Why You Can’t Skimp on Sleep When Road Tripping

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Taking a road trip is an exciting way to travel, but make sure that sleep is on the agenda. Drowsy driving causes about 72,000 car accidents each year, and being sleepy at the wheel can be just as dangerous as driving while drunk . What many people don’t know is that you don’t need to be overly exhausted to put yourself—and others—at risk: Missing just one to two hours of sleep increases the chance of a crash.

Luckily, smart strategies can keep you safe. Take into account what time of day you’re traveling, and try to hit the road when you feel most alert. Drowsy driving accidents are more likely to occur early in the morning, during the midafternoon, and late at night. Also, be sure to consider what medications you’re on, since lost sleep isn’t the only risk factor. Taking drugs that have sedating side effects, such as some antihistamines, can up the chance that you’ll lose control on the road—as can having an untreated sleep disorder like sleep apnea .

You should also make sure to book plenty of stops throughout your road trip so that you can get a good night’s sleep, and take full advantage of rest areas and other locations where you can pull over and nap. If you’re traveling with someone else, take turns driving and keep an eye out for the following warning signs, which may indicate that you’re too tired to drive:

Repeated yawning

  • Not being able to keep your eyes open
  • Having wandering thoughts that cause you to lose focus on driving
  • Missing road signs or driving past your turn
  • Driving too close to the car in front of you
  • Drifting into other lanes
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