Articles / Driver safety

Feeling more sleepy lately? Here’s why

By Aviva Canada on

IT’S NOT JUST SCHOOL, WORK AND OUR SOCIAL LIVES THAT HAVE BEEN UPENDED BY THE PANDEMIC. EVEN OUR SLEEP PATTERNS HAVE BEEN DISRUPTED

In a recent study, researchers found that COVID-19 is causing serious sleep problems in many Canadian households.

“The pandemic is having a diverse impact on people’s sleep, with clinically meaningful sleep difficulties having undergone a sharp increase. We found that half of our participants showed signs of serious sleep problems during the pandemic,” wrote Dr. Rebecca Robillard, head scientist in the sleep research unit at The Royal Institute of Mental Health Research, who led the study.

Her researchers identified three profiles of sleep changes: people who sleep more, people whose sleep schedule was pushed to later bed and wake-up times, and people who are getting less sleep than they did before the pandemic.

Two other sleep studies had similar findings and noted that poor sleep behaviours can contribute to everything from heart disease and stroke, to weight gain, and potentially to a higher risk of collision while driving due to drowsiness.How to prevent collisions from sleepiness

What do these sleep disruptions mean for the safety of our roads? Driving while fatigued is particularly common during the winter months, when days are shorter, and our energy may be lower due to even mild cases of Seasonal Affective Disorder. And now that we know our sleep patterns might be suffering due to the pandemic, it’s more important than ever to take extra precautions to drive as safely as possible.

To stay safe on the road, the National Sleep Foundation advises:

  • Getting enough sleep. Most adults need between 7 and 9 hours every night.
  • Avoiding driving if you’ve been awake for more than 24 hours. We’re looking at you, front-line heroes!
  • Grabbing a coffee if you’re feeling sleepy behind the wheel. Or tea. Or any other beverage or snack that contains caffeine. Get back on the road when you’re feeling more alert.
  • Driving during times you’re normally awake. The body is a creature of habit. If you’re used to sleeping until 8am, it’s probably not a good idea to get up at 6:30am and immediately drive to the grocery store to beat the rush. Same goes for late-night errands if you’re a morning person. 

Improving your sleep, one night at a time

If your sleep is not what it used to be, Dr. Robillard advises:

  • Getting up at the same time every morning (yes, even on weekends!)
  • Creating relaxing pre-sleep rituals, such as reading
  • Avoiding caffeine and alcohol within six hours of bedtime
  • Doing vigorous exercise, such as jogging, in the morning or afternoon and mild exercise, such as walking, two to three hours before bedtime

The content in this article is for information purposes only and is not intended to be relied upon as professional or expert advice.