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Drowsiness is a Red Alert!

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At the Sleep Health 2013 Conference, Dr. Subodh Agrawal brought up within his presentation a critical phrase that everyone should know: 'Drowsiness is a Red Alert.'



 Pictured above is Dr. Subodh Agrawal at the University of Georgia Hotel & Convention Center during Sleep Health 2013.

The phrase "Drowsiness Is a Red Alert" was originally coined by Dr. William Dement, known to many as the father of sleep medicine. The phrase has been championed by he, his colleagues and students at the Stanford University Center of Excellence For The Diagnosis And Treatment of Sleep Disorders ever since.


But what does "Drowsiness is a red alert" mean? Well, while sleep is often not on the top of many people's agenda, the importance of healthy sleeping can hardly be understated. Simply stated, if one feels sleepy enough to be drowsy, then they are sleepy enough to nod off while performing important tasks such as driving. 

When sleep is not sufficiently obtained, a person can accumulate 'sleep debt.' A high sleep debt will not only decrease one's efficiency and capabilities throughout the day, but it can also be extremely dangerous while performing everyday tasks.

So what is sleep debt? This term also originated at Stanford and according to Stanford Sleep and Dreams,"...Each of us has a certain sleep requirement every night that we need to keep us functioning at our optimal level. When we fall short of the minimal sleep requirement we incur a sleep debt that prevents us from functioning at our best. This debt, if not addressed, can add up over time, very rapidly, and significantly alter our productivity, mood, and even our safety."


A student of Stanford's Sleep and Dreams class drew the diagram above on a napkin to demonstrate the consequences of accumulating sleep debt to a friend. This graphic shows how if a person lets their sleep debt continue to grow it will eventually crush them causing them to fall asleep when they least expect it.

Having just the lowest amount of sleep debt can cause drowsiness and could be potentially dangerous.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 100,000 police-reported crashes are the direct result of driver fatigue each year - these crashes resulted in approximately 1,550 fatalities. Fatalities that could have been prevented.


The accident above was caused when the driver of this bus fell asleep and swerved off of the interstate. The accident unfortunately resulted in 4 fatalities that could have been prevented.

The notion that "Drowsiness Is Red Alert" is one that has the potential to save lives. Once people understand the significance, it can leap into their minds in times of unwanted and dangerous drowsiness, such as when driving a car, to trigger an alert mechanism that will remind them to stay safe and awake until they find a place to get some rest. Society is hammered with the message "Don't Drink and Drive." Equally important though, is "Don't Drive Drowsy."

Drowsiness is a red alert! Spread this message and you could help save lives.

Do you agree that drowsiness is a red alert? How do you get enough sleep or combat drowsiness? Have you ever had an incidence with a drowsy driver?


in Sleep Health Hits: 2082 0 Comments

Subodh K. Agrawal, MD FACC

Owner/Cardiologist at Athens Heart Center



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Guest Friday, 20 April 2018

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