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Monday, November 7, 2016

Spotlight: Drowsy Driving Prevention Week and the time change

This week is Drowsy Driving Prevention Week. Not coincidentally, it falls on the week following the time change from Daylight Saving(s) Time to Standard Time. 

Why not coincidentally? 

Though you might think gaining an hour of sleep will "catch you up" on your sleep deprivation, it's not likely to happen. 

In fact, that extra hour of sleep might actually make you feel worse, especially today (Monday). 

When time shifts like these occur, they disrupt ingrained circadian rhythms and, while initially, you might enjoy that added hour of snoozing on Sunday morning, you are actually going to need a few more days to reset your circadian rhythms to the new time schedule (unless, of course, you don't have to get up at a certain time of day and normally sleep until you are awake). 

For most people, getting up in the morning before they are ready--especially on Monday morning, when they've experienced the start of a "mini reset" already--amounts to grumpiness, feeling out of sorts, daytime drowsiness, slower physical performance... all the trappings of sleep deprivation. 

Hence the concern about drowsy driving. On my way to the airport this morning, I learned that a semi truck had collided with a light pole in a major commuter's intersection. In Seattle, the traffic is normally pretty bad, and with ongoing construction along the waterfront (which currently hosts a major throughway, the Alaskan Way Viaduct), an additional obstacle to commuter hour is going to have major consequences. 

It's not clear yet what caused the collision, but it happened 5 hours ago and I think the northbound highways are still at a standstill. Since the accident occurred at 5am, drowsy driving cannot be ruled out. (Let's hope, whatever happened, the driver was safe and nobody was hurt.) 

I read daily news about sleep health and it is bewildering the numbers of reports of drowsy driving accidents: in the city or the countryside; involving semi trucks or buses or trains or planes or ferries; in wealthy countries and more humble ones. 

The last report I ran on drowsy driving occurred in mid-May of this year: I cited at least 34 drowsy driving-related accidents reported over 26 days, taking place in 19 US states and in 6 countries. 

That's more than one a day, every day, and I'm not counting the many drowsy driving accidents that either go unreported (because no one could confirm it happened, though the evidence can show otherwise) or are reported as driving under the influence or some other designation, burying the violation so that it's not measurable. 

In addition, how many drowsy driving accidents are the result of hit-and-run driving, or lead to accidents that are never reported because nobody was injured or property wasn't damaged? You can bet that the incidence of collisions caused by drowsy driving runs far higher than accident reports can convey. 

This week I'll be posting a daily handful of links related to drowsy driving and its relationship to the circadian rhythm disruption and potential sleep deprivation caused by Daylight Saving(s) Time. Stay tuned for now... in the meantime, get your sleep tonight and be careful on the road, for your sake, and for the sake of everyone and everything around you. 

~ The Curator