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Falling asleep at the wheel could be easier than you think study

Margaret Jack  By Margaret Jack   |   Posted in Sleep Research   |   Last updated: Wednesday 10th October 2012

Researchers at the Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety Queensland, at Queensland University of Technology have found that even minor reductions in sleep can affect driver's ability.

The study consisted of 26 participants waking up at 5am and taking part in a driving simulation test in the morning or afternoon. The participants were asked to stop the test when they felt too tired to drive safely on the road.

The results of the study found that all the participants experienced extreme sleepiness 40 minutes into the simulation, and the majority of them decided to take a break at this point. Brain activity data from electrodes showed that out of the 26 participants 3 experienced brief sleep episodes such as micro-sleeps and head nodding but continued to drive for more than 10 minutes. These 3 people said they could feel themselves getting sleepier but pushed themselves to continue driving. This is interesting because people on the road could do the same thing, which could create major difficulties.

The study shows that even with moderate sleep restrictions they had high levels of sleepiness after five or six hours sleep. Sometimes it isn't possible to get enough sleep because of children and work commitments, so it is important to know that this can have a knock on effect, therefore if you feel tired you should pull over for a 15 or 20 minute break.

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