Hey Sleepy Drivers, Don't Count On These Two Things To Keep You Awake
We've all been there: it's just you, the open road, and anything you can think of to keep you awake during your long ride home. Sleep-deprived driving can be just as dangerous as drunk driving, but many people do it anyway, trusting the old standbys of an open window and loud music to keep them alert. Well, science has bad news: neither of those fixes do you any good.
Naps Are Always A Good Idea
You're driving home from a bachelor party, and, needless to say, you're a bit sleep deprived. That's alright — you'll just roll down the windows and crank up some tunes. That does the trick, right? Well, according to a 1998 study, not so much. Researchers L.A. Reyner and J.A. Horne restricted the sleep of 16 young-adult drivers by five hours, then had them drive an interactive car simulator the following afternoon "under monotonous conditions." After 30 minutes, the subjects got a blast of cold air to the face and heard the radio music of their choice — neither had any significant effect.
So, what should you do to stay awake on the road? It should be obvious. In a subsequent 2002 study, Reyner and Horne found that stopping for a nap and/or drinking some type of caffeinated energy drink will be much more effective in combatting your sleepiness. The study used energy drinks instead of coffee because "the caffeine levels in coffee are variable," but it appears that any old caffeine would probably do some good.
If you're attached to your bumpin' music and fresh air, there's no need to abandon them completely. Reyner and Horne actually suggest using these methods as "temporary expedients to reduce driver sleepiness." In other words, you can turn it up on your way to a rest stop...but then you need to get some rest. Grab yourself a caffeinated beverage on your way out, and you should be good to go. Drive safe, friends!
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