There is a silent killer stalking the highways and byways that may become more prevalent as more drivers take to the roads under Lockdown Level 1 regulations after a lengthy lay-off from driving. It is called microsleep.
The managing director of MasterDrive, Eugene Herbert, says drivers may be more susceptible to microsleep behind the wheel.
Herbert explains: “Microsleep is a state of sleep where parts of your brain override your consciousness and you fall asleep for anything from a fraction of a second to 30 seconds. If you’re tired, bored or even doing monotonous jobs, you are susceptible to microsleep.
“This becomes particularly dangerous when one is driving. Whether it is the monotony of your drive or the fact that you slept an hour less the night before, you are vulnerable to experiencing microsleep behind the wheel. While all drivers can experience microsleep at any time, there are certain things you can do to reduce the chances of it happening and ending in tragedy,” says Herbert.
- Identify risk factors: if you have sleeping disorders or difficulty sleeping you are at high risk of microsleeping.
- Sleep well: whether you have a sleep disorder or not, practice behaviours that help avoid exhaustion. Ensure you get at least seven hours of sleep and go to bed and wake up in the morning at the same time every day. Employ healthy habits such as eating nutritiously, avoiding coffee before bed and not drinking alcohol the night before long drives. Often, fatigue can be inevitable on long trips so having a co-driver is important.
- Watch for the signs: there are certain indications that you are at high risk of microsleep such as blinking slowly, yawning, daydreaming and body jerks as your consciousness returns. You are also more likely to make driving mistakes that you would not ordinarily make.
- Take action: once you identify that you may be experiencing microsleep or are at high risk, you need to take measures to energise yourself. This depends on what you personally find best. It can be by drinking a cup of coffee, taking a break from driving or parking somewhere safe to have a quick power nap.
If you ever suspect you might have had a microsleep or are at risk of it, take the necessary steps to reduce your risk.
“Returning to the road during level one will be challenging whether you need to become accustomed to the traffic or get used to driving again. Ensure you do not add another challenge to this,” says Herbert.