‘Tiny naps’ while driving leading cause of road accidents

KUALA LUMPUR: A sudden or short period of sleep, better known as microsleep, is closely linked to the daily performance of a human being, said an expert from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) Centre for Research in Psychology and Human Wellbeing Prof Dr Rozmi Ismail.

He said this involuntary napping usually occurs among people who are working and driving long-distance.

“Humans are not like machines, they have their own limitations. Machines can start moving with just one press (of a button) but humans need a break. The brain, eyes and body parts need adequate rest,” he told Bernama recently.

According to Rozmi, the people who are at risk of experiencing microsleeps are bus, lorry and taxi drivers who are driving long-distances or people who work night shifts and do not sleep during the day.

“All these will have an impact on the human performance and its biological clock. If we force our bodies, they will become tired and suddenly go into a rest mode... that is microsleep,” he said.

As a preventive measure, Rozmi recommended that drivers take a rest after two or three hours of driving and avoid driving non-stop from one place to another.

“We have to take care of our biological clocks, meaning humans cannot fight nature. Humans work during the day and sleep at night. If we try to fight this, our performance will quickly decline and our bodies will become tired.

“In addition, there should be a massive campaign to educate the public about the dangers of microsleep while driving,” he said.

A psychology lecturer from Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) Alor Gajah, Melaka, Aini Faezah Ramlan described microsleep as a signal that a person’s health condition is declining.

She said drivers tend to experience microsleeps due to fatigue or lack of rest, erratic sleep schedules as well as unstable health conditions.

“Drivers need to pay attention to their own health, be sensitive to signals that they’re losing concentration such as excessive yawning, feeling tired and lacking in energy,” she said.

Aini also suggested that drivers should change their routines or rearrange their schedules and practise a healthier lifestyle so as to avoid triggering episodes of microsleeps.

Meanwhile, Bukit Aman Traffic Investigation and Enforcement Department director Datuk Mat Kasim Karim said it was estimated that over 20% of road accidents in the country were caused by sleeping at the wheel, drowsiness, and daydreaming.

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