this article, we will have a thorough look at; what are the causes of drowsy driving? It is a common cause of accidents. What are the warning signs? And how can you overcome this problem?

What Causes Falling Asleep While Driving

Drowsiness and the need to fall asleep whilst driving can be due to several causes:

  • The most common cause is sleep deprivation. Most people do not get the standard amount of sleep their body needs and suffer from drowsiness throughout the day. This is may be due to personal demands and lifestyle choices, such as family, work and other responsibilities that cause deprivation of sleep.
  • Some people do not get enough sleep due to their job restrictions. Night shifts, extended work hours or more than one job, leads to incomplete sleep and consequently, results in drowsiness.
  • Sleeping disorders like sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, narcolepsy, etc. are also the cause of excessive drowsiness and daytime sleeping. These disorders cause sleep disruption during night, and result in mounted up sleep debt.
  • Consumption or abuse of substances, such as alcohol and addictive drugs can cause drowsiness, divided attention and sedating effects during driving.
  • Circadian factors that naturally occur in the body are among the common factors for drowsy driving. The biological clock in the brain or the circadian pacemaker naturally stimulates our body to sleep at certain times. These times of vulnerability are the cause of sleepiness during driving at night and mid-afternoon, which are due to the increase in the brain’s compulsion to fall asleep.

See also our article on restrictions and regulations of driving and sleep apnea.

Warning Signs

If you sense any of the following signs before or during driving, then it is better to stop and rest:

  • Heavy eyelids, frequent blinking, blurry vision or difficulty in focusing
  • Irritability and restlessness
  • Trouble seeing objects and people
  • Frequent yawning, tearing eyes or rubbing your eyes
  • Disconnected thoughts or daydreaming
  • Trouble remembering things and places you just passed a few miles ago like traffic signs, exits, etc.
  • Hitting a shoulder rumble strip, drifting from your lane or tailgating


sleepy while driving

Tips To Avoid Falling Asleep Driving

Here are some useful tips that can greatly help you avoid falling asleep during driving:

  • Boost Energy Level - Grab something that can boost your energy levels. Most people see caffeine and energy drinks as good energy boosters, but the energy level might come down more quickly once they wear off and may leave your body even more tired than it was before. As an alternative, you can take healthy snacks with you, which are full of proteins and carbs, like baby carrots, fresh fruits or peanut butter with bread or crackers. Eat these up and drain it down with water for an extra boost of energy. This will definitely keep you awake for a long time during driving.
  • Start a Lively Conversation - If there is someone sitting beside you in the car, then the best way to beat off drowsiness is to start a lively conversation. If you are alone, then listening to music or the radio is a good option as well.
  • Pump Your Body - If you are out on a long trip and sitting in the driving seat can cause drowsiness, then stop at a gas station and get your body pumped up. When you exercise, your heart rate increases and the body become more active. You can jog for a while, do some pushups or may be do jumping jacks; whichever you like the best.
  • Take a Nap - Sometimes, nothing seems to work and the only way to fight off drowsiness is to take a good old nap. So if you are on a long trip, then it is better to stop at a small inn or a hotel to get some sleep. Spending few bucks on the hotel room is far less valuable than risking your life by driving while you are sleepy.

By now, you must have understood a lot about the dangers and prevention regarding drowsy driving. So before getting into your driving seat, see if you are suffering from any of the warning signs, and if you are, then opt for one of these tips to fight off drowsiness and have a safe journey!

How often have you driven your car or truck when you were tired or drowsy? Most of you will probably admit that you have done it before – and will probably do it again. It is a serious problem and one that could be caused by sleep apnea.

Are you asking "Why am I falling asleep while driving?" It is unknown how many accidents are actually caused by people falling asleep at the wheel, but it is likely that many are the result of someone getting in the car and driving when they were too tired to do so. If you fall asleep even for two seconds you can travel a considerable distance and cause irreparable damage to your life and the lives of others.

Sleep apnea can cause you to fall asleep literally at the drop of a hat and be asleep for mere seconds - that can mean the difference between life and death. It doesn’t take long to drive into another lane into the path of another car or to go off the side of the road into a ditch or down a mountainside – just split seconds that can make your life literally spin out of control. Seek medical treatment if this sleep apnea may be causing you to fall asleep when driving your car. 

If you are feeling too tired to drive, the best thing to do is to stay where you are or get someone else to drive you. There are also many “stay awake” tips that can be used to combat drowsiness and help you keep alert.

They include opening the windows wide or turning on the air conditioner. Turn up the radio full blast or put on a CD that will keep you awake and not put you to sleep. Stopping at a diner or somewhere to get coffee or caffeine or something to eat is also an option. Any of these actions will help to minimize your sleepiness but if they don’t work, you should stop and not drive.

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