The Dangers of Tiredness & How To Beat It
Although most normal crashes happen on a Friday, sleepy ones generally occur on Mondays. This is where The Le Mans Diet kicks in that creates the platform for enduring energy. Maintaining that balance from the beginning of the day is a far more reliable strategy than fighting off fatigue later on.
You can get away with being slightly naughty at breakfast, but by lunchtime you should definitely avoid fatty foods and unnatural sugars. Never miss the first meal of the day, otherwise your body thinks it’s been abandoned in the Sahara and starts storing fat. Try to eat wholegrain cereal, fruit and vegetables. Tea, coffee and juice are fine.
The overarching principle to maintaining energy is never to feel ‘full’, hence the old saying: ‘Hunt best on an empty stomach.’ It doesn’t mean wobbling around with low blood sugar and a headache, but consuming less means you save a ton of energy that would otherwise have been expended on digestion. Drink water like an Olympic athlete, because if you dehydrate you fall asleep. Water also enhances your metabolism, which in turn promotes mental and physical performance.
For lunch, good carbs like pasta, rice or potatoes work. White meat is best and veggie soups are good. These slow-burning sugars are complemented by faster burners such as bananas, gingerbread and stewed fruit.
At dinner, don’t eat after 8pm. Anytime I’m due to drive, I follow the light lunch routine. If there’s time for a proper sleep after dinner, then I might spoil myself with a little extra meat and some chocolate, which are higher in calcium and protein to promote sleep. Then it’s lights out, phone off and sayonara.
Refined sugars are like rat poison. Throwing sugar down your neck triggers insulin and leads to an energy crash, plus dehydration as your body tries to expel the excess the only way it knows how. Trust me, you don’t want to experience that on the Mulsanne straight where there are no toilets, or the M25.
Good eating and drinking should preserve a balanced energy level throughout the day, but we don’t live in a perfect world. When your body talks about sleep you’d better listen.
Tiredness has a way of creeping up on you unnoticed. The effects include blurred vision, heavily reduced peripheral vision, reduced awareness and ability to react. It also plays havoc with your emotions, which interferes with your decision-making.
Your body will start going into a series of auto-shutdowns. These are known as micro-sleeps, and last from one to 10 seconds. You come to without being able to account for the time that just passed, but you cover about 100-metres in three seconds on a motorway, so this is no mini adventure.
Micro-sleeps identify themselves as a head nod, the ‘hypnic’ knee jerk or suddenly becoming aware of closure with another vehicle or object. All should ring alarm bells and have you pulling over rather than arriving dead on time.
Most of us subscribe to the notion that sleep takes place at night in a single six- to eight-hour block. Most animals, babies and our siesta-loving Mediterranean cousins enjoy the benefits of polyphasic sleep, or power napping. The power nap is used by military pilots and sleep-deprived professionals to restore energy levels. A nap of six to ten minutes during times of fatigue throws the brain into a semi-deep sleep, quickly restoring a high level of alertness and cognitive response. Ironically, sleeping longer than thirty minutes can put you into a deeper sleep cycle, and you wake feeling groggy and disorientated. This ‘sleep inertia’ can last up to an hour, so it’s no good for driving.
When I need a boost, I set my alarm, down a coffee and fall asleep. The coffee takes longer to digest than the sleep lasts, so you wake up like a newborn warrior. Sleep is cumulative, so it’s good to steal it wherever and whenever you can.