387660 tn?1242596742

Falling Asleep while driving?

I started noticing a couple of years ago that I would fall asleep for a second while driving.  It escalated to a point that on a weekly long trip I needed to take that I would start falling asleep at the wheel many times and have had many close calls.    I finally had to give up on driving this trip and had to hire someone to drive me.   I don't believe I have sleep apnea as I sleep well, don't snore and get a full nights sleep.   This falling asleep at the wheel can happen at any time of the day.
Is there a medical reason for this?    I also have severe neck degeneration.  Could sometime be cutting off oxygen to my brain when I'm in this position?    I don't fall asleep at other times.  Just while I am driving.
132 Responses
Avatar universal

I have some questions:

Have you any carotid doppler scan done or any evaluation to the blood vessels of your extremities?

Is this "falling asleep" similar to losing control of your motor function?

Do you usually play soothing music while driving?

Do you place one of those calming air fresheners in your car?

Does the driver dose off too?

We are trying to look into environmental causes of your sleepiness since you have noted that this only occurs while you are driving.

Have you had your car checked lately ?

Do keep us posted with your answers.
387660 tn?1242596742
accidently entered before ending last post.....   I started to say that I entered this under another forum because I also get this weird face and head sweating that happens to me.    I had a reply from someone that has the same exact symtoms with the neck degeneration and facial sweating and falling asleep at the wheel.  She also did not have any answers.
387660 tn?1242596742
Thank you for your interest in my question.   I've not heard of that scan.    This sleeping started happening slowly and is escalating.  I've had different vehicles and also as a passenger in someone elses car this will happen.  My driver is always fine.   No air fresheners and happens with or without music.   I also have had other weird symptoms
Avatar universal

Drowsiness or sleepiness may be due to a decreased blood supply to the brain brought about by any disorder in circulation due to cardiovascular problems.

I suggest you have a complete work up done including a carotid duplex scan , a 2 D echocardiography to assess cardiac size and to note any cardiac abnormalites, coagulation tests, and an EEG to rule out seizures.Assessment of the blood vessels in your extremities may also rule out any existing blood clots or vascular insufficiencies.

Your primary physician will be able to help you rule out any underlying causes. Although this may not be an urgent case, frequent sleepiness or drowsiness require further assessment.

Keep in touch with us regarding your progress. I hope this helps.

387660 tn?1242596742
Along with the drowiness at the wheel I also experience strange facial and head sweating and sensitivity to heat.   Last summer I went to emergency with chest pressure and with the head/face sweating they admitted me for two nights with the suspicion of heart attack.  It ended up being a little pneunomia on the lungs but they did the complete heart workups and heart was fine.     Yesterday I had an appointment with a specialist and she suspects auto-immune diseases and I'm currently being tested for that with an emphisis on Lupus and liver diseases since my liver is slighly compromised.
798555 tn?1292787551
Just noticed this is an old post!

So you know its not your car, its all cars.

Or is it really just when you are relaxed for a long period. Like watch TV or in meetings? If so then its not from holing onto a steering wheel.  Auto travel can have a relaxing almost hypnotising affect watching those lines wizz by also.

The doc mentioned Autoimmune. The most common of those is the one that old docs seem to think only women get.......Thyroidisim. Many men have this, as well as young athletic ones. Regular thyroidism (just a slow old thyroid) is not autoimmune and many older women have this. Autoimmune thyroidism, Hoshimoto and Graves can affect anyone!  Thousands are undiagnosed. Sweating,hot feel is one of the symtyms. Thyroid is responsible for the speed that the whole body and its organs work y, you could be hyper or hypo.

Get blood test for TSH and free T3 and T4. If your ranges are wacked then test for thyroid antibodies - autoimmune.

Avatar universal
Hi, I am not sure who to direct this to.

I too start falling asleep while driving. It really scares me! I have always even as a child found the car to be somewhat of a "comfort zone" for me in which I would fall asleep within minutes of being in the car. It seems as I have gotten older it has gotten worse. It's very strange because often times when I begin driving I am not tired at all. I usually get around seven or eight hours of sleep, I don't have restless leg syndrome, I don't have any problems falling asleep or staying asleep, I don't get up numerous times to use the rest room, the only thing I wonder is whether I have sleep apnea. Or if anyone has any idea what it could be.

I read the other posts and usually in the car I try to keep the radio on...upbeat music. To try and keep myself awake Ill try rolling the window down, yelling at myself, slapping myself on my cheeks or legs, when it comes down to it I end up calling someone to keep me awake. It really *****.

There will be times when I am driving and I don't remember driving to my end location. I really would hate myself if I were to cause an accident.

Does anyone have any suggestions? I don't have any health insurance or anything as I got laid off in January. I am so scared I no longer know what to do.


I am a 25 year old Mexican American Female. I am obese (I think this may have something to do with it)
This happens to me too, literally the same things word by word. Also am Mexican and 25 years old. Keep me posted.
Avatar universal
Hi There,
I have been experiencing the same symptons while I drive.  I don't have a problem sleeping at night and hardly ever wake up during the night either.  Before I drive I am always well rested nor am I really tired, but I still doze off.  I have tried music, having the window open, have the passenger talk to me, pinching myself, slapping my face but sometimes none of these work.  At times I have just pulled over, but then I am completely awake again.  I never understood what was wrong with me.  I am going to take the tests above and see if there is actually a problem with the blood flow.  It was a bit of a relief that I am not the only one who is going through this.  I hope you find a solution.
1156032 tn?1262382996
I've been nodding off while driving for about a year now. Not every-time, but often enough where I no longer take trips because of the fear. My driving consists of to work, food store, and dr. I've had the sleep study done, Not conclusive as I am claustrophobic and kept tearing the mask off. I am 59, female, and have hypothyroidism, pernicious anemia for which I get B12 shots every other week but really does nothing for me. My blood pressure is 120/80 with meds. When I go to work in the morning I am fine. It's when I leave 3:15pm that the nodding off begins. I don't know what to do anymore. I am not crazy. I'm even wondering if there is a gas leakage (non odorous) in the car that is causing the problem.
1156032 tn?1262382996
Forgot to add I suffer from shortness of breath where there are times I am gasping for air. Have had lung evals/tests done and nothing, Yet I still have it.
Very frustrated because it has really put the end to my love of driving and trips.
387660 tn?1242596742
I think its from my autonomic dysfunction from my autoimmune disease.   When I drive my heart beat slows thus slowing the blood flow to my brain.
Avatar universal
I have also been doing this dozing off thing!  It's driving me crazy.  I thought at first it was only longer trips like 45 minutes or more.  Then, the other day I started doing it while driving home from work and it had snowed so everyone was driving really slow.  I told myself that I just got bored with it and decided to doze off.  And that is only like a 20 minute drive.  
I also try to wake myself up like others have said by shaking my head and stuff like that or maybe rolling down a window but it really doesn't help.  I also am never tired when starting these road trips either.  I do go to bed very late sometimes even straining my eyes to keep myself awake but I usually get around 6-7 hours of sleep.  So, I'm not really that deprived.
One symptom that I've also recently experienced is numbness in my extremities.  I have told my doctor about this at my last visit.  He called it Reynauds (sp?) Syndrome I believe and his only comment about it really is if my hands are white or red first when I start to notice the pain.  It's basically like a burning feeling in your fingers or toes mine actually is in the tips of my ears too.  Sometimes you can't tell if it's a hot or cold feeling.  Then comes a burning feeling I guess after the blood starts to come back to the affected areas.
That actually is kind of how I feel about the dozing off.  I thought maybe it was a loss of blood supply to my brain or something similar to this disease.  I can even feel it coming on like my eyes want to start rolling up into my head.  I can even be singing and listening to good music and it doesn't matter.  It's really scary.  What's happening to me?  I am a 37 year old white female.
387660 tn?1242596742
That sounds like me too.   I also get the same numbness in my extremities.   The latest thing is now I notice that when i'm standing too long I get sweaty and my heart races and I get totally weak and need to sit down immediately.    I'm noticing it will happen with less and less time standing now.    I'm going to see my cardiologist soon.  Someone suggested to me that it sounded like vasovagal syncope.   When I googled that it does sound like a possibility.
1202811 tn?1265516805
I also fall asleep while driving. It is really scary cause alot of times i have my son with me. I do get plenty of sleep at night it started about 5years ago and has only got worse. I also have fallen asleep while standing and when i worked i would fall asleep there luckily i had someone to wake me before i got in trouble. I dont understand i am 27 years old i get plenty of sleep it is really aggravating.  When i stary driving i will be wide awake then all of a sudden i cant keep my eyes open. I too have tried rolling the window down and playing music it doesnt work. I have to stay on phone talking to try and stay awake and even then it sometimes doesnt work. I too get sweaty and my heart races and i get weak when standing too long. I have seen doctors and they all say i am not getting enough sleep and give me sleeping pills which i do not take cause i get 6-8hours of sleep already. i have been tested for sleep apnea and i dont have it. I am not overweight. I have perfect blood pressure 120/70. I do however have neck problems. I have been told that maybe i am not getting  enough oxygen to the brain. I am just glad i am not alone. If anyone has any suggestions please tell.
387660 tn?1242596742
Ask your doctor to have you tested for vasovagel syncope.   Thats done with a tilt-table test.   What you are describing is EXACTLY what was happening to me while driving.   The only thing that would help was to talk to someone on the phone.   Buy one of those blood pressure machines from the drug store.   They run about 50.00.    Then test your blood pressure both sitting and standing.    Your BP should normally be the same but if you see a significant drop while standing that is a good sign that this is the problem.   They do have meds that help reverse this problem.    
1202811 tn?1265516805
Thanks so much for the advice I go to the doctor tommorrow and I will suggest that to him. I really do appreciate it. I am so glad to know I am not alone that there are others that have the same problem as me.
Avatar universal
please let us know how your check-up went.  i am 33, male, good shape, try to exercise 5 times a week and eat somewhat healthy (i do have a weakness for pizza and beer, but try to keep that to weekends, and in moderation).  I sleep 8 hours, usually pretty deeply though sometimes my little dog wakes me up.  I used to get very tired driving on long trips, but now it seems if I'm driving longer than 20 minutes, I get dangerously drowsy.  I've not yet fallen asleep, but it's a painful battle where I try all the things you've named (caffeine, slapping, radio, windows).  The only thing that works is stimulating conversation, and the occasional gripping episode of This American Life.  It's a bad situation and I'd love to remedy it.
Avatar universal
I am a 31 year African American  Female who experiences some of the same symptoms.  I am glad I am not alone.  I do not do trips past 2 hours because of this.  People think i am crazy and just lazy.  I fall to sleep in motion all the time.  On planes, buses, cars you name it.  I also start to get a drowsy feeling when I drive and the sun is shining bright.  I sleep very well and I am just trying to get some answers.  

I am uninsured as well and a single mom so just looking for information.
387660 tn?1242596742
yes yes yes....when the sun is shining bright as well!   Its still a mystery.   I have autonomic dysfunction which has caused vasovagel syncope but according to the doctor the falling asleep in the car doesn't have anything to do with this.   Perhaps some other form of autonomic nerve dysfunction?   Drowsygirl....I've been to so many docs and noone can figure it out so save your bucks because noone will be able to tell you anything I think.   Oh....I also went for a sleep study to see if it might be sleep apnea but I passed that test.
180749 tn?1443595232
The Yoga Pranayam (breathing exercises) will relax you and help with sleep problem.
Build up your timing gradually. If you feel tired or dizzy, stop and resume after 1 minute.

Kapalbhati -(Do it before eating) Push air forcefully out through the nose about once per second. Stomach will itself go in(contract in). The breathing in(through the nose) will happen automatically. Establish a rhythm and do for 5 to 15 minutes twice a day. Not for pregnant women. Seriously ill people do it gently.

Anulom Vilom –
Close your right nostril with thumb and deep breath-in through left nostril  
then – close left nostril with two fingers and breath-out through right nostril  
then -keeping the left nostril closed  deep breath-in through right nostril
then - close your right nostril with thumb and breath-out through left nostril.
This is one cycle of anulom vilom.
Repeat this cycle for 10 to 20  minutes twice a day.
You can do this before breakfast/lunch/dinner or before bedtime or in bed.Remember to take deep long breaths into the lungs.You can do this while sitting on floor or chair or lying in bed.

Bhramri Pranayam -Close eyes. Close ears with thumb, index finger on forehead, and rest three fingers on base of nose touching eyes. Breathe in through nose. And now breathe out through nose while humming like a bee.
Duration : 5 to 12  times

Once you are better, continue the pranayam once a day.
All this will fix the sleep problem over the long term and you will notice some other health benefits as well.

For short term quick fix:
Do kapalbhati for about 2 to 3 minutes and you will not feel drowsy. Try it now.
Avatar universal
If people fall asleep driving ,why drive ? i have some issue i get so tired just comes on out of no were i can not keep my eyes open my brain i think shuts down most time i lie down wake up couple hours most time dont remember falling asleep . anyone no anything happens regualar nights as well i remember watching tv then waking up with a drink in hand  its messed up i am glad i am laid off seems its getting worse as i get older now 31, i  tell my dr  it's always depression im not depressed i mean come on i think its redic this is  why i dont trust and most dont trust talking to  dr's .Quick not  to help .Also i  can not slep most nights till 2-4 am mostly back pain  then fall asleep till 9-10 look for work nap when get done before super usually tired but regular days i due fall asleep at 9-10 pm get up at 7-8 am tops . i still get this so its not lack sleep cancer,fibor runsin the family on both sides very heavy one side dfads all my grandma and siter ,brothers have died ,have cancer  as well as cousins died of tumors and momsside fibor both sisters severe grandpa died at 32 of cancer yet had almost same symphtoms an like he might had fibor as he had all the sighs as they do they blamed most then in 60's on the war of 2 as he was shot 6 or so times saving men on fieldagainst ******* nazi's. I tellmy dr pain in my neck allot an have a lump he just looked said no pain its calcium buid up its right on my spine on my neck at tghe top before entering the head think im dying?   anyone thinks anything contact me thanks like here any info no stupid stuff why dont trust dr's p[ain is severe most time and was diagnosed with lumbar damage thats fun most time lol its like a nife in the back and someone has a viseon my *** most the time leg pain is severe locks up as i have to actually by hand straighten it out it's just unreal .? anxiety getting worse due no one has really cared so i dont tell them if you tell them once twice three times i say if they dont care fu. them like you are invisabale no depression always that i mean uis this all they no say depression think they all own stocks in the companys making this poison .This is why they all say depression kick back i no they get something seems all stick to one kind like celexa sh.t is garbage dont does nothing waste money now went to almost 60.00 was 9.00 at begining i been tried on somany depression meads with my anxiety med and that dont work well endless  i take the  max and still have chest tight on it i tried my self taking over a little worked think need go up dr dont believe in anxiety said in the head i say yes it is called chemical imbalance i mean how dumb are all they do they here themselves ? I want to stay anonoymous as i will probally get it worse just wanted see if anyone new anything on the sleep thing is all but i figured background helps some .noit meads either it happened of meads for years all so i mean not that tried most common sense stuff myself . i will stop back see if anyone answers that has an idea of what they are saying thank you billy the kid lol
Avatar universal
@leximorenita... Oh My Goodness... I have been going through this same thing for over a year, and what is horrible... is I commute two hours a day.  I now keep a hair tie in my car to put on my wrist and I slap the metal part against my wrist every couple of seconds to keep me awake. I get to work or home and i have red bumps all over my arms.  I have also slapped my legs with a hair brush and pinched my inner thigh.  I am 33, get 7 hours of sleep a night... I am fine once I am out of the car... with my commute I am PETRIFIED I am going to kill myself or someone else, but I don't know what to do.  I get double vision and my head falls and when i "come to" I take a deep breath... I feel as if I wasn't breathing, but i know I was.  No other drivers get that way in my car (that was my 1st thought that maybe the exhaust was getting kicked back into the vehicle.  I have the radio on, windows down, absolutely EVERYTHING I can do to keep myself awake - the best thing is to call someone... I am scared and don't know what to do.  I had other issues that tests deemed inconclusive so I felt like I was making it all up and that was how the docs treated me so I just stopped going and trying to explain it to them.... now if I go with this they are going to think I am a wack job.
Just needed to see I am not the only one and tell my story.
Thanks All.
Avatar universal
I think we could start our own community as we are finding we are not alone in this. I have been struggling for 2 years tring to figure this out. Cpap helps some, Provagil helps with some of the daytime fatigue but nothing is helping with the falling asleep while driving. Adderall, Ritalin, Mirapex now for Periodic limb movement not doing anything for driving fatigue. Only make it about 15-20 miles before starting to fight the fatigue. Too many close calls. I bring munchies to help me but also gaining weight I think from the fatigue so not always a good idea. If anyone has any suggestions please share with all, Nice to know we are not alone. On another note, i do have Psoriasis which is an autoimmune disorder so wondering if there is another one lerking inside not discovered yet. Very interested in getting checked for MS.  what do you guys think.
Avatar universal
On June 15th, I crashed my car not even 10 miles from home, on a regular commute of 62.5 miles.  This feeling has been around a while, but getting worse and I, too, am scared.  I could have died another foot or so over. Two years ago I took a temp job soldering on a factory line, and burned a hole in my vest when I did the fall-asleep thing and let the solder gun touch me.  Thank you all for posting what hasn't helped, so that when I see the neurologist as my NP wants, I'll be able to sort out the info given.  Since the accident, the best thing I've found is singing out loud to the oldies station (bye NPR), but it hasn't been long enough to see how well it actually works.
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