Career Advice - A Community Blog

Erik Larson writes about the job market, resume improvement, and career advice

Is Lack Of Sleep Causing You To Be A Distracted Driver?

Written by Erik Larson, Community Blogger | Feb 2, 2018 11:29 AM

Have you ever driven your car and ended up at your destination without remembering your trip? It happens to people every day. You have 101 things on your mind, and you are distracted. While the most common interruptions behind the wheel are eating or a cellphone, there are other things that can cause an accident.

If you don't get enough sleep at night, it can affect your driving. Your safety has everything to do with being alert behind the wheel. While you need to get at least 7-8 hours per night, a sleep deficit can affect your moods, physical wellbeing, and your ability to be alert in a vehicle. All those late-night movies and finishing up work can cost you big time. Here are some tips to help you get better sleep.

1. See A Doctor for Persistent Sleep Issues

If you are one of those people that can climb into bed and go right to sleep, then you are one of the few. It's estimated that more than 40 million people suffer from sleep disorders in this country, and about 30 percent of these people experience chronic problems. A sleep disorder is anything from narcolepsy to apnea.

Tossing and turning and counting sheep just doesn't help some people. Going without the necessary sleep can cause depression, anxiety, mood disorders, even hallucinations. Yet, many people hop in their car the next morning with only a couple hours of quality rest.

2. Cut the Caffeine

Americans are addicted to coffee and sugary soft drinks. While the nutritional factors are not the focus here, the ingredients are concerning. Most of these drinks are loaded with caffeine. It appears that caffeine is a harmless additive that gives you the pick-me-up that you need. However, it's just as addictive as cocaine, and it can be just as dangerous. While it won't make you steal or give you a criminal record, it can affect your sleep quality.

When you consume caffeinated drinks, it affects the neurotransmitter levels in the brain. A recent study showed that caffeine interrupts the part of the brain that controls sleep. Using mice as the candidates, the study determined that those that consumed the equivalent of three cups of coffee had more difficulty sleeping than those who consumed none. Is your addiction to that cup of coffee or soft drink putting you in danger behind the wheel?

3. Make Your Bedroom a Haven of Rest

Walking through the average bedroom, you will find televisions, nightlights, cell phones, tablets, computers, and all sorts of other electronic devices. However, all those little gadgets do nothing to help your sleep. In the evening, the light decreases to keep the body on a circadian rhythm. This natural rhythm helps you to go to sleep.

Unfortunately, the lights from the electronics used in the 21st century mess with this rhythm. Add to that late nights, a busy household, and an erratic schedule and your sleep deficit reaching maximum levels. Keep all your electronics out of the bedroom to help create the right atmosphere for rest.

4. Get on a Sleep Schedule

Many people try to go to bed earlier on a work night than they do on the weekend. It's important to remember that you should go to bed at about the same time each night. The body thrives on schedules. Remember how important a routine is to a newborn baby? Well, things don't really change that much. Your body will find comfort in knowing that you are going to sleep and awaken at a specific time. Have you noticed that you are often alert before your alarm clock goes off? It's because your body has its own internal clock. A routine can do wonders for ensuring you get the right amount of sleep.

Every time you get behind the wheel of a car, you are putting your life in your hands. You affect yourself and the lives of those around you. You wouldn't think of getting behind the wheel inebriated, but if you don't have enough sleep, you are not functioning on all cylinders. Before you behind the wheel, make sure you are alert and have had adequate sleep or your trip could end in disaster.

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