A couple of days ago I read an article about a research that describes how sleep can be compared with being drunk when driving. I found this interesting since I have been working on this ‘sleep thing’ for a while and managed to stop this mind system quite effectively.
There has been a period I drove back and forth from home to Milan a couple of times a month (a five hours drive). Since I always drove at night I have been experiencing serious sleep attacks. I experimented several conditions and most of the times the way up (as we say it in Italy when you drive north) I was always very fit. The way down a little less fit because it was after one or more days of intensive work.
After a couple of times testing different situations I could establish there was no real connection to what I had done on the day of the drive and the strength of the sleep attacks. Instead I saw a connection with going in the mind and having to fight against sleep. The most recognizable pattern I found the way back home where I kind of relaxed after my work and started to ‘work out’ my experiences of the day in my mind. The more I got in the mind, the more I had to fight sleepiness which disappeared in thin air when I stopped to have dinner. Ok, by doing something here and now I can get rid of this sleep feeling. I started practicing with this experience and although not always very easy, I managed quite effectively to stop the mind just by ‘stepping back’ into the moment.
It is fascinating to see how especially long drives are a perfect moment for the mind to suck you out of the here and now and starting all kind of great mind games that eventually can even lead to (deadly) accidents since sleep is a common cause for many accidents on the roads especially at night. But why more at night? I guess that having little other to see than dark surroundings and a boring highway makes the ideal situation for the mind to take over. I’ve never had sleep problems while driving in harsh conditions or in heavy traffic.
Although I still have to fight sleep regularly when I drive home from work at night I can stop it effectively by stopping thinking about what I have done and what I should do and all the mind games around these thoughts. It is amazing how pleasant a drive can be by effectively being in the here and now with nothing in the mind (or almost, for short periods, mainly being aware of the fact you constantly start with new thoughts, so working on being constantly aware of the fact you are going back in the mind).
I am far of being effective in fighting my sleep but I am at least more aware of it and can help myself out of the mind while dong an activity that needs my full attention. The driving scenario is just one of the situations in which I experience sleep. It is funny to see how a research has been done in a driving context. I see there is a point connecting it to the danger of falling asleep behind the wheel and comparing it to alcohol and that we are able to check people on how much they have been drinking but we can not check how much sleep they have been experiencing in the moment they were driving since this sleep is gone when an police officer stops you to check you out.
I still have a lot of work to do in fighting against sleep while reading and writing late at night in moments I would rather go to bed and give in to the feeling of sleepiness that makes my eyelids close without warning.