A microsleep is a period of sleep that lasts from a few to up to 30 seconds. More often than not, people don’t even realise they have entered into a state of sleep. When someone enters a microsleep whilst driving, they are at a significantly higher risk of causing an accident on the road, even if it only for a few seconds. Drowsy driving causes over 100,000 crashes a year with 40% of drivers admitting to entering a microsleep at the wheel at least once (KSDK).
Most Australians don’t get enough sleep which means that most people are accruing what is called a “sleep- debt”. When using low levels of conscious activity like driving, the brain tries to pay back this debt and enters a microsleep. Commonly, microsleeps occur during long drives on country roads where the road conditions are easy to navigate or while driving a familiar route where the brain knows exactly where to go.
Microsleeps are incredibly dangerous because they can happen with eyes open and typically there is no memory of the sleep. Even a few seconds can be fatal.
So how can you avoid a microsleep? At Corporate Driver Training Australia, we encourage all of our course participants to avoid driving when they would normally be sleeping whether that is early morning or late at night. This way, the brain is less likely to believe that you should be sleeping when you are actually awake. It is also important to break every two hours whether you are tired or not. We don’t encourage drivers to simply wait until they are tired before taking a break. By taking regular breaks, you can stop the onset of fatigue before it kicks in as opposed to trying to tackle it later on in your journey.