Saliva test detects tiredness
French scientists have discovered a way of testing tiredness by analyzing saliva. The discovery could be useful for future prevention tests in traffic. There are no precise statistics but rough estimates say in some 10 to 25% of traffic accidents sleepiness is involved. According to the institution of traffic safety (Instituut voor Verkeersveiligheid, VIAS) a saliva test could therefore be useful for prevention.
Cortisol and alfa-amylase
Experts of the sleep clinic of the French Hotel Dieu Hospital identified two specific elements in human saliva – the cortisol hormone and the alfa-amylase enzyme – telling how tired we are. Results in human test subjects, who were deprived from sleep for two consecutive nights, showed that the amounts of those two elements were very low.
Activity in our brains
“The results give a good indication of our brains’ activity”, says professor Johan Verbraecken of the Antwerp sleep clinic, UZ Antwerpen. “Low amounts show a lack of sleep and that means we’re not fit enough to perform or drive.” A sleepy driver is less alert and slower in reactions.
The recent tests were executed with big and expensive lab equipment but it still will take some time to develop a simple tester for consumers like the commercial alcohol tester. In the meantime VIAS spokesman Stef Willems recommends not to drive for more than two hours at a stretch. “Also tricks like driving with open windows or loud music won’t work”, he says. “The best solution is a 20 minute power nap.”