What Happens To Your Body When You Drive Through The Night

According to the National Safety Council, half of all road-related deaths occur during the late hours of the night. For some, night driving is unavoidable. Whether it's part of your profession or due to an unexpected emergency, when time is of the essence, sometimes your only option may be to drive through the night. For this reason, it's important to know how nighttime driving affects the body and what you can do to keep yourself and others safe while on the road.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that the average adult gets at least seven hours of sleep nightly to ensure one is adequately rested. Experts at the Sleep Foundation stress that sleep is essential to keep both our minds and bodies operating in tip-top shape. Improved focus, energy, mental health, and clarity are all benefits gained from consistent healthy sleep. Impaired memory, premature death, and an increased risk for heart disease and diabetes are all potential consequences of long-term sleep deprivation.

Driving through the night interrupts our body's natural sleep cycle. Therefore, doing so can impair our ability to function properly.

How sleep deprivation can affect driving ability

No doubt that drinking or texting while behind the wheel are highly dangerous activities, but driving while tired also ranks high on that list. According to the National Safety Council, losing two hours of sleep during the course of a night impairs driving ability to the same degree as having consumed three beers. In fact, research conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety revealed that those getting less than eight hours of sleep a night are at a progressively higher risk for traffic accidents with every hour of sleep they lose (via Drowsy Driving). Specifically, the risk doubles for those only receiving around six hours of sleep per night and the risk is as much as five times higher for those sleeping less than five hours a night.

When sleep deprived, both concentration and focus are impacted, and our decision-making abilities are reduced (via Fatigue Science). These can all have physical consequences such as drowsiness and a decrease in reaction time, making us unable to respond quickly in the event of an emergency.

When driving through the night, the National Safety Council emphasizes that taking time for periodic rest can help minimize the chance of traffic accidents. Nighttime drivers should pull over every two hours and nap if they're feeling fatigued. One should refrain from driving altogether if they have been awake for over 16 hours without rest. By prioritizing sleep, we can help keep both ourselves and others safely out of harm's way.