Ever thought about how your daily drive to work, school, or the grocery store could affect your brain? Most of us are aware that sitting for long hours can lead to health issues like back pain or weight gain. But did you know that hours behind the wheel can also impact your brain power? A fascinating research study from the University of Leicester and Leicester's Hospitals revealed some surprising discoveries.
How Do Long Hours of Driving Affect You?
Driving for more than two hours a day might be more taxing on your brain than you'd think. Researchers found that just like your body can get tired from sitting too long, your brain can also experience fatigue after an extended time on the road.
According to the study, people driving for over two hours daily saw a drop in their brain power. This effect is similar to what happens to individuals who watch TV for more than three hours a day.
Imagine settling down to binge-watch your favorite show. After about three episodes, your mind might start to feel foggy, right? Well, if you have a long daily commute, you’re likely feeling the same impact when you’re behind the wheel.
Not All Screen Time Is Equal: Computers and Your Brain
Here's an interesting twist: the research also found that people using computers for two to three hours daily didn't experience the same decline in brain power.
Likely, this is because using a computer involves more active participation and mental stimulation, so it can keep your brain engaged. This is a clear contrast to spending mindless hours on the road, where a phenomenon known as “highway hypnosis” can occur.
Have you ever been driving a long distance and zoned out, only to realize that you’ve covered many miles without being aware? If so, you’ve likely experienced highway hypnosis. It’s commonly caused by fatigue, monotony, and/or brain inattention and can lead to slower reaction times, drifting out of your lane, and other potentially dangerous issues.
Tips for Keeping Your Brain Buzzing
So what's a person to do if they have to spend long hours on the road? Here are some tips to help you avoid highway hypnosis and prevent a decline in your brain power.
Take breaks. Resist the urge to push through for hours on end without a break. Make sure to stop, stretch your legs, and take a short walk every couple of hours. Even a few minutes of moving around can help recharge your body and your mind.
Avoid distractions. Distracted driving can further reduce your reaction times and create dangerous situations. When you’re driving long distances, avoid the temptation to kill time by scrolling through your phone, chatting, or texting. Instead, turn off your phone or put it on silent so you can keep your focus on the road.
Stay active. When you’re not commuting, balance out your sedentary driving hours with physical activity. A short walk or some quick exercises can make a big difference in keeping your mind sharp and your body healthy.
Keep learning. Take advantage of your drive to stimulate your brain. Listen to an audiobook, learn a new language, or tune into a podcast. It's a simple way to keep your mind engaged while you're on the road.
Practice defensive driving. Taking a defensive driving course can teach you how to be a safer driver and remain vigilant on the road. And, since you’re learning new skills, you’ll also be helping your brain stay active.
Driving Safely and Staying Sharp
While extensive driving can leave your brain feeling a bit foggy, these tips will help you stay sharp. If you want to enhance your driving skills and knowledge even further, consider taking iDriveSafely’s online defensive driving course. It's an engaging, easy way to improve your driving and become more alert so you can stay safe and sharp on the road!