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    Sleeping while driving or in the car
    An_206902 posted:
    I am writing to seek help for my daughter who is 20 years old. She has been driving short distances for four years now, and this year has been driving back and forth from college and to her job - these trips are about 30 minutes or so. She is complaining more and more about her falling asleep while driving. It is not related to the time of day or if she is tired or not. It can be first thing in the morning, or at 11am or in the pm. She has had to pull over and has nodded off while on the highway repeatedly. I remember that as a baby she would fall asleep within 5 minutes of being in a moving car. I am terribly worried about this. Her health is good, she has no apnea or restless legs. She is a nightowl and could sleep til noon but doesn't go to bed until at least midnight - always has been this way. She has great energy during the day and evening and is a perfect student - with a 4.0. It is very hard for her to wake up regardless of how much or how little sleep she gets. She did have petit mal seizures (absence seizures) as a young child which completely cleared up. She also has a bit of OCD, Tourettes and ADD. I would imagine these things are related? She is slightly overweight. Help! I do not know who to take her to - a specialist? Her primary care literally rolled her eyes and said she should get more sleep! Please put me in some direction before my daughter has a terrible accident. Not driving is not an option....
    Aatif M Husain, MD responded:
    Dear Anon_35474:

    Sorry to hear about your daughter's sleep problems. You ended your post by saying, "Not driving is not an option..." I must say, you and she should consider not driving in the short term the only option. Drowsy driving is one of the leading causes of motor vehicle accidents and are very often fatal.

    However, hopefully her driving restriction will only be short term, until her symptoms can be properly diagnosed. Certainly insufficient sleep is the commonest cause of sleepiness in Americans, however there are many sleep disorders that also cause this problem. Common sleep problems in young adults that cause sleepiness include narcolepsy and circadian rhythm disturbances. You should definitely consider talking in detail with the primary care doctor or asking for a referral to a sleep specialist who deals with a broad spectrum of sleep disorders (not just sleep apnea).

    It is always good to be persistent about getting the health care that you need. But please, do not let her drive drowsy!
    alexzam1 replied to Aatif M Husain, MD's response:
    Thank you, Dr. Husain - I didn't mean I would not listen to advice about her not driving - at this point I am at her disposal for rides and encouraging her to ride with friends and try to curtail driving of any length. I take it that I should see a sleep specialist. I do know a few and a new place has opened up quite close to my home. I think she needs to be evaluated. I didn't know if this was a sleep specialist's area, but I will look into this.

    She is never drowsy getting into a car, but as soon as she starts to drive - 5 minutes out - this overwhelming sleepiness comes over her - nothing helps. I will have this looked into right away.
    SaraMPH replied to alexzam1's response:
    Hi Alexzam1, Just wondering if there was any followup to this. I am very interested in the outcome as a person who had a similar situation as a young person. It turns out I had narcolepsy, but driving continued to be a struggle for me and there has been a recent discovery that may explain my particular problem (as many people with narcolepsy can have some troubles driving but usually these resolve with medication and behavioral treatment; my situation may be a little different but it is hard to tell if there is no way of documenting and tracking the issue). to correspond

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