- Posted by Arturo Burga
- On May 4, 2018
Why Your Teen is at High Risk for Drowsy Driving
Today’s teens find themselves under more pressure than ever to perform academically and socially. In the midst of this increased pressure, their bodies are undergoing significant changes that put them at high risk for drowsy driving. The state of California has seen an increase in the number of fatigue-related accidents over the last three years. If your teen is taking to the road, be sure you understand the risks and make sure your child gets a good night’s rest.
Teens and Sleep Deprivation
The teenage years present a unique set of circumstances wherein the adolescent body needs anywhere from eight to ten hours of sleep while facing a shift in their sleep-wake cycle called a sleep shift delay. As your child enters puberty, his sleep-wake cycle shifts by two hours so that instead of getting tired at eight or nine o’clock he doesn’t get tired until ten or eleven.
At the same time, junior highs and high schools often have the earliest start times in the school district with many classes starting before 7:30 am. If you add in extra-curricular activities, a part-time job, and an increase in homework, many teens don’t have time to get the sleep they need. Instead, they go throughout the week in a state of sleep deprivation. Schools that have experimented with later start times report an increase in academic performance, student behavior, and a reduction in vehicle accidents.
Teens and Drowsy Driving
Both adults and teens are susceptible to drowsy driving, but there are unique aspects of adolescence that put teens at higher risk. During extreme sleep deprivation, that is less than four hours of sleep, driving ability can be compared to driving while under the influence because many of the effects are the same. Drowsy drivers experience:
Slow Reaction Times
Reduced Decision-Making Skills
Reduced Reasoning Abilities
Short-Term Memory Loss
Drowsy drivers weave in and out of traffic lanes, miss exits or turns, or lose miles wherein they cannot remember the last few miles traveled. Teens experience and manifest fatigue in the same way except when teens reach their exhaustion point, they fall asleep with little warning and much faster than adults.
Help Your Teen Get Better Sleep
Parents, teens, and school officials working together can help teens to get the rest they need. Beyond school, you can help your teen develop healthy sleep habits that will lead to a higher quantity and quality of sleep.
Keep a Consistent Bedtime: This can be tough for teens but helps establish a healthy sleep-wake cycle.
Establish a Bedtime Routine: Your teen might think he’s too old, but a bedtime routine helps signal the brain when it’s time to fall asleep.
Later Start Times: As a parent, you can petition for later start times to meet the unique sleep needs of teenagers. It might take some work but can improve both the safety and academic performance of your teen.
Turn Off Screens: The bright blue light from electronic devices like smartphones can suppress the release of melatonin, an important sleep hormone.
Avoid Stimulants: Caffeine blocks sleep hormones and can stay in the system for hours. Stop consumption at least four hours before bed.
While many teens can improve their sleep through healthy habits, there are some who suffer from sleep disorders like sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome. If you suspect something more behind your teen’s insomnia, see a doctor so you can start the treatment that will lead to better (and more) sleep