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On behalf of Heller & Heller, P.A. posted in Motor Vehicle Accidents on Thursday, February 2, 2017.

Sleepiness while driving is a serious risk that many people underestimate. When most think of drowsy driving that poses a significant risk, they typically imagine a commercial truck driver who has spent the last 24 hours on the road. However, recent research indicates that under-sleeping by even a couple of hours can seriously increase the chance of getting into an accident.

How sleep deprivation affects your mind

When sleep-deprivation is relatively minor, the signs of danger can be subtle and easy to miss, especially if you are in a hurry and preoccupied with other matters. Slight drowsiness can make it harder to focus on the road. You may also find yourself more easily distracted than usual. A faltering attention span on the road is bad news, as many drivers find out. Missing changes in weather conditions, erratic driving by another motorist or an object in the road can be all it takes to cause a crash.

Someone running on only five or four hours of sleep is likely to experience more severe effects, comparable to those of intoxication. The inability to focus becomes more pronounced, and your reaction time will slow. Even if you notice a hazard and know what you need to do to avoid it, your actual response time will likely be too slow to stop the accident from happening. Judgment also tends to become increasingly impaired.

Physical effects

In addition to affecting cognitive functions like memory, attention and judgment, sleep deprivation has physical effects. You may notice increased clumsiness and find it difficult to move at your usual pace. Other effects can include dizziness, blurred vision and headaches. In extreme cases, fatigued drivers can fall asleep at the wheel and completely lose control of their vehicles.

Your sleep hours

Getting enough sleep is key to staying safe on the road. Most experts recommend at least seven hours, but some people need more to function well. While for some people getting enough sleep is just a matter of time management and prioritizing, others have health problems that can affect the quality and amount of sleep they are able to get. If you suffer from frequent waking or an inability to fall asleep, see your doctor to determine probable causes and get the right treatment. Sleep apnea is a common problem that results in low sleep quality and severe daytime drowsiness. If you know you are getting a reasonable amount of sleep hours yet you do not feel rested in the morning, sleep apnea may be to blame.

If you were in an accident caused by drowsy driving, you are likely to suffer injury as well as loss of property. As the results of an injury are not always immediately apparent, the ramifications of an accident can haunt you for many years to come. Speak with a qualified attorney in your area to learn more about your options as an accident victim.