A new study has given yet another reason why sleep deprived people should never get behind the wheel, by finding that lack of a good night's rest can hamper the coordination of horizontal eye movements that is needed while steering a vehicle.
The study was conducted on a group of 6 participants by Mark Chattington of Manchester Metropolitan University, who asked the volunteers to drive a winding route on a driving simulator, as a part of the research.
The study was carried out over a period of two days.
On the first day, they drove for one hour starting at 5 p.m. The subjects were kept awake the following night, and on day two, drove again at 5 p.m. for up to two-and-a-half hours.
Their eye movements were monitored using a dashboard mounted eye tracker, and steering wheel movement was monitored through a precision potentiometer attached to the steering column.
Mark Chattington found that even a single night of sleep deprivation can impact a person's ability to coordinate eye movements with steering, with instances of both acute and chronic reductions in the degree of coordination and in the time lead of eye movements over steering.
"The analysis of eye-steering coordination may provide a useful method of detecting when a driver is in danger of losing control of a vehicle due to fatigue, before the driver actually falls asleep," said Chattington.
Experts recommend that adults get between seven and eight hours of sleep each night to maintain good health and optimum performance. Persons who think they might be suffering from a sleep disorder are encouraged to consult with their primary care physician, who will refer them to a sleep specialist.
The study, and its findings, was presented on Monday, June 11 at SLEEP 2007, the 21st Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies (APSS).