Circadian Rhythm and Snooze – Drivers Fatigue Dangers.

Circadian rhythms.
All of us are programmed by what is referred to as our individual body’s circadian rhythms – an internal clock helping us to remain awake during the daytime and sleep during the night. This clock is hardwired in living things – plants, animals and fungi. Originating from the Latin words circa – meaning around or approximately and dies referring to day. Knowing more about this pre-programmed biological timepiece can aid in avoiding the deadly risks associated with drivers fatigue.

Circadian rhythm is a system that keeps each of us in sync with the 24 hour day. It is an internal clock sending signals to many different areas of the body, aiding in things like digestion, body temperature and the release of certain hormones. One of the circadian rhythm clock’s main purposes (and causes of drivers fatigue) is to regulate when a person sleeps and when they feel alert.

Scientific studies have shown that regardless of sunlight exposure, or available external time clocks noting the hour, people still wake and sleep within roughly the same 24 hour pattern. Plants have also shown this behavior – for example morning glories blooming in the morning even while kept in darkness.

The clock is somewhat flexible in terms of adjusting to different time zones, daylight savings and seasonal light variances, through a process of cues from signals in the environment referred to as entrainments.

Who is at risk?
Everyone is at risk. At night, and less so during afternoon siesta hours, performance behind the wheel can be greatly impaired resulting in deadly drivers fatigue related incidents. If natural sleep cycles are disrupted by staying awake during the night, not getting sufficient amounts of sleep, or suffering from poor quality of sleep major problems can result and compromise driving ability.

A clock that can’t be wound backwards
Sleeping and waking opposite times during the day and night do nothing to reverse the circadian rhythms of the body – even a person working years on a night shift schedule will still be programmed to sleep at night. Certain ages are more susceptible at different times on this clock – older drivers tend to be involved in more drivers fatigue related crashes during siesta afternoon hours and should try to avoid driving during such times. While younger drivers seem to be the deadliest behind the wheel during the night. For them, taking to the roads should be avoided if possible between the hours of 10pm and 6am when the statistical instances of drivers fatigue are highest.

What to do?
Naps can be helpful in restoring temporary alertness when an inadequate amount of sleep has been had the previous night. However because the body’s internal clock is cuing you to be awake during peak daytime hours, obtaining a sufficient rest can be difficult. The opposite goes for the nighttime hours when the internal clock is dulling your alertness signaling you to sleep in powerful ways which can be life threatening behind the wheel and very difficult in the fight against drivers fatigue.