Harvard Health Letter

Stay alert! Don’t “drowse” and drive

News Briefs

drowse and drive drowsy driving
Image: Igor Alecsander/iStock

Here's another reason to aim for seven to eight hours of sleep per night: Drowsy driving—getting behind the wheel when you're very sleepy—is now considered reckless driving in some U.S. states, punishable by fine or even jail. Drowsiness impairs reaction time, attention, and judgment, and a drowsy driver may even doze at the wheel for a few seconds at a time, according to a report released in August 2016 by the Governor's Highway Safety Association. Those impairments are dangerous. A 2014 AAA Foundation study suggested that drowsy drivers are involved in about 328,000 crashes each year, with many of the crashes causing injury or even death.

Best advice: Don't drive while drowsy. Talk to your doctor about causes of daytime sleepiness, such as an underlying condition or a medication side effect. And adopt lifestyle changes to improve sleep, such as limiting caffeine intake, turning off the television 30 minutes before bed, and going to sleep and waking at the same time each day.