The “Sleep It Off” Misconception

Bottles_blog2As we turn the page on another year, I can’t help but think about a tragedy that marked the end of 2009.

Two young men, who had been best friends since childhood, attended a Christmas party where they consumed, as young people often do, a significant amount of alcohol. Instead of driving home inebriated, they did the right thing and stayed over at the host’s house so they could “sleep it off.”

After a few hours of sleep and assuming they were OK to drive, they headed for home the next morning. It was 10:00 AM when they left. Unfortunately, during the drive, they hit a patch of ice and spun into a telephone pole. One of the boys flew out of the windshield and was killed.

The other fellow, whom the police assumed was driving, was tested and found to be still legally intoxicated. In addition to losing his childhood friend, this young man is now going through the court system and may face jail time.

It’s a tragedy for both families and for both boys – they are/were excellent people – the kind of young men you’d want your daughter to marry.

I guess there are two morals to the story. One, always wear your seat belt. Two, sleep isn’t a magic remedy for inebriation. Whether asleep or awake, it takes at LEAST an hour per ounce to metabolize the alcohol in your system, depending on your size and sex. In fact, that process might take even longer when you’re sleeping because your metabolism slows down.

That going to sleep will automatically make you sober when you awaken is a popular misconception and one that PE teachers, as the primary providers of health information in our schools, must contradict. This misconception is so prevalent that morning drive-time is now considered a high-risk time for drunk driving and many police forces set up spot-checks from 6:00 AM to 9:00 AM.

A pre-determined plan for getting home, involving a cab, parent or designated driver, is always the safer option.

I hope the upcoming year is a safe and happy one for you.


Dick Moss, Editor,

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[tags]physical education,health[/tags]

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