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Who is Most At-Risk for a Sleep-Related Accident

July 12, 2019

Sleep deprivation is a growing concern that can’t be ignored. Public safety and well-being are victims of poor sleep when a moving vehicle gets involved. While anyone can suffer from a lack of sleep, there are people who are at greater risk due to their age and/or vocation. If you fall into one of these categories, you will need to be more aware and vigilant about your sleep habits to make sure you get a full seven to nine hours of sleep.

Age Matters for Adolescents and the Elderly

First, the demographic age groups that fall into the high-risk category—adolescents and the elderly. Teens have several factors working against them such as their driving inexperience, underdeveloped brain, and the nature of the adolescent sleep cycle to name a few.

Rather than feeling sleepy at eight or nine in the evening, adolescents experience what’s called sleep phase delay in which they don’t feel tired until ten, eleven, or even later. The problem isn’t necessarily that they feel tired later, but that once their sleep hormones are in full effect, they fall asleep faster and harder than adults.

The elderly face biological sleep challenges, too, just of a different nature. Sleep problems can arise due to medical conditions, medications, or normal aging. For example, as eyesight diminishes, the eyes absorb less blue spectrum light from the sun. This light controls the body’s circadian rhythms and, consequently, the sleep cycle. If not enough light is absorbed, poor sleep and drowsy driving are the results.

Watch Out for Shift Work

The human body is designed to sleep when it’s dark and be awake in the light. Sunlight suppresses sleep hormones. As the light fades, sleep hormones are slowly released until they’re out in full force at nightfall.

Occupations that put the body at odds with normal human behavior can lead to poor quality or too little sleep. Truck drivers who are on the road for hours, pushing their physical limits to meet deadlines are at particular risk. However, any occupation that puts employees at odds with their biological rhythms—doctors, nurses, business travelers—can find themselves dozing behind the wheel.

Sleep More, Drive Smart

Those who fall into any of these categories, whether for age or occupation, may have to be more vigilant about their personal sleep habits, such as:

  • Making Your Sleep Space Comfortable: If you’re sleeping in the middle of the day, blackout curtains, heavy drapes, blinds, or a combination of these methods are a must. You may need to block out the daytime noise with a white noise machine and try to keep the temperature at a cool 60 to 68 degrees. You also need to think about comfort. Everyone needs a comfortable mattress— child, teenager, or adult— that supports body weight and preferred sleep position.
  • Being Consistent: Your body will accommodate your preferred schedule, but you need to keep it consistent for it to do so. Go to bed at the same time every day. If you have trouble falling asleep, prep your mind and body with a relaxing bedtime routine performed in the same order and at the same time.
  • Managing Technology Use:  Smartphones, laptops, and televisions can also emit a blue spectrum light that suppresses sleep hormones. Move these devices out of the bedroom and turn them off at least two to three hours before bed.

An awareness of drowsy driving doesn’t mean there won’t be times you feel tired on the road. Be prepared with a plan so you don’t put yourself or others at risk. Pull over for a short nap, roll down the windows, turn up the radio, and stimulate your mind and body for better alertness.

But, in truth, drowsy driving is preventable. Consistent practice of healthy sleep habits and commitment to sleep can save you, the passengers in your car, and other drivers from a sleep-related accident.

What happens if you are involved in a sleep-related accident in Michigan? In Michigan, if you are involved in a vehicle accident, you are eligible to receive Michigan No-Fault insurance benefits (a first party claim) and when the injuries are catastrophic or fatal, you can also sue the at-fault party for pain and suffering compensation (a third-party claim).

If you or anyone you know was seriously injured in a sleep-related accident in Michigan, contact the Buchanan Firm law firm. The Grand Rapids accident lawyers at the firm understand what you are going through and will start a full investigation of the accident and identify those who are responsible to reimburse you for the harms and losses. At Buchanan, our injury lawyers in Grand Rapids are skilled at investigating motor vehicle accidents and successfully negotiate fair settlements with insurance companies, and persuasively presenting cases at trial when insurers refuse to do what is right. The firm offers a No Fee Promise: If you don’t win, you don’t pay a professional fee.

About our guest blog author:  Buchanan Firm gladly partnered with the Sleep Help Institute to help spread their mission of providing unbiased sleep-health education, dedicated to bettering your waking life by improving your sleep.

Amy Highland is a sleep expert at Her preferred research topics are health and wellness, so Amy’s a regular reader of Scientific American and Nature. She loves taking naps during thunderstorms and cuddling up with a blanket, book, and cats.