Greetings Fit RVers! Today we have a guest poster, Nate! In addition to being a trainer himself, Nate is also a mental health expert, and he’s come up with an exercise routine to combat drowsy driving. We’ll be making a video with Nate soon where we run through the exercises so you can see how they’re performed.
The mountains continued to walk slowly by as he sped along on cruise control, alone on the sunburned highway. Most of his drive was in the dark as he had just pulled an all night drive to get to Utah; his first home and soon to be his home again. His apartment in California was now in his car, packed to the roof with only room for the driver to sit. With the summer sun now peaking over the Utah mountains he knew that he was getting close to his childhood neighborhood and the family who knew him best. His work and adventure in California were worth it, but now it was time to settle down, literally. He was due to get married next month. His fiancé was at the end of his long road; so close now he could see the mountains that towered above his final destination.
The stress of the drive blew away with the wind in the window. It was tense driving through the canyon walls that rose to block the stars, but he was now miles past that. The sun had risen and the mountains rounded around him. The road was as calm and smooth as the music playing through the clatter in the car.
His thoughts drifted toward home, but his eyes drifted shut, and his car drifted off of the road…
His eyes shot open when he felt the car hit the dirt. His reflexes took control and he spun the wheel to turn the car back onto the road, but he over-corrected. The car shot back onto the interstate and went right over. When the car got shouldered by the dirt on the other side it flipped. The vehicle rolled multiple times at freeway speeds until it was crushed to a stop.
My brother didn’t know how he survived; it was a miracle he was alive and uninjured. But he did know how the accident happened: he fell asleep at the wheel.
According to drowsydriving.org, falling asleep at the wheel causes over 100,000 reported car accidents and 1500 deaths per year. Driving an all-niter can impair a driver more than someone who is driving above the legal limit for alcohol consumption. The solution is as simple for DUIs as it is for drowsy drivers: Don’t drive while impaired. If you are tired, get out of the driver’s seat and find a place to rest.
My brother wasn’t fatigued when he got into his car, but pulling an all-niter was exhausting. He was so close to home, and he thought he could make it just half an hour more. The best solution to avoid the accident was obviously to pull over and find a place to rest for a bit.
Why do our eyes close when we are at the wheel? We never intend to fall asleep while controlling a car at freeway speeds, but yet it happens too often. Why? Why don’t we fall asleep while walking, or doing other activities?
Driving a vehicle is relaxing. Freeway driving requires about as much movement as taking a test in class (and plenty of people nod off and snooze in school). It is easy for the mind to wander while driving, which isn’t always catastrophic, unless the driver is tired. When you’re worn out, even thinking becomes exhausting, so the body attempts to facilitate the thoughts of a wandering mind. The body is not doing much anyways, so it just relaxes as the mind strays. It is easier to think when you are not distracted by visual input, so the eyes close.
The best way to fight this is by resting the body so it can better support the mind. But there are other tricks that work to keep a driver awake and alert. By keeping the thoughts and movements together it is easier for the driver to stay awake. This is why very few drivers fall asleep while driving through town. There are stops and goes, and turns and many other deviations that the driver needs to respond to with both thoughts and actions. These keep the driver awake. But the freeway is peaceful and straight, requiring only a slight occasional correction that barely requires a conscious thought.
By getting the mind and body to work together again the driver can stay awake. There are many tricks drivers try. Singing or talking is an action that requires both mind and body to work together. That’s probably why there is so much singing in sedans. Others drum the steering wheel or dance to the music (often when no one is around to see). All these attempts are trying to keep the body and mind on the same page, and to keep the thoughts from wandering into dream land.
Many people have attempted to use caffeine as a way to stay awake while on the move. Yes, caffeine can assist a driver keeping their eyes open, but there is a risk. Once the body metabolizes the caffeine it can crash, causing the driver to spiral down into a deeper exhaustion.
There are, however, chemicals that our body produces that can help keep us awake without causing us to crash (get it?). Our body can release stimulants that revitalize the body and mind to keep them working together. There are certain exercises that can release these hormones.
Because of what my brother went through, I have created a workout to assist people in staying awake so that they can make it home safe. I did NOT create this workout so someone can attempt to push themselves farther into exhaustion and not rest when they are tired of driving. I made this workout to help a driver get to the next place to pull over and get some ZZZs.
This workout can be performed in a car, or in your RV. It forces the mind and body to work together, which keeps the driver awake. And it also incorporates the correct types of exercises that will help to wake the body up. It’s called the Wake-Up Workout. You’ll find the workout attached below, and we plan to make a video showing how to perform it.
Also available on xlr8therapy.com is a stress ball that works great to help a driver stay awake. Just go to the “Items that XLR8” tab and find the “Super Squishy Lightbulb Stress Ball.” Click on the picture to purchase one.