Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Drowsy Racing: NASCAR’s Jeff Gordon Learns About Sleep Loss & Parenthood

Even a top NASCAR driver can suffer from drowsy driving. Especially when he’s a new parent.

Florida Today reports that sleep loss may help explain Jeff Gordon’s disappointing 2008 season. It seems that the four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion is still adjusting to fatherhood. His wife Ingrid gave birth to their daughter Ella Sofia on June 20, 2007.

“It's that I'm not sleeping,” Gordon recently told reporters. “I'm showing up to the race track trying to hold my eyes open because I'm sleep deprived because she was up crying at 3 in the morning. I'm trying to be a good husband, not necessarily just a good father, and play my role."

The 37-year-old Gordon already ranks as one of
the best NASCAR drivers in history. He is sixth on NASCAR’s all-time win list with 81 victories; “The King” Richard Petty is untouchable at the top with 200 wins. In the “modern era” of NASCAR racing, Gordon ranks second behind Darrel Waltrip’s 84 victories.

Yet in 2008 Gordon was winless for the first time
since 1993. On Sunday he started in third at the Daytona 500, race one of 36 in the 2009 Sprint Cup Series. He finished in 13th place.

Gordon’s problems are magnified because of his place in the public spotlight. But his sleep struggles are common for new parents.

According to AASM spokesperson Dr. Daniel Glaze, parents are at risk for losing hundreds of hours of sleep during their child’s first year of life. This sleep loss can have a severe effect on how you function during the day, even if you’re not a NASCAR driver.

“Sleep loss can affect job performance, impair cognitive performance, increase errors and slow reaction times,” said Glaze.

For Gordon, the race goes on. He’ll try to get some quality sleep before this Sunday’s
Auto Club 500 in Fontana, Calif.

Are you a parent who can relate to Gordon’s struggles? Did you find any good ways to get some sleep after your baby arrived?

The AASM offers
these tips to help new parents get a good night’s sleep.

Image courtesy of DuPont
Update 2/25/09: Gordon finished second in the Auto Club 500 behind Daytona 500 winner Matt Kenseth, crossing the finish line just 1.463 seconds after the winner.

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