How Much Sleep Do You Need to Drive Safely?

Photo (cc) by keepingtime_ca

How much sleep deprivation is too much before motorists no longer can drive safely?

That’s essentially the question the nonprofit National Sleep Foundation (NSF) recently set out to answer by convening a panel of scientists from multiple disciplines, including medicine and transportation.

Their consensus? People who have slept for two hours or less in the prior 24 hours are unfit to drive.

Dr. Charles Czeisler, chairman of the NSF panel and professor of sleep medicine at Harvard Medical School, calls sleep “a fundamental physiological need that no human can avoid.”

He explains:

“While individual sleep needs vary, and stimulants like caffeine may trick sleep-deprived people into feeling alert, the reality is that people are definitely impaired when they have obtained two hours of sleep or less per day.

“Though many are impaired with more than twice as much sleep, at a minimum, our two-hour threshold should serve as a red flag warning for individuals and as a guide for public policy makers.”

David Cloud, chief executive of the NSF, likens drowsy driving to distracted and drunken driving. He notes that drowsy driving causes more than 6,000 preventable deaths each year:

“We hope the work of the scientific community will inspire public policy makers, corporations and drivers to take action.”

However, the question of how a lack of sleep impacts alertness can also be complex.

Dr. Stuart Quan, a professor of sleep medicine at Harvard Medical School, explains in the school’s blog this week that several factors besides sleep duration affect a person’s level of sleepiness.

They include:

  • A large amount of pre-existing “sleep debt.”
  • The overall quality of a person’s sleep.
  • The time of day. At night, the body’s natural clock, or circadian rhythm, is set for sleep. Therefore, people tend to be less alert at that time. This helps explain why drowsy driving accidents are more likely to happen at night, Quan says.

What’s your take on these findings? Sound off in our Forums. It’s the place where you can speak your mind, explore topics in-depth, and post questions and get answers.

How to find cheaper car insurance in minutes

Getting a better deal on car insurance doesn't have to be hard. You can have The Zebra, an insurance comparison site compare quotes in just a few minutes and find you the best rates. Consumers save an average of $368 per year, according to the site, so if you're ready to secure your new rate, get started now.

Read Next
Top 5 Activities That People Dream of Doing in Retirement
Top 5 Activities That People Dream of Doing in Retirement

No. 1 isn’t visiting grandkids, and No. 4 might surprise you.

How to Avoid Being Surprised by 7 Nasty Expenses
How to Avoid Being Surprised by 7 Nasty Expenses

Major expenses are difficult to predict, but there are ways to make sure you’re protected.

10 Ways Anyone Can Earn More Income
10 Ways Anyone Can Earn More Income

Looking for additional cash? Here are a bunch of options that are accessible to anyone with internet access.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Comments

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.

Trending Stories