Categories
Alert Focus Productivity Staying Awake

Time to Rest and Refocus

Life Doesn’t Have to be so Complicated

Keep it simple…

These days I seem to have more to do than ever. Tight deadlines, keeping in touch with family and friends whilst trying to complete my personal study and fitness goals all take their toll.

And it’s at times like these that you can easily lose track of time and forget to take time out. I was reminded of this fact when I found myself struggling to stay on track for a deadline. No matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t solve this particular issue which I found increasingly frustrating.

As my mind started wandering I found my self thinking about the complications of life that seemed to be making it impossible to get what I needed done. Then I looked at my Apple Watch and a solution struck me.

Time To Sleep
Photo by @alexcroes via Twenty20

Side Tracked

It’s one thing knowing what to do, and another to actually do it. Especially when you find yourself under pressure to get things done. I normally make the time to take time out throughout the day, just to keep me sane.

But in these very interesting times, it is easy to start with the intention of doing one thing but find yourself sidetracked by what seems to be more pressing and urgent at that moment.

For some things this is no big deal but I let things slide just a bit too long and I felt it! Tasks that I would normally sail through became quite challenging and took longer than expected.

Lose of Focus

I didn’t realise that I wasn’t focussing on the main issue but focusing on symptoms. So, unfortunately, I started doing stuff that dealt with the immediate problems.

Not getting the results I expected made me even more angry and frustrated than I was in the first place, which eventually made me feel like just giving up and quitting.

It was during one of those frustration tantrums that I stepped outside for a walk to help clear my mind. It was late but the air was cool and crisp and had the effect of immediately picking me up. I started noticing my surroundings, the smokers on the corner, the slight frost on the floor, and how quiet things were.

My mind began to wander and I realised that time was getting on so I glanced at my watch to see how long I’d been out. And there it was, on my Apple Watch’s face the subtle answer to why I hadn’t bee able to focus.

The Complication Solution

A watch complication is any function that exists in addition to telling time (displaying hours, minutes and seconds) on a timepiece. These watch complications enable special functions that are performed and displayed on the watch to enhance or simplify your life.

Wixon Jewelers, Learn about Watch Complications & Timepieces | Wixon Jewelers

In a previous release of V-CAF we enabled the Apple Watch complication feature. One of the team suggested that we needed a visual cue that would also double as an easy access button to launch V-CAF.

So when I saw the V-CAF coffee cup icon on my Apple Watch’s face (as seen in the bottom corner of this articles photo) I realised that I’d been so busy that I’d forgot to start the app which would have alerted me to my ever decreasing alertness levels.

Being aware of my alertness levels in the past allowed me to adjust accordingly and helped increase my productivity. When I got back to my tasks I launched V-CAF and took breaks when alerted to. When I got home, aware of my tiredness, I got to bed earlier. Did it make a difference? I think it did. “Simplified my life indeed!”

Apple Watches have the ability for you to customise your watch face, using complications. The Apple Watch comes with its own standard complications but it also allows you to use third party app’s complications if the app supports them.

V-CAF supports complications and it’s very straight forward to enable and use.

  1. Open the Apple Watch app on your iPhone.
  2. Tap the My Watch tab.
  3. Under the My Faces section scroll through the different watch faces that are installed on your Apple Watch and select a face that is compatible with complications (you can find out which faces are compatible by tapping on a watch face and looking under the Complications section. If the options under this tab are enabled, you can add custom complications to this style).
  4. After you have tapped the watch face that you want to add the V-CAF complication to, select where you want it displayed (i.e. “Top Left”, “Middle”, “Bottom Left” etc) by tapping on the appropriate selection.
  5. Scroll through the list of apps and features until you find V-CAF and tap on it.
  6. Click “Click as current Watch Face” if it isn’t set as your watch’s current face.

Once there when you look at your watch face you’ll see that you now have easy access to Launch V-CAF without having to scroll through the Watch’s app selection grid or list.

And you may find, like I did, it’s a good visual reminder to start V-CAF whilst you are working, studying or any situation where you need to stay awake and alert.

Recap

It’s easy to forget to do the things that need to be done when you are busy, so try to find ways to remind yourself what needs to be done. In my case it was as simple as putting the icon of our app on my watch’s face that helped solve the underlying problem to my focussing issues.

Afterword

“Beware lest you lose the substance by grasping at the shadow.”

Aesop
Categories
Alert Driving Fatigue Focus Productivity Safety Staying Awake Tiredness

How To Stay Awake While Driving

Stay Awake, Stay Alert

V-CAF, The App, Can Help

Most of us have to commute to work daily. In America, 76% of us drive to work. Worldwide, commute times are getting longer:

Commute_full_list
Infogram

In a study of UK drivers in 1997, 29% of drivers who took part in the study admitted to almost falling asleep at the wheel.
Maycock, G. “Sleepiness and driving: The experience of U.K. car drivers.” Accident Analysis & Prevention 29.4 (1997): 453-462.

Whilst a later study by the National Sleep Foundation found that more than 37% of American drivers admitted to the same thing.
National Sleep Foundation’s 2005 Sleep in America

With average commute times getting longer what can concerned drivers do to stay awake whilst driving?

How To Stay Awake While Driving
Photo by Zeus @zeus1007 on Unsplash

Why Are We Driving Tired?

We have never been as free as we are now to do so much. Computers and new work processes have made us increase productivity, but this has come at a cost.

Being more efficient has raised the bar on what is expected of us and to make up the shortfall we work harder than ever.

In the UK drivers’ study, when asked what caused them to fall asleep at the wheel, the most common reason was a “Long working day or physical or mental exhaustion”.

Another cited reason and contributing factor are the rise in people reporting sleep disorders and people going to bed late and waking up early. Lack of sleep increases the risk that drivers will fall asleep at the wheel.

A Danger to Ourselves and Others

Not only does drowsy driving put yourself, passengers and other road users at risk, fatigued related driving costs society approximately $109 billion a year.

The exact number of accidents caused by drowsy driving is difficult to calculate as it depends on drivers admitting they fell asleep to police. It is estimated that more than 6,400 fatal crashes happen every year and that 21% of fatal crashes are caused by tired drivers.           

How To Stay Awake While Driving

Having good sleep hygiene habits in general are the best way to reduce your general tiredness and will help you to reduce tiredness whilst you drive.

  • Regular good quality sleep
    Get to bed between 9pm and 10pm when melatonin starts to be released by your body, and get between 7 to 8 hours sleep (especially on the days when you have a long commute).

  • Don’t drive if you’ve had a long day
    If you’ve been awake for more than 16 hours or are feeling especially fatigued, avoid driving. This is difficult so it might be best to either car share and plan that on your busiest days you don’t drive, or make arrangements for someone to pick you up.

  • Take breaks when you feel tired 
    If you find yourself repeatedly yawning and find it difficult to keep your eyes open (or continuous blinking), stop and take a 20 minute snooze. The problem is that most people don’t realize that they are tired until way after the fact. Tiredness alarms such as V-CAF notify you when your body says that you are tired so that you can take the necessary actions to avoid falling asleep.
  • Avoid driving if you have drunk alcohol or taken medication
    These can increase the likelihood of you falling asleep at the wheel, and make your drive harder.

Review

If you are feeling tired, it’s best not to try to drive. Drinking caffeine, opening your window and listening to loud music can only go so far.

If you must drive:

  • On the days that you have to drive, try to get at least 7 hours sleep before driving.
  • Make sure you haven’t been awake for more than 16 hours before you drive.
  • Use V-CAF to tell you when you are tired so that you can take breaks whilst driving.
  • Don’t drink alcohol or take medications before driving.

Conclusion

Driving whilst you are tired is not a good idea and should be avoided. This calls for action on your part to prioritize your sleep.

Lifestyle changes are never easy but with persistence and focus you can do it. By taking small steps everyday towards this goal by using our suggestions will not only help you with tiredness whilst driving, but with your productivity in general.

Categories
Caffeine Caffeine Alternative Energy Exercise Side Effects Staying Awake Tiredness

How to Stay Awake Without Caffeine

Five Tips to Staying Awake Without Caffeine

Five steps to greatness…

Need to stay awake but don’t want to use caffeine? 

In this post I’ll share 5 tips with you that will beat that tiredness slump.

Where's my coffee?
Photo by Dominik QN @dominik_qn on Unsplash

Caffeine and Staying Awake

It is tempting to just use caffeine and be done with it. It works. It keeps us awake and makes us feel more alert and focused. Plus it’s easy and widely available and everybody uses it.

Which is true up to a certain point. Caffeine doesn’t technically boost our energy and make us feel more awake. It masks our tiredness from us, giving us a temporary boost, which makes us feel less tired.

For short term fixes it’s not too bad, but it is easy to become over dependent on the effects that caffeine has on our nervous system to get us through those tired patches.

Side Effects

Drinking five or more cups of coffee daily can create a caffeine dependency. This doesn’t include sodas and foods that contain caffeine. Most people are unaware of how much caffeine they consume every day, and with caffeine finding its way into more foods, beverages, supplements and medicines, the dangers of accidental overdose are increasing.

Compounding this issue is the fact that the more caffeine you are exposed to, the greater your tolerance of it’s effects, which then leads to more caffeine having to be consumed to get the same or similar effects.

Increased caffeine consumption can cause the following symptoms:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased heart rate

How to Stay Awake

This list of five techniques will help you stay awake for the short term. For more long-term tips read my article on staying awake.

  1. Do something fun.
    Boredom or uninteresting tasks bring on the yawns and make you feel more tired than you need to be. Take a break, watch something funny or play a game. This will stimulate you and help reduce the feeling of tiredness.
  2. Get out in the sun or work in a bright environment. 
    Being in dark environments not only makes you feel more tired, but can make you feel depressed. If you find yourself in this situation, going out in the sun or having bright lights on inside will help reduce the production of melatonin, and keep you awake a bit longer. 
  3. Take regular breaks. 
    People are usually pretty bad at working out how tired they are. Long work stretches without breaks decrease performance as you become more tired. Using a tiredness monitor such as V-CAF will help notify you when you are tired so that you can take a natural break without your productivity decreasing.
  4. Plan your most difficult tasks to start around 10am. 
    Assuming that you get to bed by 10pm and wake up at 7am, your peak concentration time will be around 10am. This due to your body’s melatonin production naturally reducing.
  5. Eat and drink well. 
    Fueling your body with non processed whole foods and drinking lots of water will enable you to concentrate better due to your blood sugar levels being kept even without high and low spikes throughout the day.

Review

Some long-term caffeine users find it difficult to believe that anyone can make it through the day without caffeine.

I think the real reason is that when faced with the choice between withdrawal or quick fix, the fix wins.

Anyways, here are my short-term tips to staying awake without caffeine:

  • Do something fun
  • Go outdoors into the sun or be somewhere bright.
  • Take regular breaks.
  • Eat and drink well.

Last Point

I left out one more tip, but I think it’s central to all the others. 

Be motivated. Without motivation it becomes difficult to succeed using any of the tips that I presented above.

If you really want to stay awake without caffeine, be motivated in the steps you choose to make that your reality.

Categories
Alert Driving Staying Awake

How Can I Stay Awake During A Long Drive?

The Long Drive and Staying Awake

It’s a long slow road…

Not too long ago I had to travel between two countries fairly regularly and the cheaper, quicker option was to drive.

It was a four-hour drive door to door. It was also winter which meant that after work on Friday, I was driving in the dark with ice on the road more often than not.

Driving whilst tired, in the dark on icy roads is not my idea of fun, but whilst I did it, I would do it in the best way. Here are some tips that helped me.

Travelling North on the Ring Road
Photo by Tim Foster @timberfoster on Unsplash Travelling North on the Ring Road, Iceland

Driving And Staying Awake

You need to get from A to B and you need to go now. Never mind that you didn’t have much sleep or had a hard day at work.

Tiredness happens to all of us, it’s natural, but the demands of modern living encourage us to shoe horn our body’s natural rhythms into our busy schedules.

We do not always have control over when we feel tired, and it could well be that we don’t feel tired when we start our journey, but it creeps up on us, and that is where the danger lies.

Tiredness and Driving Can Be Fatal

Tiredness reduces our ability to judge a situation accurately. Apart from slowing down our reaction times, and increasing the chances of us missing exits or road signs, tiredness clouds our judgment about how tired we really are.

This makes it easier for us to miss the tell tale signs that we are too tired to drive; signs such as:

  • Drifting across lanes
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Constant yawning

The main issue here is that if we are tired, our brains cannot react as fast and accurately as they would if we were fully awake, and increases the chances of us being involved in an accident.

Three Strategies To Staying Awake On Long Drives

Better than any strategy or quick fix is to get enough sleep before your journey. Being fully rested reduces the likelihood that you will be involved in an accident.

That said I didn’t have that luxury on a Friday evening at the start of my journey. So I had to resort to the following:

  • Take short naps before and during the journey
    I lost count at the amount of times that I found a gas station and just parked up and had a 20 – 40 minute snooze along the way. I woke up feeling better than I did before the nap and more confidant that I wouldn’t have any issues to my destination.

  • Use an alarm to remind you to take a break
    Watch or phone alarms are good, but I used an app called V-CAF. It’s an Apple Watch app that gives you an alert if you are tired, reminding you to take a break when you need to most.

  • Dink Caffeine
    I did do this sometimes, but I didn’t like the inevitable crash back down to tiredness after the caffeine wore off. I also found that I needed higher dosages of caffeine to get its full effect.

Review

So in summary, don’t drive whilst tired. Sleep!

If you must then try:

  • Taking short naps before and during the journey (pull over first)
  • Use an alarm like V-CAF that alerts you when you are tired
  • Drink Caffeine

Your Safety

I hope that you don’t have to drive too often whilst feeling tired.

If you do though, stay awake, stay focused, and stay safe.

Categories
Driving Safety Staying Awake Tiredness

Are You Driving Tired?

We Never Drive Tired!

Okay, Maybe Sometimes…

Long commutes and heavy workloads are putting a strain on our daily lives. For a lot of people that I know driving to work saves time and allows them to work longer hours.

I know few of them have the time to think about whether they are putting their lives at risk just to work a few hours more. 

The Nation Safety Council report that upwards of 6,400 people die in car accidents that can be attributed to tiredness each year.

In this article we’ll take a look into driving whilst being tired.

The long drive home after work
Photo by Xan Griffin @xangriffin on Unsplash California, United States, Highway Cruising

The Need for Speed

In these challenging economic times there is a lot of pressure to stay ahead of the crowd. Working or studying for long hours is the default tactic for appearing to be productive, or even just to keep your job.

If the public transport system in your city just doesn’t cut it, driving may be your only option. At least you can quickly get home when you’re ready after a long day.

The problem is that you are more likely to be tired after a long day and driving home late, raising the probability that you could be involved in an accident on the way home.

Would You Drive Drunk?

I believe that if you are reading this article that the likelihood of you drinking and driving are very low.

Unfortunately, many people unknowingly do just that when they drive whilst being tired. 

  • A recent report found that reducing your sleep by two hours has a similar affect to drinking three beers. 
  • A person that sleeps for 4-5 hours a day has the same crash risk as a person with 0.08% blood alcohol level.
    Tefft, B. C. (2016). Acute Sleep Deprivation and Risk of Motor Vehicle Crash Involvement. Washington, DC: AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
  • After being awake for 17 hours, a person’s impairment level is similar to having a blood alcohol level of 0.05%. And after 24 hours it matches 0.10% – too drunk to drive.
    Waclawski, E., and P. Noone. “Are aviation industry fatigue risk management strategies needed in healthcare?.” Anaesthesia 72.11 (2017): 1417-1419.

Precautions and Tips

By reading this article you have already taken a major step in reducing the risk of being in an accident caused by driving whilst tired.

Whilst being a good first step, positive action is needed on your part. The following suggestions will help even further, but nothing beats getting enough rest before you start to drive.

  • Get enough sleep. 
    Change your sleeping routine to get at least seven hours of sleep every day, especially when you plan to drive.
  • Plan rest stops.
    After driving for two hours, make sure you stop and rest.
  • Opening your car window and playing loud music will not be enough to keep you awake if you are tired.
    You may even feel awake, but misjudge how tired you really are.  Use V-CAF an Apple Watch app that monitors your tiredness levels and notifies you so that you can take the appropriate action to get some rest and wake your self up.
  • Drink lots of water.
    Water helps keep your brain alert by increasing oxygen and nutrients via blood flow to your brain.

Review

Dozing off behind the wheel is a real and present danger. In a recent report 30% of participants admitted falling asleep whilst driving.

Stay informed and make positive changes to your sleep routine if you rely on driving as your daily commute.

Use these tips to help you beat tiredness whilst driving:

  • When driving, make sure you get at least 7 hours of sleep beforehand.
  • Stop and take a break after at least two hours of continuous driving.
  • Know how tired you are by using tiredness monitors like V-CAF .
  • Keep your brain alert by drinking lots of water.

Conclusion

We are in a tiredness epidemic and people aren’t aware of the dangers that we face daily due to tiredness.

I have shared this information with my friends and work associates and would appreciate it if you would share this post with anyone you think may benefit from this information.

Thank you. 

“If you find yourself on the road and feeling tired, pull over to a safe location and park. Take a 20-minute nap or make other arrangements to get to your destination. Caffeine can help promote alertness but may only help for a short period of time, so it’s best not to rely on caffeine.”

National Safety Council, Drowsy Driving is Impaired Driving, https://www.nsc.org/road-safety/safety-topics/fatigued-driving