Sleep Disorders Community
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387660 tn?1242600342

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?1242600342
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?1242600342
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?1242600342
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?1292791151
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?1262386596
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?1262386596
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?1242600342
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.
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