12 September 2022

Microsleep While Driving: Leading Cause of Traffic Accidents in Malaysia

The hidden danger of microsleep in a fast-moving vehicle

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A period of sleep that lasts up to a few seconds. A few seconds can change everything.

Have you ever found yourself sitting in class or at work, struggling to keep your eyes open, and suddenly snap back to attention, wondering what just happened? Well, my friend, you might have experienced a phenomenon called Microsleep.

Woman yawning while driving

Around 16.5% of fatal car crashes are caused by microsleep, especially during traffic jams.

When can Microsleep happen?

A tiny, unplanned nap that catches you off guard. Your brain decides to take a quick break, causing you to lose awareness of your surroundings for a short period.

It can happen even if you're sitting upright, whether watching TV, driving or operating a machine. Once your sleep debt is accumulated, microsleep is your body's natural reaction to catch up on sleep, regardless of what you are doing in the moment.

Early symptoms while Driving

  • Straying from your lane.
  • Yawning repeatedly.
  • Missed the exit.
  • Drooping eyelids.
Sidemirror showing a bald man yawning due to microsleepWoman with a headache in the car looking drowsy

What Causes Microsleep?

Lack of sleep is the big culprit. When we don't get enough restful sleep at night, our brain tries to make up for it by stealing those precious moments of alertness during the day whether or not we are doing something important like driving, studying, or operating heavy machinery.

On the other hand, stress and boredom can also trigger microsleep! If our brain isn't actively engaged or if we're feeling overwhelmed, it may decide to take a quick breather without consulting us first.

Man with trimmed beard in microsleep on the car steering wheel

How To Stop Microsleep

It's essential to recognize the existence of microsleep. While it may seem harmless or even amusing at times, it can pose serious risks in certain situations. So, how can we combat it?

  • Prioritize a good night's sleep (7-9 hours)
  • Maintain low stress levels.
  • Stay mentally engaged in tasks.
  • Avoid caffeine before bed.

Key Takeaways

  • Microsleep can happen anytime - no matter how important the task on hand.
  • Lack of healthy sleep is the main cause, and it is incredibly hard to fight the urge to microsleep.
  • While driving, if you feel the urge to microsleep. Stop at a safe location to catch up on sleep before continuing your journey.
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12 September 2022