Spring has arrived and bike riders will be impatiently looking to extend their riding hours, or get the bike out of hibernation from the shed. It’s a very good time to look at some of the challenges that await. If you’re an all-weather rider (that’s most SAM Club members), then you may not think that anything has changed. That’s WRONG! Daylight saving time (DST), which began last night, can have both advantages and disadvantages for motorcycle riders in the Spring. It can affect your riding quite markedly AND it will present more hazards as you face as trundle down the road on your two wheeled best friend. Let’s start by looking at the pros and cons of DST:
- More daylight in the evening means that riders can enjoy longer rides after work or school, or extending your daytime riding.
- Improved visibility during daylight hours can enhance safety, as riders are more visible to other drivers on the road; or at least, you won’t be less visible than you were over the Autumn and Winter months.
- Warmer temperatures during the longer daylight hours can make for more comfortable riding conditions. It can also mean that you may be tempted to ditch the Winter bike clothes for something less cumbersome.
- The shift in time can disrupt sleep patterns, leading to fatigue and decreased alertness while riding. Enforced changes to your circadian rhythms can seriously impair your riding performance and response times. More on your circadian rhythms later.
- Riders may need to adjust their riding schedule to account for changes in traffic patterns during rush hour. As all other road users, from pedestrians to heavy goods vehicles, have their ciradian rhythms disrupted too. It’s a jungle of poor performing road users out there!
- The early morning darkness during DST can make for less safe riding conditions, as visibility is reduced. Many riders adjust their riding schedule to ensure, as far as possible, they are home before it get too dark.
Overall, the effects of DST on motorcycle riding will depend on various factors such as the time of day, weather conditions, and individual preferences. It’s important for riders to stay aware of the potential advantages and disadvantages and adjust their riding habits accordingly. We can understand more about how our riding is affected, when our circadian rhythm are out of sync, if we understand their impact on our daya-to-day lives.
Why are circadian rhythms important to motorcyclists?
As vulnerable road users, when riding, motorcyclists need to be fully alert and performing well throughout the ride. Although research in this area is limited, studies have clearly shown that in the days following the Spring clock change, you ARE MORE VULNERABLE. Before and after observational studies suggest that road hazards increase, not due to changes in the environment, but due to adverse changes in road user performance, both bikers and other road users. In 2019, the EU Parliament accepted the need to abolish DST. The change is now scheduled for 2026.
The importance of circadian rhythms has been recognised in various fields, including biology, medicine, and psychology. Research has shown that disruptions in these rhythms can have negative effects on physical and mental health. This has led to increased interest in the study of circadian rhythms and their regulation. One area where circadian rhythms have been extensively studied is sleep. Many studies have examined the relationship between circadian rhythms and sleep, including the effects of shift work and jet lag on sleep and the negative consequences of sleep disruptions on health. Other research has explored the impact of circadian rhythms on various physiological processes, including hormone regulation, metabolism, and immune function. Additionally, the effects of circadian disruptions on mental health, including depression, anxiety, and cognitive function, have also been studied. Overall, the literature on circadian rhythms is vast and multidisciplinary. It has contributed to a better understanding of the role these rhythms play in our health and well-being and has led to the development of interventions aimed at regulating circadian rhythms to improve health outcomes. Motorcycling hasn’t received much attention so, as bikers, it’s up to you and me, to work out what might keep us shiny side up.
What are circadian rhythms?
So, what are circadian rhythms? Well, the term ‘circadian’ comes from the Latin words “circa” (meaning “around”) and “diem” (meaning “day”). In simple terms, circadian rhythms refer to the biological processes that occur in our bodies over a 24-hour cycle, which is roughly equivalent to one day.
These processes are controlled by an internal clock, which is found in a part of our brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). This internal clock regulates various physiological and behavioral processes, including our sleep-wake cycles, hormone production, body temperature, and metabolism.
Now, you might be wondering why these processes are so important. Well, circadian rhythms help us stay in sync with the world around us. They ensure that our bodies are functioning correctly at the right time of day, which, in turn, affects how we feel, behave, and perform. For example, have you ever noticed that you feel more awake and alert during the day, but sleepy and tired at night? This is because of your circadian rhythm, which tells your body to be active during the day and rest at night. When your circadian rhythm is disrupted, such as when you travel to a new time zone or work night shifts, you may experience symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia, and difficulty concentrating. Circadian rhythms also affect our task performance. Studies have shown that our ability to perform cognitive tasks, such as problem-solving and decision-making, is highest during our peak alertness periods, which for most people is during the late morning and early afternoon. In contrast, our ability to perform these tasks tends to be lower during our ‘off-peak’ periods, such as late at night or early in the morning.
What does this mean for riding your bike?
How can we optimize our circadian rhythms to improve our generaly well-being and riding performance? Here are a few tips:
- Stick to a regular sleep schedule: Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day helps regulate your circadian rhythm and improve your sleep quality.
- If possible, start your ride a little later in the morning, just to give yourself a better chance of surviving any additional hazards. Stop a little more often and stretch to prevent tired muscles from getting stiffer.
- Get exposure to natural light (when you stop for a break, take the helmet off!): Exposure to natural light during the day helps keep your circadian rhythm in sync and promote wakefulness. Light therapy has been shown to help some people affected by seasonal affective disorder. It improves focus, concentration, memory and problem solving. All the things you need on a ride.
- Limit exposure to artificial light at night (if you can, sit outside to eat and drink. Enjoy the fresh air without the helmet!): Exposure to artificial light, such as from electronic devices, can disrupt your circadian rhythm and make it harder to fall asleep.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol: Both caffeine and alcohol can interfere with your circadian rhythm and disrupt your sleep. Drink water or fruit juice when you take a break in your ride.
So, there you have it, bikers – everything you need to know about circadian rhythms and how they affect your riding behavior and performance. Remember, taking care of your circadian rhythm is crucial for your health and well-being. So, let’s all strive to get in sync with our internal clocks and live our best riding lives!
Editor & Webmaster
Sheffield Advanced Motorcyclists