As a new parent, you probably already know that sleep deprivation is no joke and that not getting enough sleep can lead to more severe symptoms than just feeling tired. After waking up multiple times a night to tend to your baby, you may feel irritable, depressed or forgetful. However, you may not realize that sleep deprivation also causes several of the same impairments that alcohol causes, such as slower reaction times, reduced awareness of hazards and inability to focus.
When you are sleep-deprived and you get behind the wheel of a car, those impairments risk your safety, your baby's safety and the safety of others on the road. One preliminary study found that 60% of the new parents that were surveyed had poor daytime function because of sleep-deprivation. Most of those participants drove less than 100 miles in a week, but over 5% reported being involved in a crash and over 22% reported that they experienced a near-miss.
Get as much sleep as possible
You have some challenges that other people at risk for drowsy driving do not have. Because your infant does not yet have the ability to sleep for long stretches of time, you may be at the mercy of your baby's sleep patterns. However, there are still actions you can take to prevent drowsy driving crashes.
The most obvious way to prevent drowsy driving is by getting enough sleep. To improve your sleep situation as much as possible, consider:
- Having your baby sleep nearby for convenience
- Alternating night shifts with the other parent
- Going to bed very early each night
- Taking a nap during the day when your baby sleeps
- Not looking at electronics before bed or when you are awake at night
- Asking others to babysit, so you can catch up on sleep
Know when you are too tired to drive
Another important way to prevent being involved in drowsy driving crash is to be able to identify when you are too tired to safely drive. Signs that you may be too tired, include:
- Frequent yawning
- Difficulty keeping your head up
- Difficulty keeping your eyes open
- Missing road signs
- Difficulty maintaining speed
- Drifting out of your lane
If you notice that you are too tired to drive, it may be safer to ask someone else to drive. If you are alone, you should pull over in a safe place where you can take a short nap.
Sleep is necessary for you to function properly, so do not feel bad about asking friends and family members for help during this challenging time. If you become too tired to function properly, you may be inadvertently putting your life and the life of your baby at risk.