May I seize this opportunity to wish my readers a Merry Christmas. Life is a precious gift and we have to treat it as such, especially in festive seasons as this.
If I told you, you could die closing your eyes for few seconds at the wrong time, you may find it a very expensive joke.
Perhaps you wouldn’t want to even close your eyes ever again, even if it means pegging them apart.
On the contrary, it’s a fact, and you’ve probably been there a couple of times where you experience this fleeting sleep for few seconds and you are awake the next second.
A typical Akan will tell you “Meetonkonansomenda ye”.
It is such that no matter how you push to keep your eyes open, they close without your consent.
You notice you’re trying to focus to no avail, if you were writing or typing, you would have created characters like a typical kindergarten kid’s writing.
Usually, one loses consciousness and may not even be aware you’re sleeping except for occasional jerking of your head that wakes you up.
If you were in public transport you’re likely to head the person behind or beside you and it can be very embarrassing.
The term“Micro sleep” is how sleep scientists describe this situation.
This fleeting sleep is uncontrollable and can happen to anyone anywhere and it is dangerous depending on where it happens.
The most dangerous moment is when you’re driving because it can kill.
Some drivers shared their experiences where they slept in slowly moving traffic and I personally witnessed couple of them do so.
It is even worse when you try to fight it, but that is the mistake we often make, you may keep fighting and failing for an hour when a five minutes nap can solve the problem and this is from personal experience.
I clearly remember my episodes of micro sleep back in school, I experience it mostly when we have an early morning lecture and I didn’t have enough sleep the previous day.
Sometimes, an afternoon lecture when the lecture or lecturer is boring.
Having been actively involved with professional drivers for some time now, I’ve had the opportunity to sit in training sessions and safety meetings.
The most recent is what I want to share because it isn’t just an eye opener but a life saver and an education I deem fit for the season.
According to experts, there are several factors that account for micro sleeps, these range from sleep disorders to deprivation, sleep debt (not being able to have enough sleep over a period), stress, alcohol and medication.
It is common to see road signs that caution drivers not to drive tired, but many a times by trying to meet deadlines or mere complacency we overlook these signs to our own detriment.
Per calculations relating to distance covered during micro sleeps, the “AKILLA” sleep safety education campaign says for every 3 seconds of micro sleep your car would have travelled 83 meters assuming you’re driving 100km/hr.
So if you were sleep driving, you’re likely to veer off your lane into another car from the opposite direction considering the fact that by the time your eyes open it would be too late to take any decision.
Aside from this possibility, there are a number of road hazards that drivers need to look out for while driving. Some are bad weather conditions; others are dangerous overtaking, cyclists, sharp curves, animals crossing and other road users.
While some hazards are moving, others are stationary, and these are even the most dangerous, and the more reason a driver needs to be attentive making use of all senses.
Some drivers are just careless and still cause accidents while they’re very conscious, so how much more the one who’s sleeping.
Pathetically, the festive season is when most road accidents occur, while we can attribute a number of them to drunkenness because of merry making, a good number of them can be associated to micro sleeps.
For personal safety, you may want to stay completely away from alcohol if you have to drive. In situations of public transport, let’s try to be each other’s keeper, when you notice your bus driver is drunk, do not get off the bus and leave others to their fate.
Try to convince others to boycott that very bus carrying you or possibly the driver changed.
Nonetheless, medications can also be a cause of micro sleeps because they have their side effects while serving as remedy for several ailments.
Some of them have the tendency of making you seductive, others make you hungry and others make you very drowsy, so imagine being in any of these states while driving.
For this reason, let’s try to engage our doctors when they prescribe medications for us, let’s endeavour to know their side effects.
I must say that in Ghana it is very intimidating sometimes to ask the doctor the repercussions of taking a certain medicine they have prescribed for you except for a few.
Commonly you’ll get medical practitioners telling you to take certain medication only at night when you’re going to bed, but fail to give reasons why and you dare not ask.
We take injections when we don’t know how we’ll react to them.
I pray this portion of my write up gets the attention of the Ghana Medical Association.
Having said that, it is worth noting that, the best of solution according to experts is to take a nap when you experience a micro sleep – if it’s convenient especially when you’re driving.
If at worse it is at such times when you’re at work, in a meeting or lecture, try to interact with others or contribute to the subject as much as possible or take breaks.
Try to have enough sleep before long distance journey or better still, keep a travel partner.
A second of unconsciousness on the road can take your life, the most dangerous thing that can happen to anybody is to be sleeping behind the steering wheel when your car is still in motion, and this kills faster than any killer disease you can imagine.
Don’t sleep that sleep of death this yuletide.
By: Princella Selasi Yawa Amevorfirstname.lastname@example.org