When you think about drowsy drivers, you may picture a trucker who has been on the road for too many hours, a factory worker driving home after working the night shift or an elderly person who does not realize he or she has epilepsy. However, there is another at-risk population that people often do not consider.
Many new parents get less that 6.5 hours of sleep each night, according to a preliminary study conducted in 2017 on parents with a young baby at home. About 30% of the study’s participants reported daytime sleepiness and about 60% reported poor daytime function.
Sleep deprivation can impair driving abilities
Although drowsy driving is often associated with someone falling asleep at the wheel, sleep deprivation can impair a driver’s ability even before the driver falls asleep. Sleep deprivation can slow a driver’s reaction times, reduce a driver’s awareness of hazards and decrease a driver’s ability to focus on driving.
The results from the study on new parents showed that because of sleep deprivation, new parents had become more dangerous drivers. Most drivers traveled less than 100 miles per week, yet over 22% experienced at least one near miss accident and over 5% experienced a collision.
5 ways new parents may be able to improve their sleep
It may seem near-impossible to get enough sleep when you have a new baby. However, if you are a new parent, it may be imperative that you get enough sleep because sleep deprivation could cause you to inadvertently risk your safety and your child’s safety on the road.
If you could use a little (or a lot) more sleep, consider:
- Moving the baby’s bassinet or crib near your bed, so waking up to provide care is less disruptive
- Wearing earplugs to protect your sleep when it is the other parent’s turn to provide nighttime care
- Sleeping when your baby sleeps, even during the day
- Going to bed very early
- Accepting help from family or friends, so you can catch up on sleep
It can be difficult to get enough sleep as a new parent, but it is important to get as much sleep as you can, especially if you plan on driving. Drowsy driving is a serious matter because it risks the safety of everyone who is on the road.