Thursday, February 26, 2015

Sleep Deprivation and the Hoka Hey Motorcycle Challenge Part I

We have all nodded off a second or two while driving—travelling down the road and all of a sudden we open our eyes and realize we nodded off.  That instant in time will get our attention quickly and for a moment we are readily alert—but only for a moment.  This is a clear indicator that we should pull over and rest for a while or allow someone else, someone more alert then we are, to take over the responsibility of driving.
Some might think nodding off on a motorcycle is something that seldom happens.  For those who are inexperienced in riding, or who have never participated in a long distance endurance ride, it is easy to believe nodding off on a motorcycle is something that just can’t happen.  But this is not the case.  Sleep deprivation while riding greatly increases the risk of catastrophe.
Multiple studies show a lack of proper sleep reduces reaction time and clouds perception. Lack of sleep severely affects a rider’s coordination and hampers the ability to focus.  (Not sure I would need an expensive study to determine that, but that’s a discussion for another time.)  There are two things a rider must be able to rely on while riding.  One being an escape route in the event of an unexpected obstacle and the other is the ability to recognize that obstacle in sufficient time to react—that requires focus.

As we ride we constantly scan the surrounding area often looking several hundred feet to our front as well as activities behind and beside us.  If our ability to focus and quickly process what we see is hampered by sleep deprivation then we are nothing more than an accident waiting to happen.  A slight lapse in concentration, caused by sleep deprivation, can decrease your ability to correctly determine the distance between you and the vehicle in front of you.  When that vehicle in front of you, that you are already too close to, executes an emergency stop then that same lapse in concentration will hinder the thought process that is telling you to stop—lack of proper distance coupled with lack of reaction time equals a bad day.  If you put all those parameters together in that split second of time (lack of sleep, lack of distance and longer reaction time) you will ride right into the trunk of their car.  Such an event, at best, will leave a mark on your bike or, at worst, take your life.
As a cross country endurance ride, the Hoka Hey Motorcycle Challenge presents inherent risks.  It demands a great deal from its participants and, as a result, riders will frequently put themselves in a position where they could exceed their limits.  Therein lies the dilemma…  We all know our own limits but we also know that we might tend to push the proverbial envelope when we accept the Challenge.
The question is this…  Once we accept the Challenge we are inclined to, during the event, intentionally deprive ourselves of sleep.  Sleep deprivation will increase a person’s tendency to take risks which can cloud our judgment and give us the illusion that it is acceptable to take that risk to the next level.  We recognize that it is our obligation to act responsibly when we reach our personal limit but how do we know when we’ve gone too far?

So, we've identified the problem.  How do we combat it?  We'll talk about that next week in part II of Sleep Deprivation and the Hoka Hey Motorcycle Challenge.”