Everyone knows how dangerous drunk driving is. Many people have even lost loved ones as a result of someone driving under the influence. According to the National Sleep Foundation, though, drowsy driving can be just as hazardous, if not even more so. Not getting enough rest at night can hinder your driving ability, increasing the possibility of traffic accidents. If you suffer from a sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea, you’re even more at risk. Let’s talk about the dangers of drowsy driving and how you can minimize your risk by seeing your dentist for sleep apnea therapy.
How Tiredness Makes Driving Risky
Drowsy driving is alarmingly more common than you might have realized. Roughly one out of every six fatal traffic accidents can be traced back to drowsy driving. Additionally, almost half of all drivers have fallen asleep behind the wheel at some point.
Powering through sleepiness works in some situations. However, exhaustion usually becomes more pronounced when you’re performing a repetitive task, such as your daily commute. When you’re sleepy, many of the cognitive functions required to drive safely – reaction time, memory, decision-making, etc. – are impaired, which increases the chance of getting into accidents.
Sleep Apnea and Drowsy Driving: A Dangerous Connection
One possible reason why you might frequently fall asleep behind the wheel is sleep apnea. If you have sleep apnea, your airway becomes blocked during the night, forcing your body to wake up so you can breathe again. These episodes are so short that you probably won’t remember them later, but they can still prevent you from reaching the deeper stages of sleep. As a result, you feel tired even if you slept for the recommended seven to nine hours. This exhaustion leads to a higher risk of drowsiness-related traffic accidents.
For your safety as well as that of other people on the road, sleep apnea should be treated as soon as possible.
How You Can Reduce Your Risk of Drowsy Driving
If sleep apnea is to blame for your drowsy driving, then visiting a sleep dentist is the first thing you should do. Because of their extensive knowledge of the structures in the mouth and throat, sleep dentists are experts in helping you breathe correctly at night. Instead of a loud and bulky CPAP machine, many of them use an oral appliance for sleep apnea therapy. All you have to do is wear this comfortable, custom-made device over your teeth. It gently shifts your jaw so that your airway remains open throughout the night, ensuring you get the restful sleep you deserve.
Ignoring a sleep disorder for too long comes with serious health consequences, in addition to the increased risks of getting behind the wheel. Talk to a sleep dentist if you find yourself constantly nodding off. It might be just the thing you need to wake up feeling alert and refreshed!
About the Author
Dr. Keith Hollinger is a sleep dentist in Glastonbury, CT who is a member of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and has 25+ years of experience in the field of dentistry. He is able to provide oral appliances that fit like a glove and help you get the good night’s rest you need. To learn more about how Dr. Hollinger can improve the quality of your sleep, contact Central Connecticut Orofacial Pain & Sleep Medicine at 860-430-5687.