Carcolepsy: How Not to Get in Trouble

Have you ever felt like you just might nod off behind the wheel or actually have? Not only is this super scary and dangerous, but it could be deadly. For your sake and the sake of those you share the road with, never, ever attempt to drive if you are too sleepy. It's just not worth it. Here are some ways to ensure you're A-OK to turn the key and put the pedal to the metal.

1. Did You Take Any Medication?

Many medications have a side effect of drowsiness. This is real and can effect some people more dramatically than others. Even a sleep aid or nighttime cold medicine taken the night before can have lingering effects come morning. Before driving, see if and how your medications interfere with your level of alertness. If you find yourself loopy, dizzy, or at all drowsy from your meds, get a lift from someone else.

2. How Many Hours of Sleep Did You Get?

You may have to be at the office by 8, but what time did you hit the sack? If you had a late night or a restless sleep, you will surely be sleepy the next day. Sure, you've got to make a living, but this doesn't mean it must be you who's doing the driving to work. See if a co-worker can pick you up or take public transportation. If there is no other way to get in, take a sick day or call in late. Better safe than sorry any day.

3. Are You Under Stress?

Stress effects the body in a multitude of ways. One way you may not realize is that it can make us tired because of the strain on the mind and body. Plus, it can cause distraction, another driving danger. If you are under stress, try to breathe deeply and/or meditate before getting into the car. All you need to think about is the safety on the road and not what's stressing you out. Plus, the exhaustion could cause you to shut your eyes and dangerously nod off at a traffic light.

4. Are You On Auto-Pilot?

Most of us who drive to work or to drop the kids off at school take the very same route each and every day. This can cause us to slip into "auto-pilot" mode, causing lack of awareness and care. Not only will you likely miss cues a normal driver would pick up, but it can cause you to inadvertently drift off. Try taking alternate routes every so often and keep the radio on to stimulate your mind.

5. Are You Feeling Ill?

Illness can cause all sorts of bodily issues, from pain, to nausea, to tiredness. Plus, you never know how your illness will run its course; you can become suddenly super drowsy in a matter of seconds, especially if you are on meds too (see bullet #1). Do not drive when you're feeling sick or even a bit run down. You'll feel a lot worse if heaven forbid you get into a car accident.

6. Are You Too Hot or Cold?

Keep the temperature of your vehicle at a moderate degree. If you crank up the heat, tiredness may ensue. The warmth can cause sleepiness and fatigue. Same goes for cold. You may think it's perking you up, but your body may expend too much energy trying to warm you up and may drain your energy. Keep it level when it comes to temperature and you are sure to stay alert.

7. Is There Bumper to Bumper Traffic?

Getting stuck in heavy traffic is a drag but it can also make you bored and eventually tired. Sitting still with no change for a long time is sure to put anyone into a funk. Play some upbeat tunes, crack a window, or chat with the people in the car with you. Things will move along soon, so stay positive.

8. Have You Eaten Recently?

An empty stomach can cause more than embarrassing grumbles. Lack of calories depletes the body of energy which can cause fogginess and worse, sleepiness. If you don't have time to eat before driving, take a snack or meal replacement shake with you. Driving requires stamina and concentration, neither of which you'll have if you have not consumed anything in a while.

9. Did You Just Have a Baby?

Exhaustion, brain fog, sleepless nights, sleepless days… you get the idea. A baby is a joy, but surely leaves little room for rest. Try to get someone to help out with errands so you can catch up on some rest and don't dangerously find that time behind the wheel. For the sake of you and your baby, catch a lift.

Have you ever felt like you might have a bout of "carcolepsy?" What steps do you take to ensure you are safe behind the wheel?

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