Driving at night can be really difficult. The monotony; the gradual increase in sleepiness as bedtime comes and passes; the other passengers reminding you with each snore of what you’d much rather be doing instead of sitting behind the wheel.

Keeping yourself from falling asleep while driving can be a huge challenge. Driving while sleepy is a major cause of motor vehicle accidents, and even brief lapses of attention can have catastrophic results.

Some drivers, finding themselves starting to doze off, choose simply to pull over and take a nap (which may be the best solution). Others consume caffeine, which, while effective, can wear off quickly.

A new study published this month by group of French and Swedish scientists offers new hope to people who struggle to stay awake while driving at night. The researchers conducted an experiment to see whether exposure to blue-spectrum light while driving might help drivers maintain alertness while driving at night. Light, and especially blue-spectrum light, has a potent effect on the brain, sending a message that it’s still daytime, and waking it up

Forty-eight healthy men were recruited to drive 250 miles during night-time. They were either continuously exposed to blue light while driving; given caffeine or given a placebo, and the number of times they inappropriately drifted across divider lines was measured. The researchers found that both blue-spectrum light exposure and caffeine were equally as effective, and that both were significantly better at keeping the drivers vigilant and preventing inappropriate line crossing.

This is very encouraging, and while this technology is not currently available for widespread use, it may become available in the not-so-distant future to help drivers stay awake while on the road at night.




Dennis Rosen, M.D.

Learn how to help your child get a great night’s sleep with my new book:

The Harvard Medical School Guide to Successful Sleep Strategies for Kids: Helping Your Child Sleep Well and Wake Up With a Smile!

Source: "In-Car Nocturnal Blue Light Exposure Improves Motorway Driving: A Randomized Controlled Trial."

About the Author

Dennis Rosen, M.D.

Dennis Rosen, M.D., is a pediatric pulmonologist and sleep specialist who practices at Boston Children's Hospital.

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