The Department of Transportation says the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays are the heaviest long distance travel times.
The number of long distance trips over Thanksgiving (those 50 miles or more both ways) increase by 54 percent. During Christmas the increase is 23 percent. The potential for fatigue is higher during these long trips after a long day of visiting and eating.
Many say eating turkey makes you tired as turkey contains L-Tryptophan, an essential amino acid with a documented sleep inducing effect. However, according to www.about.com.chemistry , it’s not just the turkey. A carbohydrate-rich (as opposed to a protein-rich meal) increases the level of the amino acid and leads to serotonin synthesis – “that familiar sleepy feeling”.
Fats slow down the digestive system and take a lot of energy to digest so the body redirects blood flow to help in digestion. Having less blood-flow elsewhere, people feel less energetic after a meal rich in fats. Overeating has the same affect so it’s very important to watch how much you eat prior to travelling a long distance without giving the meal time to digest.
If you start to feel drowsy while driving and your eyelids start to get heavier, pull over and rest! A Nationwide Insurance article pulls from a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration article that states drowsy driving “causes more than 100,000 crashes a year, resulting in 1,500 deaths, 71,000 injuries and more than $12 billion in losses”.
People are at their mental peak at 9:00 am and 9:00 pm with physical best at 11:00 am and 7:00 pm. Energy hits its lowest points from 2:00 am to 6:00 am and 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm. Try to plan your travel during your high peak times.
A couple more helping driving hints are:
• Take a 15 minute power nap to help you obtain needed rest without causing a major delay in your schedule. A longer nap requires more time to return to full alertness.
• Stay hydrated and eat fruits, vegetables and protein-loaded items in small portions. We already know carbs make us tired.
• Get a good night’s sleep prior to the drive.
• Take someone with you to keep you alert, help watch the road and even share in the driving.
Have a great holiday season and stay safe on the roads!
Article by Crystal Schafer, Safety Director