Sleep Deprivation May Be Making You More Dangerous Behind The Wheel Than A Drunk Driver

shutterstock_103559414A few months ago, I actually thought DVR-ing Supernanny would be the best way for me to learn how to discipline my 2-year-old. Um, no. It totally didn’t work. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to tirelessly search the Internet for some way to watch the new UK show, Bedtime Live. It’s a show devoted to solving sleep deprivation problems. Sign me up – because it completely makes sense for me to believe that reality programming will solve all of my problems.

The Bedtime Live website asks the important questions. It may actually be a quiz. If it is a quiz – I fail.

Is your child sleep-deprived? Yes.

Do they have problems getting to sleep? Yes.

Does your toddler wake up often during the night? Yes.

Is your teen addicted to the screen? My stepdaughter sleeps with her IPad under her pillow, so – yes.

Professor Tanya Byron and the Bedtime Live team have the skills and experience to help get the nation’s kids and teens to bed. Not sure I believe that, but okay.

Next week’s first episode features Beverely Turner, a writer from the Telegraph participating in an experiment that aims to show how dangerous it is to operate a vehicle while sleep deprived. It’s called Crash Test Mummies. That’s cute and terrifying at the same time. Here’s an excerpt from her article about the experiment:

Three women were placed inside a sophisticated, multi-million-pound car simulator and tested over two-hours of ”˜driving.’ One of them was a well-rested 35 year-old who gets eight to nine hours sleep a night; the other, a tipsy 27 year-old, one- and-a-half times over the legal alcohol limit and the third was a harassed 38 year-old, mother-of-three who has to survive on five to six hours sleep a night.

Can you guess who the most dangerous person behind the wheel is? Obviously the well-rested 35-year-old is a show-off – it’s definitely not her. I’m guessing the drunk lady, right? I mean, a “harassed” mom of three should be well versed in exhaustion, thus operating the car like a champ. Right? Am I right?

Back at Leeds University, Hamish Jamson flicks through painstakingly composed graphs that illustrate the performances of Channel 4’s three drivers.By closely filming their ”˜eye droopiness’ (how closed they are at any given second) they found that over a 65km stretch of motorway, the Tired Driver’s blink duration was twice as long as the Drunk Driver. An average driver would have their eyes closed for less than one per cent of the time, but here, the Tired Motorist spent eight to 10 per cent of the time with her eyes closed…

”In general,” says Jamson, ”On most measures, the Tired Mother was worse than the Drunk Mother. The problem in the real world we can measure blood alcohol but fatigue is subjective and self-regulating. With tiredness, we battle through. The average adult needs seven to nine hours each night. We have to take it more seriously.”

Lesson learned. I need to stop obsessing about how much time my toddler spends sleeping and start worrying about myself a little more. He doesn’t have to operate heavy machinery any time soon. This probably isn’t the lesson of the show – but it’s what I’m taking away from it.

(photo: Ersler Dmitry/


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