Print 31 comment(s) - last by BruceLeet.. on Mar 23 at 11:25 PM

Special lights fool your brain into thinking its day time

Truckers are vital to the U.S. economy, transporting much needed goods and services across the country.  However, in order to make a decent living, they always try to push the boundaries, sleeping less and driving more.  The end result is occasionally they fall asleep on the road, sometimes with tragic results.

Researchers at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York believe they may have come up with a new solution that will help keep truckers and other endurance drivers awake on the road long enough to get to the next rest stop.  The trick is to install blue wavelength LEDs in truck cabs. 

Particular wavelengths of blue light when shined on the drivers trick the drivers brain into thinking its daytime and staying active.  By resetting their internal clocks, the number of fatal accidents could be greatly reduced, potentially.  In the U.S., according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, 30 percent of all fatal accidents involving large trucks occur at night.  In the U.K. this number is even higher with nearly half the total fatal accidents being caused by fatigue.

Mariana Faguiero, co-author of the white paper published by the light research center, states, "The concept of using light to boost alertness is well established [in other areas].  Translating that understanding into a practical application is the next challenge."

Ms. Faguiero says the critical point is finding practical ways to apply the findings.  She says that the lights could be installed directly in truck cabs.  Or, she suggests, the lights could be placed at rest stops, allowing truckers to take half hour "light showers" allowing them to reawaken.

Her team is further investigated how the light differentially affects sleep-deprived and non-sleep deprived subjects during daytime hours.  She states, "These findings will also be applicable to transportation applications, since the accident rates during the afternoon hours are still higher than in the morning hours."

The results have been promising on both categories.  She states, "After 45 minutes there is a clear effect.  You start to see a beautiful increase in brain activity in the 300 milliseconds response, which is a measure of alertness."

For those curious of the technical details, the current implementation emits light diffusely at 470 nanometers and 40 lux.  Researchers plan to further test varying wavelengths from 450 up to 470 nanometers at 2.5, 5, and 7.5 lux.  They are working to build a pair of goggles that truckers could also use to deliver alertness.  Additionally they are working to apply the technology to Alzheimer's patients to restore their natural circadian rhythms and minimize their night restlessness.

Current car systems monitor driver's eye movements and try to awaken drivers who nod off with noise.  The new system is far more effective as it combats the problem at its source.  However, Jim Horne, director of the sleep research center at Loughborough University, UK, warns that it will likely only be a temporary fix, not a permanent solution.  He warns, "Shifting [sleep patterns] by eight hours takes at least 10 days, and very few people are capable of doing that."

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Tricks the body to stay awake...
By therealnickdanger on 3/21/2008 1:54:53 PM , Rating: 5
... until the adrenal system is completely wiped out and they are totally unable to stay awake. I'd imagine this would lead to a much more abrupt sleep state than the standard "nodding off".

By SlipDizzy on 3/21/2008 1:58:55 PM , Rating: 5
I agree with that. I can recall some 12+ hour driving trips where I'd fight and fight and do anything to stay awake. Towards the end of the trips, "nodding off" became "I don't remember the last mile of road."

RE: Tricks the body to stay awake...
By nvalhalla on 3/21/2008 2:09:25 PM , Rating: 5
Yeah, I'm thinking this will just lead to increased accidents during the day. The problem isn't the inability to stay awake at night, the problem is not sleeping and trying to drive through the night. This will only help drivers to push themselves further until they nod off.

RE: Tricks the body to stay awake...
By Cobra Commander on 3/21/2008 2:26:58 PM , Rating: 3
I agree, this is a band aid.

RE: Tricks the body to stay awake...
By habibo on 3/21/2008 3:01:10 PM , Rating: 3
What ever happened to good ol' methamphetamine?

RE: Tricks the body to stay awake...
By Samus on 3/21/2008 3:20:49 PM , Rating: 2
What ever happened to truckers using coke.

Ohh yea, the law.

RE: Tricks the body to stay awake...
By Gnoad on 3/21/2008 4:28:50 PM , Rating: 3
In a weird way, I think your actually on to something.

By BruceLeet on 3/21/2008 7:42:14 PM , Rating: 4
Redbull and Cocaine is all you need.

By sonoran on 3/21/2008 3:39:06 PM , Rating: 3
Shifting [sleep patterns] by eight hours takes at least 10 days

Curious - every time I travel from asia back to the US it takes about 6 days for me to get back to feeling normal.

As for staying awake on the road - I find that eating keeps me awake. Something about stimulating the taste buds I guess. With a bag of Skittles (they're small) I can stay awake for at least an hour. Sure helps driving home from work when I'm jetlagged.

By Alexstarfire on 3/21/2008 7:27:30 PM , Rating: 1
See, but it only took me one day to adjust from going to Taiwan from US, and then back. To me it's never been a big deal.

By BruceLeet on 3/21/2008 7:49:33 PM , Rating: 1
C++ is my hobby and I've stayed up all night writing for cheat sites and it doesn't take nearly as long as 10 days to correct my sleep order.

By BruceLeet on 3/21/2008 7:54:48 PM , Rating: 2
Only takes a day, I forgot to add.

By Jedi2155 on 3/21/2008 9:57:57 PM , Rating: 2
Same here, it usually takes me a day to move to a normal sleep pattern.

By jlips6 on 3/22/2008 2:21:25 PM , Rating: 2
I can't seem to change my sleep patterns at all. :(
have any tricks for going to sleep earlier?

By BruceLeet on 3/23/2008 11:25:14 PM , Rating: 2
Watch an extremely boring movie or listen to Pink Floyd, their music just calms me.

Wouldn't it be better...
By TITAN1080 on 3/21/2008 1:49:31 PM , Rating: 2
To just get the nation's train system back up to where it should be?

RE: Wouldn't it be better...
By IanHam on 3/21/2008 1:50:19 PM , Rating: 2
I agree with that.

RE: Wouldn't it be better...
By Xodus Maximus on 3/21/08, Rating: 0
By Cobra Commander on 3/21/2008 2:26:12 PM , Rating: 3
Right... because the railroad system is so competitive with the interstate/highway/road system. Come on guys...

RE: Wouldn't it be better...
By Ringold on 3/21/2008 10:21:09 PM , Rating: 5
Is that the governments job any more?

Last time I checked, rail companies were making good money moving commodities around, and Cramer on CNBC says the real money is currently and shall be in the future transporting vast sums of coal to the west coast for export to China.

Seems like moving that sort of stuff around is what rail is best at, and.. it seems like it's already being done. False alarm?

At work solution...
By SlipDizzy on 3/21/2008 1:49:40 PM , Rating: 4
After they have perfected this for truckers, I'd like a version of this for my job. I'd like to avoid the tragic collision of my head hitting the keyboard. Everyday I come closer and closer.

RE: At work solution...
By stargazr on 3/21/2008 2:44:49 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah! This would be useful for those working nightshifts. =)

RE: At work solution...
By tjr508 on 3/21/2008 6:41:37 PM , Rating: 3
My old company used full spectrum lighting in all of their offices and confrence rooms... three years ago.

By kattanna on 3/21/2008 5:21:32 PM , Rating: 2
since dolphins can sleep with one half of their brain at a time and then switch sides to fully rest up, maybe the truckers can learn to do that, or we can do some cross species DNA genetic engineering.

By GTVic on 3/22/2008 8:11:28 PM , Rating: 5
Or maybe they could completely seal the cab, fill it with water and train the dolphins to drive...

you people have it all wrong
By rodrigu3 on 3/21/2008 7:28:06 PM , Rating: 2
If you read the article carefully, they are saying the blue light makes the driver's brain think it's daytime. This technology does not advocate making the drivers stay up for longer periods of time, but making the brain shift it's sleep-wake cycle.

RE: you people have it all wrong
By GTVic on 3/22/2008 8:21:38 PM , Rating: 3
The point people are trying to make is that the drivers who would use this technology are likely already sleep deprived and this could be a short term solution with long term negative side effects.

If the only people who use this technology are night drivers who get their required sleep every day then it could be positive. Chances are the technology will also be used by people who should not be driving as much as they are.

By SoCalBoomer on 3/21/2008 2:00:24 PM , Rating: 2
Shouldn't they focus on the 70% that happen during the day? 30% is far from the majority! :D

All in all..
By pauluskc on 3/21/2008 3:44:12 PM , Rating: 2
It would be nice to just roboticize the process in this case. If they only had a track on the road, then truck swerving accidents from sleep deprivation induced hallucinations would decrease exponentially.

Oh wait, that's called railroads!

Seriously, I thought the Feds did lots of sleep deprivation studies with Marines. Even those highly trained individuals (vs. Flying J Buffet) would be able to stave off sleep deprivation effects. Nope. No matter what, you lose sleep, you lose effectiveness.


What they need to do is study the overall body processes during sleep and figure out what synapses fire and how to trigger those synapsis and then compact all that into a pill that you can take to powernap 8 hours into 30 minutes.

We Need The PowerNap (tm pending)!


Don't understand the point...
By Wolfpup on 3/21/2008 3:54:33 PM , Rating: 2
Like others, I don't understand the point of this. The problem isn't that they're driving at night, the problem is they're driving without enough sleep, and for too long of stretches at a time. This isn't going to change that.

Just STOP, and sleep.
By SlyNine on 3/22/2008 4:18:22 AM , Rating: 2
My road trip was around 10 hours and I had been up around 20 hours before hand. I seen a stop sign on I-80 in by the N.E. W.Y. border. Needless to say I had fallen asleep or was hallucinating.

Its kinda scary when you think that the trucker next too you could be in that state of mind.

"Let's face it, we're not changing the world. We're building a product that helps people buy more crap - and watch porn." -- Seagate CEO Bill Watkins
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