Akilla Sleep Trap

The Akilla Sleep Trap®"The most insidious of them all"

- Martin S. Jenkins, New Zealand Sleep Safety Ltd.
New Zealand Sleep Safety has named a particular 'set of events' the "Akilla Sleep Trap ® ", as literally any safety conscious driver can succumb to this invisible trap without even knowing it, resulting in a drowsy driving crash.

The following scenario can happen very easily

  • You (and your partner) go away on a short holiday and become sleep deprived.
  • Even if you are a good sleeper (your partner may not be) and you can end up with acute sleep deprivation. (This may be in addition to existing chronic sleep deprivation - see definition section).

Sleep Deprivation can readily occur while away on holiday.

For example, factors that may impact on your (and/or your partners') sleep quality while away on holiday could include;
- Insomnia (or other sleep medical condition)
- Consumption of alcohol
- Late night due to socialising
- Emotional stress
- New surroundings- Kids sick/ crying
- Uncomfortable bed
- Noisy neighbours
- Very high or low temperatures
- High humidity - Asthma
- Illness, toothache or pre-existing medical conditions.
- Use of medications
With reference to the above diagram the following scenario of events can occur. Namely;

Sleep Deprived Driver

a. A sleep deprived driver (and partner) leave for a journey to a destination.
b. At the start of the journey the driver appears wide awake, and running on high adrenalin, excited about the journey.
Lunch Break
c. The sleep deprived driver (and partner) begin to feel drowsy just after midday and decide to have a break from driving and to also have a lunch.
Post Lunch Dip
d. After the lunch break the driver feels drowsy. Even more so within a short time after lunch. (there is a lunch dip as the bodys' energy is taken up in digesting food).
Hottest Part of the Day
e. The car may also have become very hot (and possibly humid) as it is the hottest part of the day. (dehydration makes the driver feel more drowsy).
Circadian (Biological) Dip
f. The driver becomes even more drowsy due to the daily biological dip (circadian dip) mid afternoon. The time has come for the driver to catch up on some sleep. (By this time the front seat passenger has fallen asleep).
The only problem is that the driver is on the road !
Micro-sleeps !
The drivers' eyes are becoming heavy and the driver is experiencing the first 2-3 second micro-sleep.
Close to Destination
g. The driver decides to continue driving because the driver is close to the destination. (besides, the driver doesn't want to miss a televised football game). The driver wrongly believes that sleep is a voluntary, controllable action and that the driver will know the exact time that they are going to fall asleep.

The driver is finding it harder and harder to overcome the Akilla Hurdles ® (micro-sleeps). (But the driver has struggled through this state in the past and made it home, so the driver decides to continue.)

The driver falls asleep, crossing the centerline of the road into the path of a large truck.

What started as just a weekend holiday ended in a tragedy and appears with the other road tragedies in Mondays' newspaper.