Every one of us has already heared of it or maybe even experienced it: momentary nodding off. The holiday season is approaching and caution necessary. Because, tiredness during long car drives may lead to momentary nodding off.
The momentary nodding off – also called “micro-sleep” – is an unintended dozing off that only lasts for a couple of seconds. Most of the time, momentary nodding off occurs in traffic during long and boring drives – on highways, for example.
The classification “momentary nodding off” depends on the extent of the risk for an accident. With car drivers, momentary nodding off last 0.2 up to five seconds on an average, with train drivers up to 30 seconds and with pilots even up to two minutes.
Especially in traffic momentary nodding off might have far reaching consequences. A dozing off car-, bus- or truck-driver is losing control over his vehicle and might cause severe accidents, even when he or she is nodding off for just half a second. During this short period of time a car can drive a couple of hundred meters. The longer the drive lasts, the higher the risk for a momentary nodding off is. Already after a four hour drive the risk doubles.
In Germany, about every fourth fatal road accident is caused by momentary nodding off. Tiredness has about the same effect on the driving ability as alcohol. Just like drunken drivers, overtired drivers have problems to concentrate, a slower reaction time and overestimate their driving skills. According to investigations, 17 hours without sleep have the same effect like 0.5 per mil, 24 hours without sleep even like 1.0 per mil.
Reasons for momentary nodding off
It is assumed that momentary nodding off is a reaction of self-defense of the body on severe overtiredness, especially when it is connected with longer, monotone processes. Often, momentary nodding off occurs:
- After long times of alertness: the longer one is awake, the more the urge for sleep increases.
- Due to lack of sleep: when regularly having too few sleep for a couple of days or weeks, a sleep debt
- Between 2.00 and 5.00 a.m.: During this time, the biorhythm is set on sleeping.
- Due to diseases: Sleep disturbances or diseases like sleep apnoea might lead to momentary nodding off.
- After long hours of work: When you often have to work long the risk of nodding off during work or while driving home after work increases.
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This post is also available in / Diesen Beitrag gibt es auch in: German