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Are we seeing an increase in drowsy driving due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

Alabama car accident attorney

Just when we thought we were transitioning to somewhat "normal," COVID-19 cases swiftly began rising across Alabama in recent weeks. The social distancing guidelines and lockdowns have had a major impact on the daily lives of Alabama residents, including the way they drive and sleep.

Two recent studies published in the journal Current Biology concludes that people who are out of work or working from home may be sleeping more than they normally would, with less "social jetlag." While this may sound like good news, researchers have found that the quality of sleep many people are receiving may be impacted by the pandemic.

How are lockdowns affecting sleep?

Christine Blume is a researcher and cognitive neuroscientist from the University of Basel's Centre for Chronobiology in Switzerland. Blume and other researchers examined the link between the strictest phases of lockdowns and social and biological sleep-wake timing. They also looked at sleep patterns during a six-week period. The research was conducted from mid-March through the end of April in Austria, Germany and Switzerland.

She explains how sleep quality may be affected by the COVID-19 lockdowns.

"Usually, we would expect a decrease in social jetlag to be associated with reports of improved sleep quality," said Blume. "However, in our sample, overall sleep quality decreased. We think that the self-perceived burden, which substantially increased during this unprecedented COVID-19 lockdown, may have outweighed the otherwise beneficial effects of a reduced social jetlag."

In the other study, Kenneth Wright at the University of Colorado, Boulder's Sleep and Chronobiology Laboratory and colleagues asked similar questions by comparing sleep prior to and during stay-at-home orders in 139 university students as they shifted from taking their classes in-person to taking them remotely. As the team reports, nightly sleep duration increased by about 30 minutes during weekdays and 24 minutes on weekends. The timing of sleep also became more regular from day to day, and there was less social jetlag. The majority of students received the recommended minimum of seven hours of sleep per night.

The link between poor sleep patterns and drowsy driving accidents

Poor sleep quality may be linked to COVID-19-related stress. The stress can involve finances, jobs, the news surrounding the pandemic, and the inability to participate in certain activities or see loved ones. This can lead to insomnia and frequently waking up. Drowsy driving is often linked to poor sleep quality, which resulted in nearly 800 traffic fatalities in 2018, according to the NHTSA.

Drowsy driving doesn't always involve falling asleep behind the wheel. Tired drivers may also experience:

  • Lane drifting
  • Poor memory and concentration
  • Delayed reaction time
  • Tailgating
  • Irritability

Should you be injured in a crash with a drowsy driver, contact an experienced Alabama car accident attorney at Dean Waite & Associates, LLC to learn about the legal options available to you. We offer free and confidential case evaluations to clients in the Mobile area.

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