Micro-sleeps create major hazards for Tennessee motorists

There are many people who have a very demanding work schedule. They work long hours or have to go to multiple jobs; add to this the responsibilities of going to school, taking care of family and trying to make time for recreation and there never seems to be enough time in the day.

Unfortunately, sleep is something that can take a backseat when people have so many other things on their plate. While missing a night or two of sleep may not seem like a big deal, the fact is fatigue can take a dramatic toll on people. This toll can be especially evident when a person gets behind the wheel. 

People who miss out on sleep can end up experiencing what is known as micro-sleeps. These are very brief periods of time when a person involuntarily falls asleep. But because they last no more than 10 seconds, the brain doesn’t remember them.

We may all be familiar with these micro-sleeps. Many of us have accidentally nodded off into one of these periods when they are in meetings, taking a plane ride, sitting in a classroom or in other situations that are monotonous, especially if we are already sleep-deprived. As noted in this BBC article, the micro-sleeps typically end with a quick head jolt, waking up the sleeper.

Even though they only last a few seconds, micro-sleeps can be a very real hazard if a person is experiencing them while driving. If you are driving down the highway and close your eyes for just a few seconds, you can travel the length of a football field without even realizing it. Further, while a head jolt may shock a person awake for a short period of time, the fact is a person will continue to experience periods of involuntary light sleep until they can properly rest.

Commercial and truck drivers are especially vulnerable to falling asleep while driving. They spend several hours a day on the road, often at night and on long stretches of highways. These are all factors that can increase the chances of micro-sleeps and accidents caused by a sleeping, unaware driver.